I’m writing from my apartment in Font Romeu France, sitting in the only place my laptop works. After being spoiled in the USA with wireless everything, I now have an actual cable connecting my macbook to the wall in order to make it do things. Weird. The internet is so slow that I can’t talk to Jesse (who is back in Oregon) on Skype without sounding like a robot, so I’m going to have to find myself a good old calling card tomorrow. Do they still make those? I don’t have a phone in my apartment. Do they still have payphones?
Font Romeu is nestled in the French Pyrennes, two hours north of Barcelona. Athletes come here because its one of the only altitude places in western Europe with a track right in town, gym facilities, an airport that’s fairly accessible (2 hours), and a lake 20 minutes away at 5000 feet where you can do lower altitude workouts and runs. The fact that it is gorgeous and peaceful are just bonuses.
This is my second summer here, and the apartment building the athletes traditionally rent is empty except for us runners, for the most part. We have the run of the place, except that there is nothing to run really. I’ll fill you in on daily dorm life another time when there isn’t anything fun to write about. For now, I want to write about how the first five days left me feeling like this:
…which set me on a mission to find these elusive, locals only, natural mineral baths (read: nude Frenchies). Bridget Franek and I went down to the Tourism Office and started inquiring about these springs we heard about, but they kept trying to point us in the direction of the obvious tourist ones. Of course being a hippy who likes the ala natural ones, I kept pressing the point, using sign language and universal grunts (I don’t speak French). Eventually we had a language breakthrough and he drew me a nice little picture on one of those cartoon maps of the area to a destination right near the tourist hot springs that didn’t previously exist there. All we had to do was head toward the tourist springs, turn right off the main road on the squiggly line and walk over the parallel lines (bridge? river?) and up and over some dotted lines for 10 minutes. Nice!
A bunch of us had the afternoon off training today, so we piled into the cars and set out for the healing springs. With only a couple wrong turns, we arrived at the turnoff to the tourist hot springs with good spirits. But now that we were surveying the area with our eyes, the hand drawn portion of the map didn’t seem as illuminating as I thought it would. We split up and set off in different directions: the girls to the trail for the freebie baths, and the boys to check out the tourist baths.
We made our way back to the car and the boys pulled up at that very moment. Did they find the tourist springs? Yes. Did they go in? No. Why not? In France, you aren’t allowed in public swim areas unless you have a speedo. Even Nick’s tiny little racing shorts wouldn’t cut it. He and Ben straight up got kicked out! Defeated but not discouraged, they decided to go home and try another day. That left Bridget, Jemma and I to head on up to those very same springs with our appropriate swim attire and enjoy a soak. We’d take anything at this point.
Well, turns out we were one euro short of being able to afford to go in, so once again we were faced with defeat. Then Jemma encouraged me to use my creative language skills again to ask one of the employees of the paid baths for directions to the elusive free baths. If I were in America, I’d never do something that cheeky, but what the hell? I ran into an old woman who offered to drive us to the correct fork in the road and mime directions for the rest of our journey. After her job was done, she confessed she had never actually been there, but wished us luck!
At that point we thought we were screwed, but we gave it one more shot. Sure enough, the rest of the adventure couldn’t have gone better. Here is the breakdown in photos of our epic afternoon:
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