Week two- Chercheuse d'aventures (bit of a long post)

July 13, 2015
Midweek, boredom hit me like a train. I was reading about Bill Bryson's fascinating adventures through America on the Appalachian Trail and there I was stuck at home until I started work. The work rota seemed like a blessing at first - my shifts alternate daily with 14.00 and 17.00 starts. I'd envisioned a summer of lie-ins and reading books. It took me a whole week to hate this; starting in the afternoon makes it difficult to actually do anything at all. As you may have read in my previous post, there isn't a great deal to do nearby so getting around the Dordogne and back again for a 14.00 start is on the same par as being poor and going to university in David Cameron's Britain- it won't happen.

I tried to walk more in the mornings but the only route involved walking past the neighbour's overly possessive dog, Eros. Aptly named after the Greek god of love, he loves nothing more than chasing me up the hill, his nose an inch from my behind. They say you're not supposed to run in the presence of barking dogs, but if you were to see a grumpy mastiff chasing you, you'd be up the hill like Road Runner too. Whilst it was great exercise for my legs, I yearned for a proper adventure.

Desperate to escape the 4 walls of our home- and after a questionably motivational email from my friend EJ-  my house-mates and I decided to head into Sigoules after work on the Friday for a few drinks at the bar with the intention of meeting some locals who, not only could we befriend, but also who had a car. I've mentioned in a previous post, Sigoules, whilst still incredibly sleepy, holds a bit more life than the other nearby village, Pomport. After finishing work late, we arrived in Sigoules at 23.00 after our 20 minute trudge down the dark country road. What awaited us in Sigoules was a treat; instead of the dormant village I was used to, greeting us was a lively village fair with a live band, food and drink stalls and an abundance of strobe lighting. Glastonbury this wasn't, however the drinks were cheap and the locals energetic. Being such a small town and closely knit, we perhaps stood out prominently yet the locals welcomed us and soon everybody knew our names. I found myself at one point playing a party game of sorts to the music- I initially (and very excitedly) thought that we were going to do the 'Oops Up Side Your Head' dance until everybody put their hands up in the air and somebody crowd-surfed down the line. This continues until everybody in the line has been groped and dropped. I'm not entirely sure of the exact point of this game but apparently it's played across Europe and people seem to love it. Each to their own.

When the night had finished, but you get the idea
If first impressions are anything to go by, I probably came across as the merry English girl who was far too enthusiastic about dancing to Pink Floyd at the end of the night. Not only did I learn that Pink Floyd fans can be found in almost any corner of the world- no matter how far away from society- I learnt also that the French standard spirit measure is equivalent to double that of an English and thus made for a great evening. I also managed to put my French to good use when talking to French youths, particularly my invective, which meat we were able to befriend many of the locals (some of which have cars, result.) The village fete happens every Friday which makes for an ideal situation to actually make French friends, and see the real side of Sigoules over the next 6 weeks.

The following day, we were determined to make it to Bergerac, the nearest city renown for it's wine and tobacco. I had a thirst for adventure that desperately needed quenching. Our managers told us that they could drop us off early in the morning but we'd have to find our own way back. We were faced with few options-
Eglise Notre-Dame of Bergerac
1. Walk- this would take us 3 hours, even at a fast pace.
2. Cycle- although it would only take an hour, we were daunted by the vertiginous hills.
3. Taxi- at 30 euros for a one way fare, I was reminded of my lecturer at uni informing us that in France 'only rich old people use taxis'.
4. Hitch hike- apparently an incredibly common thing to do around here.

It was my manager who had first suggested hitch hiking. Being scarred by headlines of murdered ex-pats, I asked him how you'd know if the driver was safe- what if they were perverts, I asked? "You can sense it." was his response. Yeah, right, after you, Joris. He then proceeded to tell me that I could ask them; apparently murderers, rapists, perverts etc are completely honest about their intentions in the Dordogne. Even the locals on Friday night had told us that it's the thing to do around here- some even bummed lifts to work everyday. Common sense would tell me to save for a car, if I were in that situation, but they were happy to risk it everyday. Mum, I know you're reading this, but we decided this was the best option- I'm sorry.

There's some stunning architecture in Bergerac, such as this beauty
Bergerac was founded circa the 11th century and sits on the banks of the Dordogne river. (I finally got to see it) As I have previously mentioned, it's famous for it's wine, which it has been producing since the 13th century when wine making became extremely popular. At the beginning the 20th century, tobacco growing in Bergerac triggered a significant economic revival and Bergerac became the tobacco capital of France. During the second world war, the city was home to many parachute droppings and often forwarded information to allied forces. Locally organised, the Resistance organised swift evacuations of injured British and American airmen to Spain, which is only around 4 hours away. Today, Bergerac relies heavily on tourism and wine as it's economic support.

I'm not sure what they were doing but it was something cultural
We spent the morning in Bergerac where my house-mate was more keen to shop rather than a cultural visit (plenty of time for that, I suppose). One thing that I noticed, and perhaps a tip some of you may find useful is that the French don't do coffee like the rest of the world. If you order a black coffee, expect an espresso and if you order a large black coffee, expect a double espresso- let's just say I had plenty of energy that day. Soon it was time for the scary part- the ride home. Comforted by the fact one friend has a black belt in Taekwondo and the other had hitch hiked around Thailand, I held back my pleas just to order a taxi. After about 5 minutes of waiting, a very kind lady with a young child stopped- I'm quite sure I'd spoken to her the previous night but my memories are quite hazy. Practising my French, and making sure she wasn't a psychotic murderer, I asked about her. She told me she was a social worker who lived nearby to us, she even showed us her house when we drove past it- a grand affair, overlooking miles of vineyards. In hindsight, I feel crazy for even getting in and whist I perhaps won't do it again, I wasn't molested, nor was my body sold as horse meat on the market. (In fact, I was so reluctant to write this because I'm anticipating a very angry call from my understandably worried Mother/boyfriend).
Just a quaint French street
Vieux Pont de Bergerac

The weather is still gorgeous, more people are arriving and my French is definitely improving. And I'm still alive.

Until next week!

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