After the longest period of full-time employment (or wage slavery to use its technical name) in my life I find myself a bit bewildered at my sudden freedom. I wonder around Paris for a few days letting it all sink in, marvelling at lesser known sites such as an incineration plant only half an hour’s walk from Notre Dame and a nearby post-modern university campus that is eerily quiet before the start of term.
I stay with a couple of welcoming couchsurfers which means I don’t blow all my savings staying in hostels and I get to know the city from the perspective of those who live there. After not using couchsurfing for a few years, it feels good to be reacquianted with it – despite the website now going corporate and millions using it, it’s a lifesaver for the budget traveller.
Paris is grand. Better than London but still a big city and five days is enough in it. After hearing from a couple of trustworthy sources that the ticket inspectors on French trains are somewhat lax, I hop on a train to the Alpine city of Grenoble and lo-and-behold I don’t get asked for a ticket. It only takes three hours and I arrive there in good spirits. I stay with an IOPS comrade and his family who couldn’t have been kinder and we are joined by my good friend Lisa who comes from Paris the next day using the same painless method as myself. We spend an afternoon walking up to the ‘bastille’ overlooking Grenoble and enjoy the views.
On Monday we get three trains (with not one ticket inspector in sight) towards the mountainous Ardeche region to the southwest of Grenoble. Near the town of Largentière we stay with a woman Lisa met on her travels in Turkey – a woman who’s quite well known in France for having walked most of the way to Japan. It’s such a nice place I decide to stay an extra few days to relax before the journey to Italy.