In the morning, my host drove me back to the point where I found them the day before. For me, it is important that I maintain a constant line all the way to Athens on foot. If I take a car anywhere, I have to return to the the same place...even if it means backtracking 10 k and then passing by the same door I walked out of in the morning a third of the way through my run.
When I arrived in Val-de-Meuse (aka Montigny le Roi), I stopped in the hotel of the town and asked for a carafe of water, free by law in any establishment in France. I wandered around the small town for a while looking for...pretty much anything. It was Sunday, however, and everything was shut. Everything. I was lucky however to find an elementary school party where they were selling plain bread with ketchup and thin burnt sausages and fries. I spent some time watching elementary school kids perform Karate and dance to American songs like "Cotton Eyed Joe." I even saw an 8 year old kid doing the Tecktonik dance (aka the way they dance in that Yelle video). After I spent enough time feeling like the creepy dude who wasn't a parent but was watching an elementary school pageant, I left to see if I could find anything else to do.
On the outskirts of town, I found a nice little camping ground, where I figured I could sleep outside if the weather stayed nice. There I saw a couple with two bicycles loaded with saddle bags and tents, and asked them (an obvious question) if they were doing a big bicycle tour. They turned out to be a young German couple who were touring France for 4 weeks on bikes for their honeymoon. After we spoke for a while, we decided that we would meet up for dinner around 7:30, and I used the in between time to take a shower and wash my stuff in the free campground facilities. I had dinner at the campground snack bar, and lost my hours of light in conversation. I didn't get back into town until after 10 pm when it was dark and there weren't many people around.
I was lucky to come across a group of kids (18ish) sitting in the middle of town, hatchback cars clustered together with doors open, listening to Offspring and Snoop Dogg. I introduced myself and stood around awkwardly for a while until I found a few of the kids who thought what I was doing was interesting and wanted to help me out. After a few phone calls to friends who weren't around, some of the kids told me that they had found a place, and that if I went with them, they could get the key to a room for me. "Sounds good to me."
After about 200 m of driving, we ended up at the police station. I was thinking "uhh, not really what I was looking for guys...hopefully I don't get deported." They assured me it was alright, and there was a nice room kept for people like me who came into town. No questions, just a key with a bed. Right. So after talking to a police officer and waking up the Mayor, I found myself driving another 400 m to the Mayor's office to find this magical key. After some searching, the older mayor returned with a key. He showed it to me and read the tag out loud to prove that he had found the right one. It read "SDF." Salle Des Fêtes" he said (translation: "Party Room"). I knew, however, that what "SDF" really stands for is "Sans Domicile Fixe" and that it is the term used here for bums.
Still not really knowing what I was getting into, the mayor took me to an old garage, opened it up, showed me around, and left. There wasn't much to see, and it certainly wasn't a party room. I think the photo and facial expression speaks for itself, but the place was definitely very grungy. I pulled out my emergency blanket and covered the dirty mattress with it, hoping that Mylar was impermeable to bedbugs. I made a pillow out of my jacket, plugged in my phone, left one of the lights on and spent the rest of the night rustling around on a hot piece of tin foil fearing any contact between my skin and the fabric below. Not the most comfortable night I've had...I guess I'm a little bit picky for a bum.
30 June 2009