Our free day happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and after much research and help from our hosts we decided to make a 1 hour journey by bus to the city of Auch (pronounced like, Osh). We arrived early in the morning and walked right through the market on our way up the hill, into the older part of the city.
We started with a cappuccino for each of us. I should note, I think it’s sort of funny that a “cappuccino” in this region consists of a shot of espresso, a huge swirl of whipped cream and chocolate powder generously sprinkled on top. It’s not a cappuccino, or what I had in mind, but who can say no to that? The coffee truck is a little social center and you can get an espresso drink, or buy bulk coffee or tea. The seller was chatting with us and told just about every customer we were visiting from California and that got everyone buzzing and asking us questions…
We picked up snacks for later. Olives, those with the oranges and pimentos, so delicious! Dried strawberries (like candy!), dried apricots, a mix of nuts and dried fruits, 2 Turkish delights and a baguette… got a little carried away with the sweet stuff, but hey, it’s Valentine’s day!
Up the hill from the market the architecture turns older and the rain starts…
We enter Cathedrale Sainte-Marie and admire the beautiful stained glass, the organs (there are 2) and the silence. It is colder inside the cathedral than outside, we can see our breath!
Auch is split by a river and on the hill side there are little alleyways and steep staircases cutting through the main streets and houses. We wander through many of the streets, lightly following a tour path…
We make our way down to the river and follow the path laid along its banks. We meet friendly people walking dogs and take photos of the cool homes along the river. The one below has an old tower and some great wooden pathways.
We walk along the river, eventually reaching a campground. We turn back towards the city and find a steep street to walk up… halfway up there is bench a perfect place to stop and enjoy the snacks from the market.
Some great shops we passed…
After more wandering we find a sweet cafe and stop in…
Back along the riverbank we go the opposite direction and follow the path past more homes, bridges and parks…
As night approaches we walk back to the bus station to catch the 6:30 bus back to Mirande, which is the closest bus stop to where we are staying, our hostess Louisa will be picking us up there.
We wait, and wait, and wait for the bus and then we realize something must be wrong. Turns out we were actually supposed to take the bus to Tarbes, which goes through Mirande… and that bus has now left and was the last one of the day. We feel awful about the thought of Louisa driving all the way to Mirande only to see our bus come and go. She’s a mom, we know she is going to be worried! We had passed a McDonalds on the way to the bus stop and know they have free wifi so we hightail it back to McDo so we can open my email where her cell number is and find a pay phone. Bless Mickey D’s for their free, no password needed, no purchase required wifi and nothing more! We send Louisa a message explaining what happened, apologizing profusely, and letting her know we will be getting a hotel for the night.
We passed a hotel on the way from the bus station and stop in to check the price and then across the street to another hotel to compare. The cheaper hotel apparently doesn’t have a bathroom, or something like that, um we couldn’t really get a straight answer, so to speak and we were getting no mercy from the hostess, we tried to mime, we tried our best French, but just couldn’t find the words. Obviously there must have been bathrooms, in the hall at least, which we tried to explain we were fine with! But for all our efforts she just kept shaking her head no, giving a curt “No!” to everything we said or mimed. Eventually she tired of our games and simply pointed across the street, to the more expensive hotel. Ah, ok we get it. Er, Merci?
So we go to the hotel across the street, it’s called Nuit Du Shanghai. It’s above a Chinese food restaurant, we are assured there are bathrooms. The room is actually pretty nice and very clean, not only a toilet but also a shower and WiFI too! I check my email and Louisa has replied telling us she was very concerned, glad we are ok, and to enjoy our impromptu romantic evening, she even gives us the bus schedule and assures us she will pick us up in Mirande in the morning. Bless her!
Now we can relax, we watch French tv for a while before going downstairs for a romantic dinner in the Chinese restaurant. It’s well known, apparently, Chinese food in France is a joke. But since we are playing our naive parts so perfectly this evening we are thinking, Chinese food, right downstairs, how convenient! And, hey we were not the only one’s in the restaurant! Terrible, awful food, plus the waiter hated us, he was so disappointed with our orders, that when he brought the food out, he slammed our trays down (yeah, our food came out on trays people! Bad.) and never came back. Yikes! So, Auch after dark gets a little bit testy with the tourists eh? Don’t worry guy, right after our nougat and canned lychees in syrup it’s right to bed!
Back upstairs, my phone is dead, we have no toothbrushes or pjs’s, we are so very stranded, but we have a bed, and it is actually pretty comfortable, heyy! Most importantly we have each other and we are still having a good time! It really sounds like I am complaining but I am sharing this story because it was such a strange and funny night, I feel obligated to share! I am smiling as I write this and we were laughing through the whole ordeal. It was one of those times where everything keeps going wrong and you can’t help but laugh, knowing it is shaping up to be a great story. This is what life, love, travel is all about, being together, experiencing the unexpected wholeheartedly and gathering the stories that grow. It’s my most memorable Valentine’s day ever!
Much love from us!!