Day 3 September 16, 2011
After a good solid 3.5 hours of sleep, I awoke and ate breakfast with Chris, Sylvie et Anaïs. I had my favorite, pain au chocolat and some orange juice. Chris took the morning off from work to take me for a petit tour of Autun. We saw some Roman bridges and the Gallois Temple of Janus and he brought me to the grocery store, Leclerc. Upon arrival, I saw several different shops inside the store, including a cleaners and something like a gift shop, where I noticed they sold French license plates, custom made. It is now a tradition for me to buy one when I visit France and it wasn't too pricey,either, like last time in Paris. While Chris used la salle de bains, I spoke with the guy at the counter and asked if he'd make one with my nickname, centered. He said it would take 20 minutes. Chris and I went shopping for groceries and when we approached the meat section, he pointed out the various uses of the pig--Le cochon. He had told me already that the French use all parts of it and he wasn't kidding! He showed me the pig's head, heart, testicles, liver and brain. I took pictures of each and will post them. Talk about culture shock. Yes, I've seen a pig roast, but it's not every day one sees brains and testicles for sale in the local store, right next to the hamburg and chicken. Christophe was highly amused by my whole reaction and told each person he knew in the store how funny it was. Believe me, there is no shortage of people that know him. One time he was named Ambassador of Autun by the mayor. He is famous in the region for his dominance in running. While he was astonished by my reaction, he had some culture shock of his own when we discussed the license plate thing. In France, custom license plates aren't allowed by law--and they cannot be ordered, either. He was very surprised that could occur. I did tell him that it isn't like that in very state. California requires a plate issued by the state on the front and rear bumper, but one can still purchase a personalized vanity plate through the government. Even though he was amazed, it still didn't top my reaction to the pig parts. As we wandered around the store, I thought to myself, "what else do they eat in France that we don't that I could find in this store?" Rabbit came to mind, so I asked Chris if they had it here. He brought me over to it and picked it up and held it (packaged transparently) by the legs, the whole body intact, skinned, with the eyes hidden behind a more opaque plastic. He told me the eyes are also consumed! It only cost about 9.5 euros (under $13), too! I'm guessing it doesn't make for a lovable pet, though.
We then proceeded pick up Anaïs and encountered a crowd of parents waiting for their children outside the school. They all knew Chris and he couldn't wait to tell everyone about the grocery store and the time I called a French woman "chaude," meaning "easy," not "hot" like I meant it to be. Everyone had a good laugh and I stood there and defended myself, laughing with them. Everyone seems impressed by my French skills, which is reassuring, though sometimes when I'm tired I just go blank on words I know, and lately with the whole lack of sleep, nine hours in the future, even in English. Today, I couldn't recall the word "curfew" when we were talking about how safe it was to grow up in Autun. He expressed that if someone did wrong, everyone would know about it in a hurry and kids couldn't be out wandering the streets.
On the way to pick up Alex, we stopped at the other piste (track), where he does workouts. While not in a Roman stadium, it was still a nice, cinder track, great for working out. We then went to pick up Alex and headed home.
We returned for lunch with his family. This time, I wasn't offered any alcohol, so I asked, "Chris, where is my Rickard?" He laughed and poured me some red wine instead. I ate some bread to start, followed by a regional specialty dish, Beef Bourgignon over pasta. It was delicious but I couldn't eat much more after that. Today, I passed up a bunch of food, probably due to the fact that it was like 4 AM Arizona time and my stomach wasn't used to it.
Shortly thereafter, Chris dropped me off at the bus station in town and I waited next to some dude smoking something that he looked like he was trying to conceal. I sat down on the bench next to him and he got up, looking around and walked away, leaving his bag next to me. Great, I thought. Now I'll get busted instead of this dumbass, while I'm in a foreign country. He came back empty- handed, probably high. He didn't exactly fit the description of reputable, by any standards, though I must admit it's been 4 days since I shaved, so I might look a bit scuzzy (though sexy), too. Time for a shave, I decided.
I slept the 40 minute bus ride and it was refreshing. They actually had seat belts, which is rare. I arrived at Le Creusot and saw the lady, Paulette, who helped me chase down the bus the other day. I thanked her and asked her about the next train, but she directed me to a train ticket person. As it turns out, I need to make reservations to ensure a seat with my expensive Eurail pass. What a bummer! I missed the first train that arrived and left within 10 minutes of me being there, then had to buy a to Part-Dieu for nearly 40 dollars.
Had a nifty train experience today! My train had about 10x the amount of people it should have! It was supposedly the last train to Geneva with a spot that I paid for and I'm standing in a huge crowd. Some people got off the train a minute ago and now I'm sitting on the floor in first class in air conditioning. It's rather nice--better than having to stick my butt in someone's face for hours or having to stand on one foot. I'm finally there on time and they give us a really small train. It indicates on my ticket that I was supposed to be on a double-decker train in seat 108, second class. I'm in first class, in a single level car with no seat numbers!
Ok, I have a seat now that some people disembarked. Hope the train security doesn't kick me out! How embarrassing that would be! I'm just taking whatever seat for now. I'm in the third-to-last car and it may take a while for them to get here with all the people. I wonder how effective an enforcement system they have in place for crowded, shorter train rides and people who don't buy a ticket. I wonder what, if any, are the consequences.
Ok, so I rode for hours in style in my own little capsule in first class--pretty sweet. Huge picture window, air conditioned, reclining seats, etc... A couple of hours into the ride I noticed that the door in front of us was for the conductor, even though I was 20 cars back from the main one. We came to a stop in Switzerland, but the announcements were as bad as those over speakers in a US drive-through. We were waiting at a standstill for about 10 minutes when I asked someone if we were in Geneve. He said it was the other train. I disembarked to realize that it was gone, but the platform guy took me to the next train and I only arrived in Geneva 15 minutes after the train I was supposed to have been on.
More to come!