SOL: Travel Updates

I have officially started my placement with my new travel hosts in the Midi-Pyrenees. I started off loads better than I did at my first place and the British/Dutch couple hosting me have quickly assumed the role of my “surrogate parents.” Here’s a quick rundown of what has happened in the past week and a half:

Curry Night Debauchery and Clutching the Stick

My last night at my first host ended as it started – on a Monday night (Curry Night) celebration that was one for the books. Curry Nights are always filled with drunken escapades and this one was no exception. We started pre-drinking G&T’s before the table was set at 7PM, so by the time we were served our Daal we were already half in the bag and enjoying ourselves immensely. I was seated next to my favourite Frenchman (as per usual) and by the second course I had convinced him to take swigs of the mixed drink in my Thermos and shun the Bio Bordeaux that we had been served.

There was a new Swedish WWOOFer who got into town at 8:30 and called to say she was ready to be picked up – unfortunately our host had drunk too much wine and was in no position to drive. “Have no fear!” I shouted as I planted myself behind the wheel of the car before I realized I have no idea how to drive stick. Luckily her son took it upon himself to teach me, which left him yelling in panicked, heavily accented English, “Bloody hell, press the clutch ALL the way down!” and me shouting back, “Shut up I’m CLUTCHING!” After stalling several times and a suspicious cranking sound that made it seem like the transmission had given up and committed suicide halfway through our journey, we made it to the village and successfully nabbed the Swede. I think we terrified her on the drive back, but we managed to arrive back at the party unscathed.

Considering my family will read this, I’ll leave the naughtier bits of the night out, but suffice to say I woke up the next morning to catch my train still heavily intoxicated. It was worth it.

Peanut Butter and Chalets

I had a good feeling about my new hosts after our several months of email interaction, but nothing endeared me to them faster than peanut butter.

During our drive from the train station to the campsite, my new host and I were discussing the finer points of French cuisine and I began my well-rehearsed rant about the cost and availability of peanut butter.

Within minutes of arriving at the campsite he placed the Holy Grail in my hands – a 1KG jar of peanut butter that I could have all to myself. Have I died and gone to heaven?

Not only did he bestow chunky PB upon me, but he and his wife have given me my own private accommodation in the form of a chalet on the campsite – basically a small apartment with two bedrooms, a dining room, a bathroom and a kitchen. I also have a weekly stipend to cover my food and a porch that overlooks the Lot River. Life is GOOD. 

One-Horse Towns and Poker

The village where the campsite is located is something of a “one-horse town” – there is a post office and a bar and that’s about it. My host explained that when he isn’t running the campsite his social life consists of a poker league of about 30 people who play on Fridays. Damned if I wasn’t registered as a player in the league within 24 hours of landing in town. I signed in under the alias “Triumph” (AKA my dream bike-brand) and donned my motorcycle tee as my signature outfit. Sue me – I like to play the part.

Friday night rolled around and I marched into the bar for the tournament like I knew what I was doing and sat down to play some Texas Hold’em (in French) with absolute strangers. Mega-nerd that I am, I downloaded “Hold’em for Dummies” to my Kindle the previous night and spent an hour reading up on winning techniques. My party trick of a slick shuffle won me some street cred – so did a ballsy bet and a Royal Flush that cleaned out the old guy next to me. I ended up finishing 7th out of 30 players and caused two men to go ballistic when I beat them. Not exactly a “Triumph,” but hopefully not beginner’s luck either.

Safe travels,

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