Travel Blog France #2 – Kindness of strangers

It’s been five days since I threw all caution to the wind and flew to France in hopes of finding work in the vineyards in the region of Aquitaine. I haven’t succeeded yet and I was faced with unforseen troubles.

First stop was Bordeaux, where I didn’t have a pre-arranged bed. I really hoped that one of the many couchsurfing request would be answered by the time I got off the train. They weren’t. I used the wifi at the station (30 minutes, then stop mooching) to find a youth hostel nearby, and with great luck they had one free bed. First night sorted, €27.

Not knowing what do to, I wandered into the city at night, just taking it all in. There was music playing almost everywhere – a band rehearsing under the bridge, buskers, groups playing with joy in the park, beautiful buildings. Not a lot of social interactions, but I learned not to mind. Second day I found a couchsurfing host, Quentin and we had a great night, meeting random people and them showing us ‘secret’ bars. Fun was had.

Next day, I left for Bommes, the town where my sister worked last year. Public transport is not the best, so I hitchhiked – not a socially accepted thing around these parts I later learned – and with distances being what they are, I walked. A lot. I started asking around châteaus with my rudimentary French, only to get told complet, complet, complet over and over – they were full.

After a day of fruitless searching, and night approaching fast, I was getting nervous. And a bit scared. I brought a tent with me, I found a suitable clearing and set up camp, defeated for the day. Cut to morning, my left eye is on fire. Light was pain, vision was blurry. I contained my panic, packed up and headed for the road to grab a ride to nearby big-ish town, Langon and the hospital. After half an hour of walking, a girl finally stops.

She was my saving angel, I kid you not. She rushed me to the hospital and despite my protests, she stayed. Asked me where I come from, what am I doing here. If I have a place to stay. Told me about her as well, that she likes travelling too. Slowly building rapport, through some language barriers. After I’ve been checked, a small lesion of my cornea, we went to have coffee and we met some of her friends, including Yacine, who offered me a bed at his place. I was overflowing with gratitude, unable to express it. Still am.

These people took me in, a complete stranger, shared their house, their food. I have never experienced something like this. They helped me look for jobs, showed me around the area. We had dinners, we laughed, we partied. I was invited to a manage a trois, which I politely declined. So much has happened in such a short amount of time, I couldn’t do it justice by writing about it. Least to say, it is a very humbling experience. And my eye feels better now.

Job-wise, things are not looking grape-y (sorry). The harvest starts late this year, beginning of October, which leaves me in some awkward financial situation. I’ve spent a lot to get out here, without a backup plan. Tomorrow I’ll leave Sauternes to the South, my sister’s friend is there already and harvest has started, let’s hope my luck stays strong and I’ll find some travailler…

P.S. Yesterday we watched On The Road, adapted from Jack Kerouac’s novel, documenting his travels through the States. I felt it was strangely allegorical to my current situation. Go and see it.

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