The Kindness of Strangers

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September 17th 2008
Published: September 17th 2008
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So we applied at over 100 vineyards, or chateaux, figuring we'd find work right away. However, it turned out we were about a week late for the whites picking season and a week early for the reds, so most people replied that their 'equipe' was already complete.

We wanted to wait one more day (Tuesday) just in case an offer came through and this is where the great trek for a bed began! The hotel we were at was full for that night, so we tried the one next door, and the one down the street, and the one around the block, the one near the train station ... (you get the idea). We came to the conclusion that we needed to get out of the big city to find a cheap hotel to wait in the area.

Our train left for Perigeaux (1 hour outside Bordeaux) at about 4:00 but was delayed 10 min from Perigeaux for some unknown mechanical reason. After the 1.5 hour delay we got into Perigeaux at 6:30. We were overjoyed with happiness as we saw the street outside the train station lined with cheap hotels. This joy quickly disappeared as we realised everyone one of them was either full or shutdown. We started hiking around the town trying every place, our bodies aching (especially mine due to yet another cold).

Randomly a young medical student and his girlfriend were driving by and thought we might need a lift. These guys showed us another hotel which was full and then started driving us around the outskirts of town in search of a couple hotels the guy knew about. He even phoned his med school buddy to see if we could shack up in one of the hospital rooms for students and staff, but the only one left was for the on-call doctor. So they dropped us off at a complex of hotels about 5km out of the city and we thought we were sorted.

Well, predictably, we were turned around at all those places too! We even asked if we could just pitch our tent in the hotel gardens but they weren't too keen on that. We eventually turned to plan E which was go eat at McDonald's before taking a taxi back to the train station in the old town and get out of this crazy vacancy vortex town.

On the way to McDonald's, another person stopped to ask us if we needed a ride. After talking some mixed french-english with this sweet old lady, she said she would take us to the train station as she was heading that way. While in the car and conversing with this lady, she decided that we must stay with her for the night. We didn't want to impose but she insisted. She lived in a duplex with her mom on the top floor and wanted to give us the whole bottom floor while she slept upstairs with her mom. It was all such a whirlwind as we were expecting to take an all-night train to somewhere in France that night.

So there we were in her living room, and I couldn't believe the absurdity of her kindness as she was saying that she was a banker and was not interested in stealing any of our belongings as she was literally taking her house key off the keychain so we could walk into town and get some dinner in the night. What an amazing lady! We stayed in that night and ate some canned food she didn't want anymore. As she retired to bed upstairs, we washed all of her dishes and cleaned her kitchen as best we could, before hitting the sack with freshly line-dried linens. We fell asleep thinking about our roller-coaster of a day.

The next morning she had written a note saying that we could stay another night if we wanted to see the sights in Perigeaux but we insisted that we move on. She gave us her address and told us to mail her when we got back to Canada and even gave us a Perigeaux calendar before driving us to the train station on the way to work. Now we can tell this story to anybody that says the french are rude, self-important prats.

Tonight we're taking an all-night train to Marseille and giving up on the idea of work for now.

Talk to you soon,
Alex and Jay


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