It felt strange retracing my route. What took weeks to walk was spanned in mere hours by train. Melida, Ponferrada, Astorga, Leon, Sahagun, Burgos…they all held their special memories for me. Travelling through them again was like watching a movie of my life, backwards.
In Hendaya, the most southwesterly town in France, I had a bit of time before switching to my connecting train, so I ran across the street to a little bistro for some dinner. I had to constantly correct myself in my conversations with the waiter: my head knew I should be speaking French but the words coming out of my mouth were Spanish.
Back on the train (my second train) I was having trouble finding my sleeper car. Seeing my confusion, a man stopped me and offered to help. We started chatting and he asked me where I was from. When I said Canada he became very excited. “Canada!” he said. “CANADA!! We are friends!” And he promptly kissed me twice on both cheeks. It turns out he was from Brittany and as a result of Canada’s involvement in World War II our country is still highly regarded there.
I eventually did find my sleeping compartment and settled in for the night. Quarters were tight and I didn’t get a great deal of rest, but it was still better than sitting up all night. At about 6 a.m. I got up and watched the sun rise over rural France. An hour later I was in beautiful Paris.