Monday, 5 August 2013

Rennes, France: Rue de la Soif

After my eventful day of hitchhiking gone wrong I was finally in Rennes, the capital of Brittany. Rennes is a really old and beautiful town. You can feel the age when walking along the very uneven cobblestone streets in old town while admiring the bent wooden walls of the buildings. There is also one street lined with bars which is famously nicknamed Rue de la Soif (Street of the Thirsty). Empty during the day but packed at night.

At the train station I was greeted by my first host, Martin, an environmental sustainability travel agent. After a shower he gave me an awesome tour of the city. Then we made ourselves comfortable at a bar where we drunk all night for free... I chose a good host with good connections! We met a really cool group of people. After  many drinks and good conversation there were four of us left and the bar was closing. We all went to his place for more drinks. Martin and I soon passed out while the two girls were still going. I awoke the next morning to a note from one of the girls saying alcohol is bad and I shouldn't drink. I blame the day of hitchhiking.

The next day I was doing my usual first day wander, without looking at a map until I'm very lost, this is how I get a feel of a city. On this wander I encountered one of the girls from the night before... at the same bar. She offered to give me a tour of the city. She guided me to one bar where the bartender, who didn't speak English, gave me free drinks to try for being Australian. One memorable drink was a local honey wine. After more talking I discovered that I was drunk under the table by an 18 year old French girl that is still in HIGH SCHOOL!

In the evening Martin, his girlfriend and I ventured to a restaurant that uniquely specialised in the 2 very different meals that Brittany is famous for: Moules Frite and Galette. Moules Frite is a direct translation to Mussels Fries, it is always served in a special plate that can be described as two big bowls joint together, one containing a gargantuan amount of mussels in a sauce of your choice and the other full of French fries. Galette is a savoury crepe that is made from a different flour giving it a brown colour instead of the usual creamy colour of a crepe... choose your filling!

The next day I was off to my new host's house, Miren, a Spanish Basque civil engineer that is fluent in 4 languages. Miren was at work so my first meeting was with her boyfriend, Romain, a really nice French guy that was in town for uni holidays. After meeting Miren for lunch Romain and I had a fun day at "the beach" with a few language barrier problems. His English was better than my French but we had some good laughs at our communication problems and Google Translate came in very handy. He was soon off to travel Ireland so it was good practise. Miren bought him Ireland Lonely Planet book in English. Tough Love!

Miren cooked SNAILS for dinner that night. That was a big tick on the French bucket list. These ones were from the sea not the land. Miren also sold me on making her hometown, San Sebastian, my first place to visit in Spain... it was fun day/night with two people I'm sure I will see again (or maybe I already have).

Miren and Romain were off to a music festival so the next day I checked into a hostel. My dorm had just two beds and a shower. Private shower but communal toilets. After meeting my Canadian roommate, a standard feature in any European hostel, that also just checked in for 2 days I went for my first run since London. I told him about the amazingly beautiful La Mont Saint Michel... one day later we were on a bus together back to Normandy.

No "Swiming"

The permanent population of la Mont Saint Michel is less than 100, although it attracts over 3 million visitors a year. It is also free unless you want to enter the church on the very top of the castle. I've seen the inside of enough churches so I opted for the free version. The history of this castle is 1500 years old. I leave the rest for Google.

I narrowed my next destination down to 4. After taking a call from HelpX host 700km away I was running to the metro to Covoiturage over 500km to Bordeaux.

Lessons Learnt:
Ask girls in bars whether they are high school students.
When I travel I drink a lot for free.
French hostels outside of Paris are predominantly full of French travellers.
Moules Frite is a genius idea

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