We’ve been to France before, but it was a drive by attack. This was to be a much more meaningful visit. Now Shantelle and Kim have decided that they don’t have enough money to go on and have booked some cheap flights out of a place called Toulouse. We have no idea what to expect of this place and our first night is spent at a roadside takeaway car park. Kim and Shantelle have had a night of argument but we choose not to ask too many questions, as they seem pretty hell bent on sorting things out in private. In the morning we drive them to the airport and say our goodbyes. They have been great girls to have on the journey, but it will be a much more comfortable sleep for the leftovers in the foreseeable future.
We head back into Toulouse and find a park just out of town. What we find is a beautiful, modestly sized, very French university town full of young go-getters like ourselves.
We do the usual thing and try out the nightlife, wake up late and try and videotape some content for our show. Spending a few hours we try to speak with some locals and pose a series of hard hitting questions. The answers are surprising and leave us feeling much more open minded toward the people of this nation and their undeserved title of arrogant country people.
Still not convinced that all stereotypes are unfounded, we set out to try something that is synonymous with the French culture. Frogs legs are definitely up there with stripy tunics and berets, so why not.
We head for the fanciest hotel and ask the concierge where we can chow down on frogs legs. It takes us a while to explain what we are trying to do, but with a quick game of leap frog he understands but is puzzled as to why we’d want to munch on the tiny legs of an amphibian creature. For a moment I agree with him, but pester him into finding an appropriate frog restaurant. He arranges for us to visit the restaurant of the hotel, but with no one eating in the dining room, we decide its probably not the best place to spend 18 euros on a plate of little green legs.
Still determined, Jag, Lee, Sarah and myself power through the streets on foot until we stop out the front of a very traditional looking food place. We enter and ask if we can film our experience and the resulting confusion sees me in the kitchen learning how to cook frog’s legs and garlic prawns for the waiting table of hungry travelers. The chef from Tunisia talks me through the process, translating through the kitchen hand. The waiters, well dressed in a black and white garb complete with bowties, watch with curiosity and make jokes about the frogs, that I pretend to understand.
It all happens so randomly that I don’t even get a moment to think to myself how weird it is, that a broke guy from Australian is standing in a small French kitchen learning how to cook this most strangest of dishes. Never in my life would I ever thought that I could be in this position, but this thought evades me whilst the night continues and sees us drinking champagne and biting the tiny pieces of fishy textured, chicken tasting meat from the tiny legs. Altogether not all that bad, if you can get Kermit and Michigan J Frog out of your head.
This little exercise did prove to us that we were rapidly running out of money and that we needed to get out of this city, with it’s sexy French women, frogs legs and beautiful bridges spanning the water in golden mist. So we did….eventually.
From Toulouse we hit the country roads in search of vineyards and some off the cuff grape picking work. We had heard that this type of work is hard to find, but surely there would be people out there willing to hire some broke hard working backpackers for a few weeks. After all it was peak season for harvesting the raisins and just like the snails they love so much we too carried our home on our backs…Alright it’s a terrible analogy…. but surely you can humor me briefly..
Anyway we hit winery after winery on a trail of leads. From region to region we went, but no one wanted to hire us. Apparently the government was using spy planes to count the number of workers in each field and fining the companies big money if they had more than what they were supposed to.
Quite disheartened we head to a small tourist town that we had read about on an internet terminal in a country town supermarket along the way.
St Emilion is a tiny medieval town about 1/6th of the way across France from the west, just inland from Bordeax. The town although sprawling with American tourists with the latest digital cameras and money to burn, also boasts a beautiful church carved from a large rock. The spire sits proudly in the main square towering over the beautiful little village of old buildings and rows of vines vanishing over the hills in the distance.
This morning the golden light spills over the cobblestones of the tiny elevated streets and through the vines growing entwined around the old buildings.
The town however offers the poor backpackers not much in the way of parties, people or affordable eatables. So we move on into the hills bound for happy ol’Paree and more unplanned adventures of cultural difference and the stereotypical beauty of France.
Hey people of France, your not all that bad… I don’t care what anyone says…