Here is our parting shot of the Loire as we drove away at about 7am. Ah, lovely. Here it was, June 5th, and the temp was in the low 60s. Chilly, but oh so welcome. We bid adieu to our homey gite, all packed, and drove 3 hours to Paris's Orly airport to catch our flight out to Seville to see some family friends. I so wanted this airport experience to be smooth sailing but the wrench in our early arrival was almost getting to the gate late because the Air France check-in attendant questioned Sophia's car seat. She was positive it had to be stowed and it was too large for the plane seats. I actually hate to say I wanted to cry. Oh, to have to communicate in broken French that we had already used the car seat in our 3 prior flights. It was as if she didn't want to listen to me and she was charging ahead and labeling the seat to be stowed. I held on to the seat and protested that we needed to talk to someone else and if we couldn't go ahead and ask the attendants at the gate. No, she would find someone in the know and get back to me. We had to get out of line hold all our luggage until she had checked everyone in on the flight and then she could go ask. UGH! What to do?
I prayed. Yes, sadly, I was fussy with my family. David watched me carefully as if I was a bottle under pressure and about to blow. Then as I paused to calm down I saw an Air France "official"-seeming-person approach the info counter near us and pieced together enough French to state our situation to her. She was patient and understood more English then the earlier attendant and immediately addressed the issue with the first lady that had put us on hold. Yes, we did have to wait until the long line that we had originally been in front of was checked in, but the second lady said she felt sure it would be okay. (I truly wondered how this could not be something the attendants would know). So 15 minutes before it was time to board we got to our gate and I asked the gate attendants if the car seat was a problem. They quickly said no, that they had families use them all the time, "Pas de problem", no problem. Hmmm.
But the flight was, in word, delightful! It was crowded and rowdy. There was an instant difference in atmosphere amongst the mostly Spanish passengers from the French crowds we had been in before. There was lively chatter and the sound of children. The lady next to me was a native of Seville and a font of information. Yes, we actually conversed in Spanish and French because she had never formally learned English. She was friendly and warm and her easy going demeanor reminded me of the wonderful first experience I had with the people of Spain a few years before.
In the summer of 2001 I visited Spain because my dear college friend Ale (short for Alejandra), was a missionary in Granada with Campus Crusade for Christ. I went to visit her, see the ministry she was a part of and get to know her teammates that I had heard so much about. But I truly didn't go because I was enticed by Spain. When I would think of Spain I would picture dry landscapes and hot weather. But once I got to know Spain through her experienced eyes, the Spaniards she introduced me too, and take in the the rich history, I can cheezily say, I fell in love with Spain. The food is delicious, the culture lively and the history is amazing. In this visit I wanted to again see her, her hubby Adam, and to introduce Sophia to their toddler, Ben. But, truly I hoped that David, Anna, and Sara would have an appreciation for the country that we could share.
After 2 1/2 hours and a rocky stop (very, very rocky), the cabin broke out in applause for the safe landing (only in Spain) and we could feel the heat as be debarked. Ah, Espana. Adam found us easily as we collected our bags and packed us into his small compact car. To haul us and our luggage took him two trips, but thankfully they lived only 20 minutes from the airport. Boy was it hot. 100 and some degrees. What a difference from the damp cool of our French stay. What sweet refreshment it was to simply see Ale and Ben and visit in their air-cooled apartment. Adam announced it was a good time for a "merienda." "Jenny?" Uh, sure I am up for anything you guys suggest. Chuckle, "Do you know what a "merienda" is ? No. But it sounds good. And it was. Ale said it was a favorite feature for Adam of the Spanish lifestyle. "Snack time" Yum. The English call it tea time, the French hang out at cafes, and the Spanish take a snack in the warmer part of the day in order to enjoy warmer meals in the cooler part of the day/night usually around 9pm. Ale and Adam are such wonderful hosts and provided the girls with some pasta, while David and I had some cheese, olives, and fresh tomato salad.
Once we were all contentedly filled we took Sophia and Ben out to the local park. The park was not elaborate but the two sections had play sets and a slide and Ben and Sophia darted around and interacted readily with the several Spanish little ones and their families. Sophia seemed to brighten just being in Spain. It was such a change from her just being a bit fussy and tired with our French travels before. There were varying ages of people enjoying the small park and all were involved with the children at play. Watchful, friendly, and welcoming. Ben and Sophia even ended up playing with another toddlers toys because, as I understood the mom to say to her little girl, "you have a lot of toys and need to share." It is a small example, I know, but from my previous visit to this one, being gracious hosts with a generous spirit seems to be the Spanish way.
The girls also played and listened as we chatted with Adam and Ale and caught up. I do admire the purpose in their living in Spain in order to share their faith daily as they meet university students and young families in their community, but at this point, after over two years, they were readying to return to the States for spiritual refreshment and a possible location change. I was glad for this small time to see them at home in their locale, yet also knowing this was time for their goodbyes to what they had known daily. It is quite a gift to visit another country but even dearer when you can take it in with local insight and everyday encounters. This time was definitely a gracious gift of Adam and Ale to our family.
This night we left the playground (8pmish) a bit tired from travel. Sophia was revived from the play and outdoors, and actually hungry. When Ale and Adam produced a feast (from their tiny kitchen) of Tortilla (not our flat bread-like Mexican variety but a similar shaped egg, onion, potato pancake), olives, cheeses, pork chops, hot dogs (a welcome familiar food item for the girls), and wine, Sophia grabbed David's pork chop with both hands, chowed down, and began her love affair with the food of Spain. She seemingly filled her tummy for her return to French food later, where her appetite was lost again.
We slept with the windows of the Watermans 8th floor apartment open to the cool of the night and the lively sounds of the residential street floating in until nearly 1am. Good Night ESPANA.