May 31, 2013

french countryside bliss {Europe 2012}

The last 5 days in Europe were spent in a petite village of the French countryside near Toulouse called Salies du Salat. My aunt, uncle, and adorable 8 year old cousin live in a beautiful home in this village tucked in this beautiful area of sloping green hillsides and the grand Pyrenees mountains that separate Spain from France. My relatives were so hospitable and it was great to not have an itinerary for this last leg of my trip. I honestly just did whatever my aunt and uncle recommended and let them plan everything since they wanted to show me how beautiful their village was. After 2 weeks of constantly being on the go, this was such a nice change. And since I was still battling a horrible cold (which by this time had turned into sinusitis), it was great to relax in the sun.

First off, I have to sadly admit I did not take a lot of photos during these 5 days at all. I really regret it because there was so much beauty! But I think I was so done with taking photos and just wanted to enjoy the scenery.

First off, let me just say that the train ride from Paris to Toulouse was quite simply breathtakingly beautiful. Granted, it doesn't take a lot to make me cry, but I teared up as the train sped by the gorgeous countryside scenery that was highlighted by a perfect sunset. Words can't describe the beauty that I saw. After a whirlwind week in Paris, I finally had time to sit down and journal a little, and it simply brought me to tears thinking about how blessed I was to be on this journey. I was (and still am!) so thankful for God giving me the opportunity to travel to Europe. It was fun, adventurous, and beautiful, but it was also a time to reflect on all that God had helped me get through in the last two years with school and work. It was a great transition into my new career as a pediatric nurse practitioner and moving away from my beloved Seattle. So anyway, I am trying to make myself sound less like a crybaby but I think I am only successful and making myself sound like longwinded crybaby.  Oh well.

I arrived in Saleis du Salat after midnight, but to my surprise I had booked my train ticket on Bastille Day (France's equivalent to USA's 4th of July) and fireworks were still coloring the sky as we drove into the small village. I woke up the next morning and gasped when I saw this beauty:

Life seemed so wonderfully slow here compared to the fast-paced London and Paris, and I lazily walked around the vegetable garden, swam in the pool, got my tan on while smelling the nearby lavender bushes, and enjoyed having lunch and dinner outside enjoying this view. I would have been content with just hanging out at my aunt and uncle's home, but they were so sweet to take me on day trips during my stay!

First stop: Aurignac, a small town best known for 1860 discovery of prehistoric remains in nearby caves. The old part of the town is centered around the remains of the castle dated from 13th century

And this last photo is not my own; I found it on pinterest, but captures a more "big picture" view

The next day we went on a hike and picnic with a great view of the Pyrenees, a SW European chain of mountains that form a natural border between France and Spain.

I wish I would have taken more photos this day because after we climbed to the top of this hill, my aunt and I ventured into a tiny village that was too adorable for words. Cute old ladies were washing rugs outside, raggedy kids were riding bikes, and toothless grinning grandpas were chatting outside and watching us outsiders exploring their little hideaway in the hills. I'll always regret not capturing atleast a glimpse of that little village.

Lastly, my aunt and uncle surprised me with a day trip into Northern Spain to hangout in a village that used to be frequented by Spanish royalty visiting for winter wonderland fun.

So, this concludes my European adventure in July 2012! I had an amazing time and am SO excited to revisit some of the places I fell in love with, as well as exploring new areas this coming August!

Stay tuned from photos from last week's trip to NYC!!!

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Elle Alice