France was the first country completely out of our safe zone. We were really lucky to stay near Vallence with a street painter Camille and his friend, Victor, a street clown. They didn’t have much in terms of material goods, but they couldn’t possibly have offered us more heart-wise. Camille even gave us his bed and said that he doesn’t mind sleeping on a carpet. Eventually we accepted his kind gesture.
The next morning we went to do some bubbles, as it was a market day (Sunday). We managed to earn something and people were so nice there! Smiling, popping bubbles and chasing them. ^^ Later this day we were all invited for dinner to our hosts’ friend, Nana, who is a person wearing a heart on her sleeve. Not only she cooked a delicious dinner, but also was a great conversation companion and fulfilled Nick’s wish to eat roasted chestnuts. We prepared them in a fireplace and then all of us sat down in a circle, peeling them, laughing and consuming. They were so hot, but so tasty!
After dinner we went for a walk by the river. We made a lot of ducks very happy, because Nana gave us some bread to feed them. ^^ Not that they looked particularly unhappy, they were quite fat. XD Nick kept thinking how would they taste but this amount of fatty meat probably would clog our arteries faster than a hamburger in McDonald’s. We also had an occasion to play around with Victor’s daughter, a lovely kiddo who was one of this sort that doesn’t cry, enjoys life and is just freakin’ smart. Two year old speaking English, Spanish and Gibberish. ^^ Okay, understanding is more accurate here. But she was quite cool, even Nick had fun with her.
The next night we’ve spent at Nana’s place in a separate bedroom, with a great deal of privacy and a comfortable double bed. It was so nice as we didn’t have that much time for ourselves during this trip and also Camille could sleep in his own bed. :)
And with our spirits lifted, with just a few Euros more in our pockets we decided to leave to Montpellier, the first city on our journey with temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius. On the way we could feel how the temperature was rising what made us thinking more and more positive. Unfortunately, Montpellier had some surprises for us we weren’t ready for at all…
We arrived in Montpellier in the early evening, with around 10 € left in our wallets and we were to stay in this guy’s place, Jacques’s. It was a dreadful stay, the first time in Nick’s long Couch Surfing experience when he had to give a negative reference. As we really don’t want to go back to these memories, here is what we wrote him in CS feedback:
“Jacques accepted to host us on quite a short notice and despite few neutral references we were very optimistic to meet him. He warned us that he smokes a lot in his appartment and that was it before our arrival so no complaints about the smoke. Unfortunately, the problem was different. His appartment is… Well. We don’t expect a hotel and have have slept in various places around Europe but dust and oil on plates, unusable kitchenette, some kind of excrements on and underneath the toilet seat, dust on a bar of SOAP, well, it was too much. Not to mention sleeping conditions – the couch we were to sleep on had already sheets on it so we had to sleep on a fabric that Jacques and his friends were sitting, smoking and eating on. In short – we decided to sleep in our clothes and tried not to use the bathroom too much. The flat has a potential – nice and creative wall graphics look awesome but it is just a drop in the ocean. We can understand somehow the mess as we are travellers and we slept in all kinds of places around but Jacques’s behaviour made things just worse. The first night was a nightmare for us, he showed us minimum interest, choosing to hang out more with his French speaking friends and it made us feel unwelcome and useless. He invited us to go with him and his friend to the pub, but here his interest ended. We tried to talk to him, ask questions but all we got were superficial answers (“So, Jacques, why Apple?” – “Why not?” THE END). After the pub we went to eat pizza and later we went back to the flat. He and his friends were sitting on a sofa, speaking French (we don’t speak French at all, as stated on our profiles) and watching cartoons in French, while we were sitting on foldable chairs not knowing what we were doing there. At that point we started to look for another host. Eventually his friends went out and Jacques helped us to make the bed, threw a blanket and some pillows on it and… He went to sleep. Oh, but before that he said – “By the way, I get up at 7am”. We asked – “And you go… where?” – “Nowhere, I just get up at 7, that’s what I do. Goodnight.” – and he left leaving us sitting on the bed, feeling totally lost, miserable and not welcome at all, especially that he never mentioned that before anywhere. And indeed, he got up at seven, made some coffee and woke us up. Well, it was impossible to sleep with a coffee machine working anyway or the lights on (it was still dark outside). The positive side was he started talking with us, we watched a new Star Wars trailer and he made me some coffee too. However, even though he woke us up at 7, we got up from bed around 9, what made us thinking, was it really necessary to start the day so early? During the day we prefered to hang out all the time in the city than to return there, but our bad is that we didn’t mention anything to Jacques. Problem is, we didn’t know how to start such a conversation and we had nowhere else to go. It may seem selfish but just imagine youself in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language, no money and no place to go. Jacques did some effort later on, after the first evening, he talked a bit with us, shared his coffee and some weed which was generally nice, but the amount of negative experiences simply overwhelms the positive ones. We can’t say he didn’t try and we were struggling what to write and how to do it, but it is impossible for us to give neither a positive nor a neutral reference, because every time we think about this stay we just think it was horrible. I feel bad writing it especially that we didn’t mention anything in person but it is how we see it. The profile doesn’t match at all.“
