OK, so apparently this is how it’s going to work, at least for now: when I feel like it I’ll type up the previous few days’ worth of blarney, and on nights like tonight when I’ve traveled all day, and just pigged out on aubergine (eggplant) parmigiana, a huge plate of fettuccine carbonara, and a 1/2 bottle of Cotes de Provence red, you’ll get an abbreviated version.
Tonight is the first night I’m not staying with friends – to be precise, I’m staying with total strangers. Lonely Planet has a book called “Experimental Travel” in which they describe alternatives to the routine forms of tourism, such as flipping a coin to see which direction you go, or getting 30-odd friends together and playing chess on the grid of a city, coordinating moves by cell-phone. Or, as a couple, going to two separate sides of a city, then trying to find each other, without communicating at all. Those are the relatively simple examples I can think of: if you’re bored with “another church, another cathedral, another cafe”, check the book out, it’s got some great ideas.
One footnote in one chapter mentions “Couch Surfing” and lists a website: www.couchsurfing.com The idea is that you get in touch with people living where you are going and…sleep on their couch. And presumably return the favor, or “pay it forward” when you are again at home.
Usually it’s not actually a couch – that’s just a euphemism for a spare bedroom, floorspace, etc., but a couple of Swiss friends of Cecile’s have taken her spare room, so I get to literally couch surf for my first experience. So far, awesome. Cecile seems to be a very friendly person, and I’m hugely grateful to her, her brother, and their other roommate for letting me crash for a couple of nights.
The ride in went smoothly. And since my pack didn’t magically get much lighter, I must be getting stronger, because I wasn’t totally wasted by the time I got here. I was totally drenched with sweat (ew), but c’est la vie. At some point on the train ride I pulled out my new GPS device (thanks Perfect Housing!) to see how fast the TGV was cruising. It got up to 299kph, but wouldn’t budge above that. So…I held the thing close to my chest, then rapidly pushed it 1/2 meter forwards, et voila! My neighbors thought I was a nutjob, but for a split second we were doing 300kph!
Didn’t do much other than peel off the sweaty clothes, hop in the shower, then head down to check out the beach and the old town. Had a rose to contemplate where to have dinner, then stumbled on something unexpected and went there instead. Fantastic: it was a small local place which totally took over the small (tiny) square in front of a church in the old town. I sat down next to a pleasant French couple from Antibes, and had a chat with them – when they got up a Dutch couple sat down, and I got to practice my crappy Dutch again!
Good thing, too, because I realised after I ordered that I didn’t have much cash left, and I was pretty sure the tiny writing underneath the menu on the far wall said “vee do not vant your stoopid ameeerican credit carrrds”. Turns out my bill was 26 euros, and I had 26.32, so at least I didn’t have to do dishes. But my new Dutch friend Rene gave me some more change anyhow to make a less-pathetic tip. Rene, if you read this, I owe you a biertje back in Alkmaar. (Or Ohio if you ever get there.)
Ok, c’est tout for tonight. Tomorrow: Monaco. And maybe I’ll write more about the relaxing time in Lyon, or post some pictures of nude sunbathers (had to grab your attention and hook you for the next installment, eh?)