Instead of hitching from Paris to Toulouse, I just chose to book a ride online through BlaBlaCar/covoiturage. It only set me back €40, and a train ride would have been at least three times as much, and as far as hitchhiking was concerned, I wanted zero more surprises, at least for a six and a half hour drive after having my stuff taken. I met up with my driver, Sara, and two other guys headed for Toulouse on Saturday morning and had an uneventful drive. The country was nice to look at, but there wasn’t much talking or anything since my French is awful and I didn’t feel I like forcing three French people to make slow conversation with me while I tried to concentrate on understanding over the sound of the car.
When we got to Toulouse, though, Sara asked me what my plans were. I told her I was going to Saint-Girons either by hitching or ride share, and as for lodging for the night, I was simply going to seek out a hostel and put up a couchsurfing request online and explore the city while I waited for a reply.
“How about you come to my mom’s house? It’s on the way to Saint-Girons, we’re going to celebrate her birthday tonight.” Wow! Of course, not one to turn down the kindness of strangers, I accepted and she called to make sure it was alright with her mom. She gave an enthusiastic, “Bring him over!” And I was on my way!
We picked up her boyfriend in Toulouse and I played around with a soccer ball with his kids for a while before heading out. We passed a small town called Foix (and the Castle of Foix) and went up into the mountainside to a huge house in the middle of nowhere. I think the village name was Bermajou or something along those lines, 40km south of Saint-Girons. We walked in to meet Sara’s brother and parents, who were absolutely the nicest and most straightforward people ever. We talked about everything from politics to American vs French culture to the price of land in France. They were very engaging and maybe purposefully dumbing down their French so I could understand, and every once in a while they didn’t seem bothered by my total lack of French and helped out with some English. My favorite part of the conversation went something like:
“But we have to ask you a question.”
“Est-ce que tu es republicain?” (‘Are you republican?’ They asked this in the context of Texas gun laws and religion in the South).
“Est-ce que je dois repondre?” (Should I answer that?)
Sara’s mom stared at me, waiting for my answer.
“Uh… Je suis pas republicain. L’autre côté bien sûr.” (I’m not republican, I’m on the other side, of course.”
Suddenly the air was much lighter and Sara’s dad went “Bon reponse!” Good answer! And then we ate an enormous wonderful meal of fried potatoes, pork ribs, wine, cheese, bread… the essentials. It was fantastic. Sara’s mom reminded me very much of my Aunt Stacy’s mom. Living out on a farm, powerful personality, full of life, and very hospitable. People aren’t as different as you might imagine them to be, even if they grew up five thousand miles away and forty years before you. Anyway, we stayed up pretty late talking and by the time we were ready to go to bed, Sara’s boyfriend had offered to give me a ride to Foix where I could hitch out to St. Girons the next morning. Then I slept in an enormous comfy bed.
The next morning I woke up around ten and basically had breakfast forced on me. Sara’s mom asked if I wanted food and when I told her I didn’t want to eat since no one else was (I’d woken up late), she told me I was weird and gave me food anyway; bread and orange juice with this freaking amazing home made fig jam. Then she walked me outside to show me her fig trees and I tried actual figs for the first time.
Figs grow on trees. You pick then when they’re soft and light green.
Then, you peel the skin off very carefully.
Take a bite out of the fruit, get as much as you can out, and enjoy. It tastes like honey mixed with avocado. It’s a little strange but very, very sweet and delicious.
Sara’s boyfriend gave me a ride into town and I planned on exploring the castle before I hitched out of town. Unfortunately, it was closed, so all I really got was a bunch of pictures of the outside (and this one has a power line in it. Hurray!)
The view from the castle walls of the city and surrounding landscape.
Then I went exploring around the creek which runs by the castle and through parts of the town.
This is called a Croque-Monsieur, and is the best sandwich you’ll ever have. It’s got ham, cheese, bread, and some other stuff I couldn’t identify, but it only cost me €2. Yay small towns!
After exploring a great deal of the city (it’s really small) I decided to attempt hitching out, so I found a bakery and asked them for a ‘carton et marquer pour faire un signe pour faire du stop.’ I got an itty bitty cardboard box and a bright orange marker to make my hitching sign. And they gave me a baguette!
By the way, the French government controls the price of baguettes. The reason for this is supposedly so people can always afford their daily bread. Ingenious! (But socialist, shhhhh)
The best place to hitch out of Foix is the bridge that runs between the main road and a roundabout leading out of town. As with my hitching adventure from nice, each exit is marked with the city that is located in that direction, so you just have to find the right sign, follow it, and look around where cars will be coming from and find a good vantage point to hitch. As luck would have it (and on a Sunday!) I met a 22 year old French NURSE named Sofia who already had finished a year of nursing school. At 22! She got her bachelor degree at 19. What the heck. Anyway, she was also a musician, and she was okay with hitching together. We sang stupid French songs to each other and she told me about her plans to travel to Texas for a month in a few weeks to do music stuff there. I told her she had a couch available in Missouri if she ever needed it, we exchanged Facebook information, and yelled obsenities at cars that passed us instead of picking us up (as a way of teaching her the different degrees of profanity in English, of course). After maybe an hour, a guy picked us up and we piled into his little car. He took us halfway to St. Girons, but that was perfect for Sofia because that’s where she was headed. She wished me luck and I started walking along the road. I was just thinking about exploring this town own as well, but I had my thumb out walking down the main road, and literally not even two minutes after being dropped off, another driver pulled over and took me the rest of the way. Easy.