The place looked like it was hanging on for dear life, painted a cheap lime green in attempts to mask it's struggle. It looked like I was maybe one of three guests here. Inside, it smelled like ciggarettes and incense. The woman at the counter had pixie dark hair, a starfish nose ring, and the kind of brown leathery skin that only came from a careless outdoor life that saw the better of her twenties and thirties. What little English she did speak, came out in a hoarse smoker's rasp that felt all too American.
The hallways were bright green as well and the rooms had coral doors with cut out limes displaying the room numbers. Room 203. I felt like I was walking through the barracks of a watermelon themed cruise ship. The room was okay. Cement decopauge walls with bright plastic things around to draw attention and detract from others. The shared bathroom down the hall looked exactly like an airplane bathroom, except void of all color. It even flushed the same way. And the shower was practically military - one you had to turn back on every 10 seconds like a public bathroom sink.
Well, I was out of the dank, cold city and in the rolling hills of Bourgogne (Burgandy). Wine Country. This was more like it. Although, this wasn't exactly the quaint, French accomodations I had imagined. But, when you are traveling proudly unemployed, you can't have it all. The "wifi" that was advertised was hardly that. I could get a very slow connection on my lap top but nothing on my cell. Roaming or not, there was literally no service. It began to rain harder and get dark (seriously). I could hear the wind beating against the cheap siding of the building. A mild panic set in that I was committed to three nights here with no way to reach anyone if I needed to and no way for them to reach me.
The sun came out that fast, as the way it had been doing all day. So, I got in my car to try to find some food in this hick town. I drove a little ways and saw a Buffalo Grille. Standing alone, bull horns and all, in the middle of French wine country with miles of rolling vineyards at it's back. Well, this was strange. I walked in and was immediately greeted by country music. I'm talking Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker, American country. I smiled and felt the first sense of relief in days. There is something about a good ole American honky tonk in the middle of France, world's away, that just eases any pangs of homesickness.
I ordered a steak and a beer and laughed when the waiter brought it to me. I was eating steak and drinking beer in France when I had come for anything but. The steak was shit, all gristle, and the fries were stale but I didn't mind. It's funny when you think about it ... leaving home to see the world and experience all things different, and then sitting in a bad food joint just to feel closer to the very home you left.
I covertly covered all the partialy chewed and inedible steak with my napkin, payed my bill and walked out. That was the end of that. I had my bearings and now I was ready for my next French adventure.
I drove a few more miles down the road and now I was really in France - Beaune, the beautiful city center and capital of Bourgogne. Had I just waited to eat and kept driving, I would have had a proper French meal.
The weather was downright schizophrenic. It kept doing this thing where it would get dark and pour down rain for 10 minutes and then just as fast, the sun would come out and brighten everything up for 10 minutes before plummeting into rain again. It made for the prettiest rainbows I had ever seen.
I walked the old, narrow cobblestone streets between ivy covered stone buildings and didn't even mind getting drenched every now and then. Passing fountains, and courtyards, and terraces full of people. I sat at a small cafe in a courtyard full of outdoor seating, (the French do love their terraces), and ordered 6 Les Escargots de Bourgogne (snails for days in France; for days) and a glass of Bourgogne Aligote 2012* since I had never heard of it. I watched people scream in laughter as they got soaked, only to be followed by the sun once more.
I decided again that I loved France (a viewpoint subject to change at a whim). On the way home, I pulled the car over to stand out in the downpour and take pictures of the rainbows that covered the sky. I chased them down street corners and allies where they lit brightest.
Back at the Lemon, there were now lots of guests. I asked two french men in the lobby if they had a wine opener, through means of defunct sign language and charades. They both disappeared and I was left standing in the room with a bottle of wine. Not two, but four men returned, carrying wine openers, key chains, pliers, and knives ... at my service. I laughed and between the four of them, they were able to open the bottle. Merci Merci.
I noticed that now all of the guests at the Lemon were men in their fifties with electric company trucks. I was beginning to see the draw here ... and I was out of my jurisdiction.