A slightly awkward vibe in the car and only when we arrived in Autun I realized this werent mother and son, this was a Blablacar! So these people had no relationship to each other whatsoever. Fine, makes sense. Free Blablacar ride, sweet.
They dropped me off at the station and I went inside to look for busses/trains/public toilet to sleep (joke! Fuck you! Haha).
Busses: none, trains: all on strike, people? A lot and very friendly! I walked around town a bit after it was pretty certain I wasnt going to find a ride anywhere, off to find some decent places to sleep it is, and fine places I found indeed! A doctors office still open with a heated stairwell was my best bet. The station itself was a close 2ndand I like my sleeping spots like how I like my women nowadays, as long as its warm, Ill take it..(omg the lengths I go to make you laugh, dont take this seriously mom).
It was cold but not too cold so I continued on sightseeing. The cathedral in particular was very beautiful and on the fringes of town were even some Roman ruins to admire. A temple dedicated to Janus.
As Im walking around I remembered there was nice kebab place on my way to the cathedral and I decided to chill there, with my sleeping spot secured and all (I thought I could sneak into some doctors place near the station that was still open and sleep in the stairwell).
The Kebab place was named Le M, run by 3 nice Turkish ladies of varying age. I asked them if Lucy was a problem and it really wasnt so I took shelter from the increasing cold there. They were friendly and they also had the hardest wifi password imaginable, a note dangled under it saying ‘if it doesnt work, just try again :)’.
They were extremely friendly, giving me tea, fruit and I thanked the mother in my bestest “teşekkür ederim” and I stole her heart right then and there. They had already given Lucy some kebab and fries which she in turn, in style, treated like they were Armenian – she murdered em (auch, God help me), and now they even gave me the kebab I had for free after I told them what I was doing. All jokes aside, this act of kindness is really humbling.. In exchange I offered to change their ridiculous wifi password and I hope to this day that I didnt genocide their wireless ATM machine, I only changed the password so I just wont recognize that it was genocide, then it’ll be fine and only 32 countries will probably say otherwise..
After that many horrible jokes about past events, ya just Erdogant expect your sleeping spots to still be available. Temperatures dropped into the –celsius after all those puns and I soon had to make some tough decisions. Found some shelter in a greenhouse in a garden center but this wasnt ideal, not to mention blatant trespassing. As I looked on Maps, I saw that the hospital was open all night. Hospitals in France on Maps are like the campsites on there however. Theyre not open even if the app says they are. Thanks Avallon! Island of Apple®.. But I did manage to find a pumping station, under the hospital, right by some Virgin Mary statue. Door open, hot pipes heating up the room and there was even a nice spider hiding there and my avid readers know that I love me a good spider in the middle of the night.
I used the champagne bottle that I was still carrying as a pillow and whatever, had an unexpected decent night.
I woke up the next day and I saw a Blablacar to Moulin, pretty decent but the guy sadly never got back to me. It started raining and I went to the station to check if they had resolved the strike. Obviously not but I was able to tell the guy where Ambert was and there was a bus from Vichy. There was a bus ride to that went to Nevers, from Nevers To Vichy and then I would basically be home free with a final bus ride to Ambert where Quentin would pick me up. I went to look for Blablacar rides since they were a lot cheaper and more fun in my opinion and there was 1 going to Nevers. A nice full ride as well, awkwardness guaranteed since I dont speak the language, right up my alley. I eat awkwardness for breakfast nowadays.
The ride showed up and after I introduced myself I fell asleep with Lucy on my lap. The driver was called Hamid, nice guy, friendly soul. Also in the car were a girl and a guy that I forgot the name of. The ride went by pretty fast and the environment was really changing now. More hills, more forests and Hamid being the boss that he is took a cigaret break right when I woke up. The 2 non smokers in the car must have loved us.
He dropped Lucy and me off at the station of Nevers and I decided to just take the high speed train to Vichy, reasonably priced for the amount of distance covered and when in Rome right? The TGV is arguably as French as baguettes or croissants.
I thought I’d go to a store to buy some food and I totally misjudged the distance that I had to walk, by the time I got back on the station I barely had any time to eat something BUT thank God theyre on strike everywhere and my train was delayed with several hours. Great. The train ride flew by and I had some fun looking at the map at how fast the train actually went, too bad I always drove the TGV in the dark but still a nice feat of engineering that I really enjoyed.
Getting into Vichy, the weather had soured completely, rain was pouring and when I looked on my weather map it was going to clear up a little bit in an hour or so. During my trip until this point I hadnt really used Couchsurfing because the application was sending my requests way too late and also some other features seemed completely broken. Nonetheless I gave it a shot and within 5minutes a very nice girl named Mathilde reacted. She lived close to the city center and I just couldnt believe my luck.. On such a short notice getting someone to react is absolutely unheard of (at least for me) with Couchsurfing. After waiting in the station a little bit and gazing at the homeless people there (who were very nice to me as well), I went to get some more dinner while I waited for the rain to pass. I found her house easy enough and when I arrived she welcomed me with open arms. So sweet. She is a dancer and this is her passion, she apoligized for not having anything in her house but sheesh, I didnt expect much. Not one hour before had I contacted her and here I was, warm bed in the living room, a good shower and I was even able to wash some of my clothes. Absolutely amazing and this is the sort of Couchsurfing experience I only heard about but never actually experienced. She even made me a hot chocolate, how very sweet!
The next day she pointed me towards a bar and I made my way to the train station. I knew there was a bus ride to Ambert in the afternoon and I arrived at the station 50 minutes in advance. The waiting line was long and was it not for a nice SNCF (French railway company) lady that asked if I could skip the line, I wouldnt have made it.
The bus ride was bumpy and I was amazed at how inefficient the public transport in France has gotten. Abandoned train stations/rails throughout the entire country but they had been discontinued around the time I did my last camino and now there were mostly busses. Bobbing and weaving through streets that clearly werent made for these large a vehicles on a daily basis.
A note about discontinuing the public transport. I find it funny that they discontinue the public transport, or at least the trains in most parts and then they crank up the price of diesel, targeting mostly the lower class in France, this is what caused most of the protests of the Yellow Vests or Gilet Jeune. This protest has been going on for over a year now and the people at the protests, the hardcore ones, are people that have absolutely nothing left. They protest because theres no job for them in this technological future and taking away their modes of transportation by increasing the price of fuel, is just low down dirty. This is also why Blablacar is so popular in France but thats a direct result of the government shafting the French. Its whatever.
When I arrived in Ambert I left my bag in the station and I walked around a bit while I waited for Quentin. I saw a tobacco store in the distance and decided to walk there. A awfully familiar van stood in front of it and when I went in I saw Quentin also buying tobacco! What a coincidence and we hugged and the lady behind the counter melted.
When we walked back to the station my bag was still there luckily and we drove towards Fougere, a small enclave of sorts from a time long passed. No house number system here, just a street and a couple of houses changing names every 100m or so. The nearest town is Marsac-en-Livradois and its all in the same valley. Mountains with snowy tops and thick forests blanketed the landscape. A river flowing through the valley, pretty amazing and mystical place.
I got to know the people from Fougere pretty well and I was very lucky to have some speak English. My parents were sending me a package with gifts for the December month and looking back on this in hindsight while typing it now, /spoiler alert it was slow to arrive.