What is the last thing you wrote? You were in Normandy, with Manon, having just concluded your wine/chateau tour in the Loire Valley.
After leaving Manon in Caen, you and Alexis hitched to the sea and spent two days camping along the beaches, working out in the morning, making coffee, reading Milan Kundera out loud over breakfast, and breaking camp by noon to move to your next location. You made your way down to the Mont St. Michel, which might be the most stunning example of French grandiosity. You walked kilometers out of the tourist village, pitched your tent in a field, and then returned to the church at sundown, where you had the opportunity to snap a few of the most stunning photos of your entire (albeit short-lived) hobby in photography (fact is, you really don’t know what the F you are doing with your camera. Point and shoot.) Mont St. Michel at sunset is one of the painfully and brilliantly beautiful visual feasts. There is no other way to describe it.
From there you went to St. Malo, where you spent three days living on the side of highways, hanging out, resting, really doing fuck-all while it rained. Things started to get a little sticky. You were feeling restless—like you had been in the region too long. You wanted to find a new area of France—Bordeaux or Lyon. Some place, before continueing south toward Spain.
Maybe you are lazy hitch hikers now, but for some reason, crossing large distances on the map (hell, even short ones) is becoming more of a challenge. It took you three days to get to Bordeaux, and there really isn’t an excuse for that. Slow at breaking camp? You made it to Rennes, walked through the city at a breakneck pace and camped on the outskirts. Then hitched to Nantes (again, walked through, or rather around it) and camped in a neighboring smaller city. Then finally, on day three, after a wonderful workout of trench jumping and a bath in the water reservoir, you tried to hitch toward Bordeaux on highways.
In all your hitch hiking experience, you have not really had a problem. Well, there was that Turkish man who thought you were prostitutes, who groped your inner thigh and made you regret the possibility of having to explain that you didn’t WANT to stab him if he got fresh. But yeah, there are generally no problems and few people who ever encite weirdness of suspicion. But the more you hitch hike, the more you are learning. For instance, if a car TOO READILY pulls over for you, it means bad news. Second, if you are out-numbered by men, it’s a bad idea. You and Alexis were stuck in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere, on a highway where one car passes every few minutes, and feeling like you would die of dehydration soon. Fields of dead sunflowers stretched on for miles, on both sides of the road.
When the car you flagged down pulled over immediately, in front of you (you walk facing backwards) you were thrilled. There were three men inside, who eagerly got out to help you put you bags in the trunk. You honestly didn’t think anything of it. Then, in the car, crammed in the back seat, you and Alexis were told you would be driven just 6km down the road to the next town. Cool. You then learned they were not French, but Romanian. And, after sizing the men up, your stomach went into knots. For the first time you realized you had made a serious mistake getting into a car with that many men—that many HUGE men. They grow ’em big in Romania, and you realized that for all your strength, height, confidence, and force, you and Alexis would certainly not be able to fend them off if they wanted to rob, rape, or kidnap you. Fuck.
The driver said you spoke French well, but then said he had an Enlish-speaking friend who was fishing in the next village. He called this friend, and in Romanian told him something. The only thing you understood is that he kept saying he had two American girls with him. The driver wanted you to speak to his friend, so you took the phone. “Hello?” Why were you supposed to talk to him? What was the point. You didn’t give a balls if the man spoke English when you and all the men in the car had French in common. “Why am I supposed to talk to you?” As you were trying to figure this out, the driver veered off your highway. Alexis demanded to know why, and all the men started saying, “No, no, it’s okay. It’s okay.” No, it wasn’t okay. And the man on the phone heard the tone of your voice and wanted to know where you were.
Alexis told them to stop. Stop the car, turn around. You shouted into the phone that the driver was not listening to you, that he was confusing you, and that you didn’t see any reason why he should have diverted from your road and made you talk on the phone. Alexis was ready to tuck and roll out of the car. After arguing for a few minutes, the two of you managed to convince the car to release you. But rather than letting you out then and there, the driver insisted on keeping you a little longer, turned the vehicle, returned you to the point where the road diverted. You got out, got your stuff, and the men started to apologize. They told you where you could find the train. You said you didn’t want the train. You just didn’t want to hitch hike with a car filled with foreigners who behave in confusing ways. It seemed as though the driver wanted his buddy on the phone to talk to you and keep you calm while they drove you off course.
Were they going to rob you? Rape you? Abduct you into some kind of sex slave trade? Well, maybe not. The fact is, the man on the phone sounded genuinely confused, and it might have been that they were hoping to introduce you to their friend who was fishing and drinking by the river, make nice with you, have a party, and then god-only-knows, get lucky? Alexis likes to think they were just inviting you to a cookout.
Romanians be damned! You got lucky and a stoner picked you up. Drove some 40 km out of his way, silent, mumbling, enjoying the 90s American rock mix… from the motorway, a woman stopped for you and drove you 200km to Bordeaux.
Beautiful Bordeaux! Not really. Most of it is a hole, and you had no idea just how you were going to find work in the vineyards. Considering that it takes 2 hours to enter the city by foot, and then several more to leave, plus the time it takes to eat, get online at Mcdonalds, and try to find work, you really weren’t allowing yourself ample time for anything. You used your surplus to book a room in the Hotel Chic de Lyon (no chic, but definitely cheap). You spent two wonderful days laying around, drinking, eating, seeing the city at night, trying to find work, and relaxing.
Your surplus? What do you mean by that?
Every day you have a budget of 10 euro. You write down your items purchased, total them, and whatever remains of the 10 euro goes into the surplus for later, extravagant expenses. In Orval, you saved well over 100 euro, which enabled you to spend more money per day in Paris, to buy hiking boots in Caen, and to book your hotel room.
Curious about the expenses? Up until you had booked your hotel, you had been on the road for 46 days, which would have been 460 euro spent. You had only spent 404 euro which, when multiplied by the exchange rate of 1.4, was 621 dollars spent. Given your budget of 3,000 dollars, you are about 1/5 of the way through your trip.
Average cost of food per day is 5 euro. Superfluous expenses are wine, chocolate, and coffee. In order to increase your satisfaction and pleasure with your trip, you ditched some excess clothing, mailed back some books you’d finished reading, and filled the vacant space with food items like peanut butter, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, coconut oil, honey… you spend the extra buck on food, really. You and Alexis take turns preparing meals. She is still mastering the whole-meal crepe, and you have developed a chili-powder peannut sauce over quinoa. Other dietary features are oatmeal with blackberries, tomato and balsamic bulgar with fish, fried eggs, rice, spinach and cheese, yougurt and honey. You are well-fed, well-exercised, and under-washed. Laundry is done in sinks, moisty-wipe baths in the handicap stalls at Mcdonalds, occasionally you sneak into campsites and use their facilities. You still don’t pay for public transportation, so much of your day is spent walking, or rather, JOGGING next to Alexis’ long stride the pounds in rhythm to the music split to two sets of head phones.
Will you find work in Bordeaux? If you stay here long enough, perhaps. But you are getting impatient for Spain and might ditch the idea of working in vineyards and head straight for the mountains.