Dreadful. Brrrrrrrrrr. But there was one cool thing we have noticed in a pizzeria next to his place – a postcard from Kalisz, a shithole in Poland where we used to live for a while. XD
Anyway, what is more, our amplifier broke down, AGAIN, just before our second fire show. A good thing is that when we were packing up in a really grim mood, some African guys came up to us with a smile and asked: Hey guys, do you need some music? We told them what happened and they said: “You need music? We can be your music!” The guys offered to play drums, so we can do a show. It was really great! They played, we danced and people were cheering. What’s more, some of the audience was specially waiting for us to make a show and all the situation, conversation and agreements took at least twenty minutes. Patience is a virtue not so common on the street. It was a great night, it’s such a shame we had to go back to this smelly, unwelcoming flat…
Alessandro was our savior. He was the only guy on CS, who didn’t decline or ignore our emergency request. He said he’s ill, so he doesn’t host as he feels like crap. But all in all, when we explained our situation and offered to take care of him (you know, cooking chicken soup and being quiet), he decided to take us in. Thanks to him our experience in Montpellier we still consider as a great one. :)
We were supposed to meet him in the afternoon so in the morning we decided to work a bit but beforehand – to treat ourselves. We went to the Place de la Comedie, chose a nice cafeteria with a good view and reasonable prices (sic!), and sat down to enjoy lovely sunny weather, eat typical French breakfast (which I seriously don’t consider a breakfast O_o) and watch people passing by.
Oh, we forgot about “lovely” experience on the streets of Montpellier – as we were working with soap bubbles some guy approached us, as he heard we spoke Polish. Apparently, he was Polish too and he was a beggar. Many people make a mistake of thinking that we don’t have money, live on the street and have nothing to eat… He wasn’t the exception. Immediately he thought of us as one of them, and offered us to sleep wherever they sleep (he was homeless) and showed us where we can eat for a few cents. We politely thanked him and went back to work. After a few hours ALL beggars of Montpellier knew who we were. And they were all Polish… They all greeted us when we were walking by and asked for money for alcohol. Lovely. It’s horrible that people so often consider us equal to beggars and that we sleep in caves or whatever. C’mon, we earn our keep, wherever we are for longer time we have a flat. On Tenerife – double bedroom! We can afford having a car, a motorcycle and much, much more. We have never slept on the street, we often wild camp but just because we like to be close to nature not because we are forced to do so.
Enough ranting, let’s get back to our host. As all men, Alessandro was exaggerating, he wasn’t that ill. ;D We went out for a beer, chatting about people who don’t understand CS spirit and of course complaining about Jacques (it was still so fresh in our minds). At his place Nick cooked us a lovely dinner and we played some Tekken on PS3. Alessandro is really good at it, but Nick managed to kick his ass a few times. I didn’t, I sucked at it. XD But I had so much fun!
The next evening Alessandro invited us for a half pint to an English pub named Shakespeare which ended up with a pint and shots. So, in short, he got us drunk. Do all sick Italians make their guests drunk? ^^ Still, the evening repeated, having fun, making improper sexual jokes, eating this time his cuisine and watching controversial movies. The next day we left to the last city in France on our way – Perpignan.
To sum up, especially for the future reference – Montpellier is not the best city for street performing but also it is not the worst. People like to appreciate, children are noisy but manageable with difficulties. Both Fire and Soap Bubbles brought us decent income and we had no encounters with the police which is definitely a plus. The best place to perform is, of course, Place de la Comedie, however it’s good to explore the city, it’s really nice. I think that all performers could meet their audience there, however we met one Portuguese guy who was shut down due to his noisy instruments and amplifier, so I guess it’s okay to perform here but not if you cause a lot of commotion. Circle shows could also work well, the space is huge. :)
On the other hand, after lively and busy Montpellier, Perpignan was dead. No people, no children, we also met some German musicians heading to Spain who tried to earn their living there and were surprised to see no audiences at all. Anywhere. Dead. :P
Fortunately, our host, Marie-Lou, told us about this touristic place by the Mediterranean Sea where we could work. It was called Collioure and yes, they were people there, so hardly, but we managed to earn some money with bubbles. However that was it- fire shows wouldn’t work, as there was no one there in the evening. I guess it was just too cold… Yeah, we left Poland a bit too late. Next time we will know better.
We spent in Perpignan a few nice, relaxing days, listening to Celtic music and planning our further trip. Marie-Lou had a kitten, Dreamy – a very playful and silly creature, which I completely adored! And Nick tortured it.
It was nice to chill out, I even made a tart for dinner once (om nom nom!), but since there was nothing there for us to do, it was high time to leave to Spain. On a day of our departure we went to a gas station and did some bubbles for people, who appreciated our art with… petrol. :) We got 5 liters! Nothing could stop us! Barcelona, here we come!! Oh, damn… we had to stay in a hostel, we didn’t find a host. But that’s another story…
… and Nick (a bit)