To eat McDonald’s in France

March 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

My bus arrived in Narbonne (a town in the south-west of France) at 3.30pm. I didn’t have a map and the counter at the bus station was closed.

I was the only person getting off there. Actually, calling it a bus station is exaggerating. It was a small parking lot with a little ticket office.

Narbonne happened to be on my backpacking plans because a train from Barcelona to Carcassone (which is nearby) would have to stop there, so I decided to give it a go.

As I don’t speak any French and I felt a bit adventurous, I decided to walk to where there seem to be some life. I got to a river. There was a sign point to where was the McDonald’s and it was a quaint little river, with a romantic bridge and some trees. The tourist office was right there. Score.

The lady gave me a map. I asked what was there to see in the town. She frowned. She circled a couple of things (literally two) on the map and pointed me towards my hostel. The city got cuter the further I walked towards the main square. It was almost medieval and quiet and lovely.

My hostel was next to the massive cathedral who was never finished (that’s all I can tell you about it, because I didn’t go inside). It looked all very promising. I walked around the square where the hostel was supposed to be for about 20min. Which means I covered the whole ground of the square 4 times.

There was this big square building, that looked like a gymnasium or an YMCA of sorts. I decided to try my luck there. Turns out the hostel was inside there. No one was younger than 50 and I had my doubts whether any of them would speak English in such a remote town.

I tried a shy: “do you speak English?” to the lady that opened the door. She smiled and blinked, as if startled and said “Yes. English…” and she looked surprised at her own knowledge. “I haven’t spoken English in years!”, she added, laughing.

When I told her I was Brazilian, things got even more exciting for her (while I thought WTF did I get myself into).
“Brazilian?”, she said “Ah, very interesting. And far! So far…and you are here!” and laughed. I didn’t want to destroy her happiness by saying I technically lived in London. She then called the other lady and said in French something that I suspect it was “She is Brazilian!”, because the other lady looked at me in awe and smiled broadly.

I left to go for a walk around it. The city seemed to have been taken over by teenagers. They were everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I walked until a bit after the aforementioned McDonald’s and realised with despair that the city basically ended there. I walked a bit more. I took a couple of pictures and by 7pm I was done with it and hungry.

The problem is that the only places with food being served were a small open patisserie and…McDonald’s. It was fucking cold, so I opted for the second. By the time I left to go back it was 7.30pm and everything was closed and there was no teenagers arounds. It felt like Hot Fuzz, the movie. The creepy cathedral and the elders staring.

I ran back to the hostel to be terrified by the place at night. Creepy hallways and next to said cathedral. I fully expected to see 2 bloodied children on my closet.

I couldn’t deal with that for another day, so I decided to go for a day trip to close by Carcassonne. Which is a medieval town and a little more lively than Narbonne but only because there’s a massive castle on top of it. It’s the windiest place on the planet (citation needed).

It must be great on the Summer, but it’s awfully depressing in February. Basically, no one really expects tourists to come at this time of the year and so everything closes.

I went back to Narbonne only to grab my bag and get the hell out of there, before some cult decided to kill me. The night train to Paris was at 11.30pm, but it was 30min late. I’m glad for that because I got to see an amazing parade of bizarre people at the station. Homeless. Musicians. Hobos. Rich women with fur coats. And everyone seemed to have a dog. I don’t know why, but they did. I sincerely hoped not all these people were on my train. The police showed up at some point, with their own dog. Turns out Narbonne gets quite exciting at night.

My train arrived and gladly only one couple with a dog embarked on it. My bed was on top and it was weird and no one checked my ticket (frustrating). I wish I didn’t have any morals once in a while…

I did wake up in Paris at 7am, so that was exciting.
I’m leaving Paris for another blog post, since this was big enough and Paris deserves a post for itself.

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§ One Response to To eat McDonald’s in France

  • Karl Webster says:

    I hate it when I shell out a heap of cash for a ticket and no one checks it. It’s enormously frustrating.

    I got engaged in Carcassonne. Never made it to the marriage though, but life goes on. Ah oui.

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