I had to drive for 12 hours straight to get to a position to be able to write these words.
I never meant to go to Bordeaux but I got horribly lost on the motorways between Perpignan and Perigeux. Four motorways go into Toulouse, and I managed to get on the wrong one out, getting past the toll booth before I realised. Rather than getting back on the motorway in the other direction for another attempt, I took small roads all around Toulouse to get back the motorway I actually wanted. When I finally got back to a toll booth on the right motorway, I took a moment to try and look at my map before heading off.
Unfortunately, a hitch-hiker took that as a signal I was prepared to give her a lift, and lept into my car. (A welcome sign, at least, that there will be room in the car for P when I pick him up from the airport next week…) I was basically too embarrassed to tell her to bugger off. Hitch-hiker was headed for Bordeaux, I was headed for Perigeux, so I challenged her to look on the map for me and decide where she would like to be dropped off.
There wasn’t really anywhere that suited. The motorways split between where I wanted to go and where she wanted to go pretty much immediately after the toll booth and went in different directions. Since all that really mattered to me was that I head generally northwards, I told her I didn’t mind heading to Bordeaux instead and we set off in that direction.
I’m generally in favour of hitch-hiking. From a green, environmental perspective, it uses up an otherwise empty space in a wasteful journey. I also like to do random good turns from a zen / good karma perspective: what goes around, comes around. Maybe one day, I’ll be stuck for a lift and someone will help me out. It’s also vaguely Christian along Good Samaritan lines. Where it breaks down is when the person you help is not seeing it from such rose-tinted specs lines and tries to rob you along the way. I’ve certainly been taken for a sucker that way several times before.
This specific hitch-hiker didn’t seem very bright. I’ve a niggly feeling I know more tenses in the French language than she did (1), but in fact, since she sat in almost total silence for the entire journey, except to point out at one stage when I’d taken a wrong turning that I was perhaps headed in totally the wrong direction. (She was right.) Still, I think I brightened her day. I bought her a sandwich when I stopped to fill the car up with petrol. I didn’t get the impression she was eating very regularly so offered to get her something. She didn’t twig that the main reason was to get her to come with me to the cash desk “to choose a sandwich” rather than leave her sitting in my car, stuffed with all my nickable kit, on her own, whilst I was out paying.
I eventually dropped her off near the St Jean railway station in Bordeaux, and went on to try and find a hotel for myself. It was time I got an internet connection for a night, apart from anything else.
I tried maybe 8 hotels around the station. All were full. There’s a “Vinexpo” going on in Bordeaux at the moment, and everywhere is fully booked. Eventually, I went back to my car, dug out my Hotel Ibis handbook and phoned round the branches in the near vicinity. Eventually found somewhere 100km away that could accomodate me, so signed up.
And hear I am at Hotel Ibis Saintes. Multimap says I’ve done 361 miles today. Factor in the circles when I got lost at several stages and round up to 400. It’s gone midnight, and I’m sitting here eating the remains of an olive loaf I bought a couple of days ago and a tin of evil strong beer that should hopefully knock me out for the night.
And all I saw of Bordeaux was a railway station and a vague glimpse of a cathedral spire. No time to go back!
(1) I know, or at least I was once taught, some really obscure ones that don’t get used apart from in 18th century literature.