Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Road to Poitiers

I spent my morning killing time until heading out to the bus station.  I took the 9 to the 3 to the end of the line to Gallieni, where the Eurolines bus station was.  The place was a bit disorganized.   I had already purchased my ticket online, which was a good thing because there was a long snaking line to the one or two windows open selling tickets.  But there was nothing to indicate which gate I should wait at for my bus.  I picked the line that looked to be for reserved tickets or information or something—at least a shorter line the queue to buy tickets.  It proved correct, and the lady gave me a plastic pass with an 11 on it for my gate.  I waited for the bus to come amid Portuguese and African passengers. 

The bus arrived, a Portuguese company.  We boarded and were off.  The promised wifi on the bus never materialized, but instead I was greeted with loud Portuguese soft rock ballads. Like blaring through the whole bus loud.  We rolled out of town, and I fell asleep for a bit.  I woke up to the blare and we were at a gas station but were just sitting around.  The two guys of the bus company were not on the bus.  We weren’t pumping gas, just sitting there.  We sat there perplexed for another 20 minutes, until one of the guys came back and told us we had five minutes.  I ran to grab a snack and got back on the bus as the fellow was counting and getting ready to pull out.  We were still missing a passenger, an African fellow.  Yet we started to pull away anyway.  I yelled that there was still another person, and pointed to him running towards the bus.  The bus idled and he hopped on.  I am starting to think the Portuguese have a rightly-earned reputation.

We sped off into the countryside, past irrigating fields and meadows of sunflowers.  We passed long armed windmills, and I smiled at this Quijotean good sign.

We meandered on until we arrived at Poitiers around 6:30pm.  I couldn't find an actual bus stand to inquire about a return ticket, so I opted to get the cheapest train ticket back and be done with it.  I got a return trip for wednesday evening from a nice ticket fellow.  I broke out my map of the city and prepared to follow the directions I wrote down, but saw a sign pointing towards the hostel.  I figured the sign was probably better than my googled directions, so I followed it up and around the city.  The hostel was about 2.5km away, so I hoofed it through the shuttered streets.  I figured the hostel was probably not close to food, so I stopped in a Carrefour along the way for some dinner provisions (a baguette, a tomato, a can of maquereau (mackerel) in a shallot sauce, a bottle of red wine).  I found my way to the hostel, and checked in for the evening.

After settling in, I made my way outside to have dinner as the sun's fading light lit up the green gardens.  I chatted with a French family.  They asked why I had come to Poitiers, and I explained about the battle.  The gentleman asked if I had ever heard of Futurscope.  Nope.  That is an interactive science park near Poitiers which is a main attraction for the city- not the battlefield.  I sat out chatting with the family and some other hostel mates, a Franco-Irish fellow and an Iranian.

The night got dark, and the Franco-Irish and the Iranian and I finished our wine as we chatted.  The Iranian was getting his PhD in metallurgy at the local Poitiers university.  He had studied French in school, and had just arrived a week prior.  Bienvenue!

We all turned in relatively early and I chatted with my roommate, a large Englishman named James.  He asked why I had come to Poitiers, and I said to see the battlefield.  He asked which one?  Apparently, Poitiers was the sight of a major battle during the 100 Years War between England and France.  He had come to see that battlefield, and didn't know of the battle field I had come to see.

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