Day 0 Travel day:
Today I have set out on a journey to France. Because of a previous wedding contract that flew me to France for photography, I ended up being offered a 6 month contract working at a chateau in the Loire Valley. Although the chateau goes by many names, the most common on the internet is Chateau Allure du Lac which is about 5 km away from the little village of Grez-Neuville.
After packing and much preparation, I was ready to go. After being dropped off for my flight and said sad goodbyes, I was en route to Paris. I flew with AirTransat, the flight was decent despite making me nervous as it arrived in Paris an hour late (I had a train ticket pre-booked) So I ended up taking a taxi for 55 Euro rather than the transit for 10 out of necessity.
Philippe the Stylish Taxi Driver
My taxi driver, Philippe, is an immigrant from Haiti. He has lived in Paris for the past 4 years with his stay-at-home wife, two children (whose names I forget) and a third on the way. He was dressed in leopard print shoes, nice pants, a charcoal black shirt, and gold framed glasses with a very chic design. He wore a watch that appeared expensive as well, clearly I got into the wrong business and should be driving a taxi. He informed me that there is little work in Haiti which is why he immigrated to France. We talked about many different things, including the news of the recent terror attack in Nice. I focused the conversation more on Haiti, and Philippe’s family. We talked about Creole (the local language of Haiti) and how similar yet different it is from French for instance instead of saying fesses (which mean bum or bottom) they say budda; I have no idea why he chose that as an example, but it seemed to be most memorable for him. He has a sister who lives in Quebec and returns to Haiti yearly to visit his other 4 brothers and sisters. As he’s the oldest he sends money home regularly to take care of his family. He very proudly told me, and to which I would be very proud as well, that his country, Haiti, was the first black country to reclaim freedom during the time of slavery in 1804 after a 12 year battle against the French and Polish (which ended in a massacre that ensured the Europeans wouldn’t try to oppress them again). He dropped me off at Gare Montparnasse and we parted ways.
Paris to Angers
After walking into the expansive train station with advertisements hanging from giant posters off the ceiling where a mad rush of people going in every which direction passed me by, I took my bags and headed up the escalator in search of where to print my tickets, make a currency exchange, and buy a french phone card. I then went to exchange my Pound Sterling (which I received from my sister so we didn’t have to do money exchange while she visited) into Euro. Quite the drop in value since Brexit, but it didn’t surprise me at all, it was practically at par. After getting all my effects in order, new French sim card and all, I raced over to my train which just pulled into the station. “Angers here I come” I thought.
I lugged my bags up the three steps and placed them in a baggage holder then walked down the aisle to find my seat. When I sat I couldn’t help but laugh at the translation above doorway, and I wish I had taken a photo and will the next time I’m aboard the train, it read “Bagages oublies? Soucis assures! Forgot your luggage? Worries Guaranteed!” I’m pretty sure they were trying to say that if you forget something you need not worry, though I’m just speculating here...
After the two hour train ride I was met by a taxi driver that was sent to pick me up, holding a sign reading “Andrew Williams” I guess it’s confusing that I use my first and middle name often together that it’s assumed that it’s my last name. I talked a bit with this taxi driver, she wasn’t quite as vividly memorable as Philippe with his leopard print shoes, but we chatted all the same.
We drove up to the Chateau, through a pathway of trees lining the gravel road. The weather was hot and beautiful, scorching in fact (as would be the next few days; I have the sunburns to prove it!) I was greeted by Francois and Aurelie (I don’t actually know how to spell her name), two ladies who showed me to my room where I showered and quickly collapsed on the bed until 7pm when I would soon find out Susy’s true reasons for hiring me to work at the chateau.
To be continued...