Stranger Doesn’t Always Mean Danger

There comes a moment in everyone’s life that you have to say, “don’t tell mom”. That time came a couple of times for me this weekend. Yes, I am aware my mom is reading this but I’m not one to keep secrets so I said “don’t tell mom until I’ve already done it and I’m back safely at Purpan”… I have no regrets!
From the time Americans are born they are trained to not talk to strangers, take things from them, or especially get in cars with them. However, my fellow Americans and I did exactly that on Friday as we carpooled to Marseille from Toulouse.
Before you start lecturing me, there were many precautions taken. I told a couple people from both home and Purpan our exact plans with this driver and to send out an SOS if they didn’t hear from us. So relax Mom, I just didn’t want you to worry too much! The train workers in France have been on strike recently. Almost all of the trains leaving the Toulouse station were getting cancelled right before they departed. Apparently these strikes happens often, mostly because French people don’t like to work. They use striking as a way to get a vacation and that is usually their only motivation. Since we had already booked and paid for our house in Marseille we had to find an alternative way to get there.
Carpooling in Europe is extremely popular as a way to save gas and money. The website BlaBlaCar is used for drivers to post where they are leaving from, where they are going, how many seats they have available, and what time they are leaving. Drivers are reviewed by riders on the website and you see their information on their profile. So with help from a French speaking friend Nicole, Laurissa, Nick and myself booked a 4 person car with Morgan P! Her profile picture looked nice, she had high ratings, and the four of us could have easily kicked her butt if she tried to pull any funny business! The way it is ensured the drivers take you to your desired location is that you are given a code by BlaBlaCar before you leave and when they arrive at where you agreed, you give them the code that allows them to collect their money electronically. Pretty neat system if you ask me!
While we were pretty nervous when we met her on Friday, this experience exceeded my expectations! We had no idea if this lady could speak English but thankfully she did. The 5 hours car ride would have been a little awkward if not. Morgan turned out to be a sweet, interesting, and gracious person. She brought her little dog along for the adventure and it loved sleeping on our laps and playing. She showed us all sorts of new French music and we showed her some American songs!
It felt great to be traveling by car for the first time in a month after endless train and charter bus rides. I saw a couple John Deere and Case combines harvesting along the way and even a big John Deere Dealership (so clearly we know who is better *coughcoughDavidcough*).
She made a pitstop at her house and she showed us her village which sounds really creepy I know but it wasn’t, I promise! She even dropped us off at our exact address, even though she wasn’t obligated to do so and could have just dumped us out at the metro station. The house we were staying was NOTHING like we expected it to look like but was actually very nice once you got inside. I wish you could have seen our faces when we pulled up to it.. I’m sure we looked completely dumbfounded. It was in THE middle of city above a yoga studio and surrounded by graffiti. Not going to lie it looked pretty rough but once again, it turned out perfectly fine!
On a lighter note, I went cliff diving as well on our adventure. No serious injuries to report! We hiked through a National Park Saturday morning to get to the most beautiful beach I have seen in my life. It had rocks instead of sand which was very unique and made laying out in the sun a little challenging. It was unexpectedly a pretty intense hike though and I wished I hadn’t worn flip flops and brought way more water. It was worth the pain though! Sunscreen probably would have been a really good idea too! Cliff diving was super fun and definitely one of those memories I will never forget.
This weekend was Fête de la Musique in France. This is a nationwide music festival and it is the only time musicians can play along the streets. Cities all over France become a big music party and restaurants sell their food at booths along the street. For my Greenfield followers, it was like a huge nationwide Riley Days about music but it was actually cool. If that helps you imagine! Since our house was in the middle of it all, we could literally step outside our door and join the party.
Another small highlight of the weekend was that I found some Dr. Pepper. I’ve been missing that stuff and that’s the first I have seen it here! It really is the little things that can make you feel like you are more at home. It wasn’t exactly the same taste as in the states but it tastes like home to me!
The strike improved by the end of the weekend so we were able to catch a train ride back. It’s a little faster and we don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a car with someone who can’t speak English. That might have put a damper on our first impression of BlaBlaCar. We are back at Purpan for our last week of classes! I can’t believe I’m saying that actually… It’s going to be weird to not be surrounded by 48 friends almost constantly. Good thing I will have the opportunity to visit them during the month of July!
Au Revoir for now! I have a French exam on Friday so I should probably start learning French and all that good stuff…

Enjoying the sunset and music in Old Port
I jumped off that thing!!!
Our new puppy friend! The lady even took our picture with her dog before we left. Also disclaimer: the dog is not licking my teeth in this picture even though it appears that way….
Cliff divers! (this picture was taken by a topless French woman.. we didn’t even ask her but it was hard not to laugh!)
Oh how I have missed you Dr. Pepper. Clearly, I was pretty excited
We might have had a lot of fun with this little girl…

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