I woke up to see that it had rained overnight, and that it was still raining. Setting out towards Haravilliers, I wrapped up my clothes in my space blanket, and put my phone in the Ziploc bag that I had requested of my host a few days before, an empty cigarette filter bag with printed images which make it rather difficult to see what is going on with my phone. Almost everyone I have met here smokes, by the way. After a few minutes, I found a gas station where I went in and asked if there was a cheap disposable Poncho I could buy. No dice. I then asked if there was a large trash bag that I could have. The attendant gestured a look-about and said no. Knowing that he definitely had a trash bag, I decided to deal with him. I put a king size Snickers on the counter (here a 2 pack of small bars). No response. I put a second king size Snickers on the counter. No words were spoken, but before I could pay, he went in the back and came back with a large black trash bag. I cut an appropriately sized hole for my head this time.
As I was walking out of town, some people pulled over to ask me for directions. Why anyone would ask someone wearing a trash bag for directions, I am not really sure, but this homeless guy happened to have GPS and had turn by turn directions for them in no time.
The majority of the way was on along the side of a busy road with no shoulder, and I frequently had to step off the road to let a Semi roar by. I run/walk facing traffic, so this is never really a problem, except for when trucks decide to pass a car on a two lane road from behind, and they fly inches away from me in the lane of oncoming traffic.
Also, for the first time I found myself in the middle of nowhere needing to find a bathroom, and when I finally came upon a town, I was very happy to see an open "Tabac"/bar, where I asked for the toilet. When I opened the door to the bathroom, I was rather surprised to see a squatting toilet. I actually didn't realize that they were used in Europe, but having seen them several times before in Thailand, I knew what to do. Didn't make it any less awkward. To make my toilet experience even more magical, the bathroom was decorated with a framed jigsaw puzzle of a crying baby touching a dolphin. I left having seen a completely new, magnificent side of France.
About 5 km before where Haravilliers was on the map, I stopped in a larger town and started working on the meandering about/hoping-something-falls-in-my-lap technique. Nothing. I went and got a piece of pizza from a boulangerie. Nothing. I stopped in a pub full of old men. Nothing. I made a few laps around town. Nothing. I sat in a park. Nothing. And so on. Around 6, I decided that this town had little to offer in terms of things falling in my lap, so I continued on to Haravilliers, knowing that if I ended up sleeping outside, I would be a little bit closer to Poissy in the morning. Haravilliers happens to be incredibly small. Definitely the smallest town I have stopped in yet. I wandered about until I saw a person: a young mother checking the mail. I told her my story, and that all I needed was a roof over my head for the night. She offered me the attic in the garage, and the weight in my stomach was lifted. Soon after, I was inside an awesome renovated grange, drinking a glass of water and speaking (hey, in English!) with Stephanie and her husband Ludo about my trip. They soon realized that I wasn't a "serial killer," and invited me to stay inside and have dinner with them. Once again, I found myself engaged in conversation with some incredibly hospitable people. We were all baffled by the fortune I have had thus far.
16 June 2009