“I remember well the culture shock I felt in India. It is a very disarming and strange experience. I remember sitting in the gutter in Varanasi speaking with an old Indian Gentleman who wisely said to me “you don’t travel through India to enjoy it Madam, you travel through India to experience it”. It is wisdom that I have applied to many moments in my life thereafter.” Rell
The flight to France went smoothly. Biarritz is an elegant coastal town. I love the aerial view coming in to land somewhere new. It gives you a quick geographical orientation and feel for how the place sits in the landscape. We embraced being on the road, with only what we carried on our backs, yet the weight (about 10kg) was going to take some getting used to.
Image – A carousel at the beach!
I was excited to be back in Europe but Kev wasn’t himself. This was his first time in a non English speaking country. Later we realised he might be experiencing some culture shock which can be disorienting.
It took me back to 21 when I’d lived in Rome for six months. During that time I had intense culture shock and didn’t understand what was going on. Coming back to Europe 25 years later, i reflected on how life had sculpted me, like water over rocks.
Image from http://www.hotel-du-palais.com
We had booked a night (hugely discounted) at the Hotel du Palais, the seaside resort / villa built by Napoleon for Eugenie. Overlooking the beaches and tumbling waves, the resort dominated the coastal landscape.
We had a small room on the ground floor near the front entrance. Although we had a very limited budget, we splurged on two ‘treat nights’ in Europe, the first and the last.
We were dropped by taxi at the front entrance and the staff were very welcoming, but to be honest we felt quite overwhelmed and out of place. Scraggly back packers at a five star hotel, we clearly needed to learn how to embrace the moment and indulge ourselves!
Image – Hotel du Palais foyer
Fellow hotel guests kept to themselves and in retrospect we would have enjoyed it more if we’d been in a good head space, shared it with friends or felt comfortable claiming our space. Perhaps drinking cocktails on the terrace overlooking the sea. We ended having more fun at our 5 euro dormitories along the Camino. It was a good reminder of how much our outlook and confidence affects our experiences, and what mattered to us, people over things any day!
Image: Biarritz terrace
Both being sensitive souls, we were thrown a bit off balance and needed to find our centre. After a rest, we wandered down to the beach front, past a carousel and the boutique shops. We mingled among the Sunday crowds, then climbed the rocks and sat overlooking the sea.
Image – Biarritz ocean view
We could hear music floating down from the square above and we climbed many steps to find a brass band concert. It was very elegant with seated crowds soaking up the Sunday beach vibe.
Stopping at a restaurant, we ordered pasta and wine. Our French was so poor that we struggled to make ourselves understood as we pored over the menu. It was embarrassing. The lady at the table next to us appeared to give the waiter knowing looks. When travelling I like to know a least a bit of the local language. We’d spent our preparation time learning some Spanish and brushing up on my Italian, but we’d completely overlooked French!
Image from http://www.lovetravelquotes.com
The penny finally dropped that Kev might be experiencing some culture shock. I described what i knew of it, the stress, the emotions and thought patterns, negative attributions, impaired decision making, disorientation etc. He quietly listened. A week later at dinner, i overheard him describing his experience of culture shock when he first arrived, but was ok now.
It was good for us to be shaken out of our comfort zone and find our bearings. That’s what travel does, but it did leave me thinking of home and our little dog Max. We imagined Max just this way, chilling out with Juli, Max and Pooks.
Image – Postcard from Biarritz
Tomorrow we leave for St Jean Pied de Port.