France

hitchhiking in Narbonne

It’s been a very unproductive evening and I’m rewatching Ratatouille – not all of it, only the part towards the end where Ego tastes the ratatouille and flashes back to his childhood, a scene I always tear up at.

Having done 90 minutes of French, an hour of math, 90 minutes of political theory and half-hearted attempts at scouring the internet part-time work, in addition to going for a short run with the dog, emptying the cat’s litter tray, clearing what must be close to a week’s worth of trash and compost, playing catch with the dog and teaching him how to shake hands, and making dinner, I struggled briefly with myself about heading to the supermarket (a very lengthy 400m down the road, I’ll have you know) and then promptly crashed on the couch to watch a variety of TV programming.

In my defense, two of those shows was French TV. Or English shows dubbed in French, at least. Chad Michael Murray and Adam Sandler were in them, respectively.

Anyway, my last week of 2012 has been mildly exciting, I suppose. I spent my Christmas in a neighbouring village with a fellow housesitter I had never met before (or … a stranger) but that’s for another post. These are photos of Narbonne, the closest town to me. It’s the first time I’ve actually walked through it properly – it’s pretty and very old and quiet on the morning of Boxing Day.

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It was also a lovely day, which was a relief partly because we had two days of gloom and dreariness where the sky was this oppressive flatness of grey, and partly because I had a Grand Plan to walk the 14 km back to my house from Narbonne. It was very well-thought out. I had caught a bus from Ginestas (the village I was in) to Narbonne, but my connecting bus was three hours later (it’s ridiculous, rural French bus systems – which also don’t run on Sundays), so I figured I might as well walk back since it would have taken a shorter time (probably).

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Anyway, I started walking along the main road that led to the motorway and soon found out that the road shoulder was very narrow. Monty also really wanted to walk into the cars whizzing by, for some reason. Also, I was kind of tired. And I felt like a bit of a tool.

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I probably also cut a pretty pathetic figure, a foreign girl with a dog and a backpack trudging by a motorway. Anyway, I had walked maybe 500m past the roundabout that led onto the motorway before a car pulled up along me and asked if I was okay. It was a woman driver and she seemed genuinely concerned; she asked where I was heading and I said Coursan, the village nearest me, and she was heading there too (which makes sense, because it’s the next village on the road) so I hitched a ride!

We made very stilted conversation on the short drive. She told me she was moving from Coursan to Narbonne that day, and we chatted a little about where I was going after this, and we probably only understood around 75% of each other’s French. But it was a little thrilling.

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I then made my way through Coursan, which was pretty as well, if a lot rundown. The road out of Coursan towards Salles d’Aude, which is where the house is, was even worse than that out of Narbonne, because the road shoulder was basically non-existent. I ended up carrying Monty for a little stretch and trying to balance on the grassy slope (which led to the ditch, of course). It must have been only 5 km to Salles d’Aude but in retrospect, it wouldn’t have been safe, exactly. 

So it was great when I approached a giant truck and the driver, who was doing some sort of maintenance work, offered me a lift. I got to ride in a monster truck! Again, French communication was not 100% successful, but I derive faint consolation from the fact that when he tried to switch over to English, he managed around five broken words, so … nothing, really, it’s still pathetic that I cannot speak French fluently after six years of study.

In any case, it was an invigorating experience. Really whetted my appetite to do it again, and more seriously the next time. I’ve also resolved to pick up hitchhikers whenever I see them and feel able (mostly physically secure, I suppose) to do so. it’s a camaraderie of sorts? In any case, the point is irrelevant at the moment considering my lack of driving ability.

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