Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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Basque Country part 3: La Rhune

The third part of the Basque Country series is devoted to La Rhune, a mountain range that is part of the Pyrenees. The IDS-FunMat group went to La Rhune as an excursion, as we did in Lisbon last year. In the Lisbon entry I mentioned that the word “excursion” reminded me of elementary school field trips, and it still does! The whole class hops onto a bus, all curious and excited. Where would it be this year?

But seriously, we didn’t know where we were going until we actually GOT there. Unlike the previous year, the organizers said nothing about the excursion beforehand except “bring good shoes as we will be going to a place with a scenic view”. Uh, okay. No name of the place was mentioned, why so mysterious? Consequently though, I think some people brought hiking shoes, expecting some arduous trek or heavy walking, but boy, they were sadly mistaken.

You see, according to inside information from a friend, we would be “going to some place by bus, then taking a little train to go up, then we take some photos and leave”. Dot dot dot was followed by more silence. WHAT?! Some place WHERE? Going up WHERE? Take some photos of WHAT? Then confusion was followed by relief for those who didn’t bring hiking shoes – which was most of us – as apparently one of the organizers said, “You could even go in high heels.” Ha!

So we boarded the bus without knowing where we were going. I mean, they could have been driving us to an island for Battle Royale and none of us would have been suspicious. Ugh, what a horrid thought, I shouldn’t have even conjured up that imaginary scenario. Anyhow, we did pass by Biarritz on the way. At least I was quite fascinated by the views of the city from the bus, and some of us wondered why it wasn’t the destination of the excursion instead. (I suppose it was too close a city to be considered a place for an “excursion” yet too far to go on foot.) Those of that did wonder eventually did go to Biarritz…in the next entry 😉

So after about 40 minutes of bus ride, we arrived…at the base of La Rhune. Of course I still didn’t know what this place was, nor did I know that we would be ascending 905 metres to the top of the mountain for some spectacular views of the Basque Country. I waited in line with the others, got my ticket for the little train, and on we went.

We mounted the little train that would take us up to the top of La Rhune. According to the web site of Le Petit Train de la Rhune, it travels at a speed of 8 km/h and delivers you to your destination in about 35 minutes, to an altitude of 905 metres. And the train has been operational since 1924, strong and proud! 😉

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Bureaucratic nightmare

When I finally picked up my carte de séjour (residence permit) last Friday, after 4 months of being in France, I was more than delighted. With the little card in my hands, hot n’ fresh, I was finally legal and able to travel! Or so I thought.

Back at the office, I turned to the back of the card, only to discover in horror and utter defeat that my “pays de naissance” (country of birth) was “REPUBLIQUE DEMO DU CONGO”. Thanks mom and dad, I never knew I was born in Africa. Way to tell me 23 years later via such an indirect route.

But seriously, what I thought was a pleasant end of the week turned out to be rather disappointing as I realized that I’d have to go back and get this information corrected (they also didn’t update my address). My guess would be that “REPUBLIQUE DE CHINE” is too close to “REPUBLIQUE DEMO DU CONGO”, hence the silly error. I had a good laugh, but I sighed at the fact that I’d have to make another trip to the prefecture, line up for an hour, and wait for who knows how long for the new corrected card while hoping they don’t make another mistake. This is quite urgent too, because I can’t go to Belgium without the card. All of a sudden, I feel like an identity-less refugee.

There’s one important lesson to be learned here, something that I will be sure to keep in mind in any future bureaucratic endeavour. Basically, never assume that anything will be done correctly the first time around in France. Always double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check, x-ple-check documents so that you won’t have waste time to make extra trips for correction. Being the skeptic that I am, I checked my medical visit receipt after this incident, and as I speculated, they put my country of birth as “Canada”. Not nearly as far-fetched as Congo, but a mistake nevertheless. Why ask for my passport if you’re going to make assumptions?

Lately I’ve been updating on Tuesdays instead of weekends. Somehow Tuesdays are…freer than the rest of the week. Anyhow, on with the pictures.

A few weeks ago I took the train from downtown Bordeaux to Pessac, a trip with a total duration of five minutes. Here is Bordeaux St.Jean station. I’m glad they have those automatic machines for buying tickets. As long as you know which train you want to take, they’re so much more convenient to use, and of course, you avoid the big line-up.

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