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Hello and welcome, this is Owen and this is my podcast for Friday 9th November, 2018. I hope you’re all well. Did you all have a good Halloween? Is it a big thing in Switzerland? It’s become quite a big thing here in the UK. The supermarkets were full of Halloween costumes and decorations. I don’t remember ever celebrating it when I was a kid. It’s a new import to Europe. It reminded me of how the Chinese have started celebrating Christmas.
Today, I’ll be talking about a great experience I had in France.
So I was down in the south of France recently. I was not far from Bordeaux, on a beach on the Atlantic coast. The area is called the Gironde. An area where you’ll find scented  pine forests, huge sand dunes and a truly stunning beach. I arrived at the end of the summer season without much of a plan. I had no time frame, I was very flexible with my time. I hadn’t booked a return flight home yet and I wasn’t expected anywhere any time soon. I was just living in the moment, soaking up  the sun, drinking wine and eating mussels . All I knew was that, at some point, I was going to travel up to Paris. When I first left home at the age of 18, I moved to Paris and I hadn’t been back since then. I’ve got fond  memories of the place, so I was keen to retrace my old steps . But back to the beach in the Gironde. Because I was in no rush and I wanted to visit a few places on the way to Paris, I thought: ‘Why don’t I hitchhike ?’ I often complain about the crazy number of cars on the roads these days, so why not take advantage of it. I mean surely it must be pretty easy. Many years ago I hitchhiked across Canada and that was really easy. I grew confident  it wasn’t going to be a problem and I was curious to see who would give me a ride. I made a vague  plan of where I wanted to go with Paris my final destination, but ultimately  I decided that I was going to go wherever  the drivers were going. It turns out that… it was a great decision to hitchhike! It was easy, it was efficient, it was educational, it was entertaining, it was heart-warming, it was life-affirming  and it was good for my French. I have to give thanks to all the people who picked me up. In the end I got more than 40 rides over the course of 6 days. I travelled along the coast to Île de Ré and on to Nantes and then along the Loire river and to the suburbs  of Paris. So how easy and efficient was it? Well, the longest I ever waited for someone to pick me up was under 30 minutes. Most of the time though I never waited longer than 10 minutes. And once I didn’t have to wait at all. I was having coffee in a cafe one morning, chatting to a stranger who was sitting next to me. In my broken French I explained to her that I was hitchhiking. She then very kindly offered me a ride. That was in the countryside where it was a little easier. Once I got into more urban areas it was a little more difficult. I was catching a lot of short rides, sometimes just from one town to the next. That suited me very well, because that way I got the chance to explore places. Sometimes it almost felt like I was doing another pilgrimage. I’d arrive in a town, find the town square with the church, go to a bar on the square and enjoy a cold beer and then continue my journey.
It was interesting to see what kind of people stopped to pick me up. It was a real mixed bag . People from all walks of life . There was a young local surfer and his sister who were too hungover  to talk; an Italian tourist who taught me all about kitesurfing; a middle-aged hippie mum in a van who told me about her concerns for her young daughter’s conformist  education; a couple from central France who were on their honeymoon; a mum and her daughter who had just finished her first day of school at her new primary school; a nurse who was out collecting pizza for dinner; a businessman on his way to Paris who made me listen to Paul McCartney’s new album; a professional rugby player from La Rochelle who told me to remember his name because he’ll play for the French national team in the future; a guy who had spent the previous summer hitchhiking all over Europe and assured  me that France is the best country for hitchhiking; a family of four who invited me to their house for lunch; a man who stopped at a bar and invited me in for beers and then wanted to continue driving but I hitched another ride instead. Several of them hardly said a word and were happy driving in silence, like the old man who was collecting his medicine from the pharmacy. Others wouldn’t stop talking, like the woman who is studying oenology and gave me a detailed lesson on wine production around Nantes. A number of them were alone and were happy to pick me up, so they had some company. Quite a few of them were very keen  to tell me all about the region, as if they were my tour guide for the ride, teaching me about the local food, history and geography. A lot of them thought I was very poor and asked me whether I was sleeping on the beach or gave me tips on how to get free food and drink. One or two of them even told me where I could find a job in the region. A few of them were fellow hitchhikers, others told me they would be much too nervous to hitchhike. A couple of them wanted to drive me to the nearest train or bus station. Most of the older female drivers were quite motherly, I felt that they didn’t really want to stop and pick me up but their motherly instinct told them to. A few of them did large detours  to drop me off. Nearly all of them stopped somewhere it was easy for me to catch my next ride. All of them were exceedingly  kind.
As always, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed it. Should you have any comment or question, please use the box below. You can listen to all our episodes by downloading our app or on our website. We’ve redesigned our website. We hope you like it. Remember that you can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find us on Instagram. I’ll be back in one month’s time, on 14th December. In the meantime, remember to listen to our new English podcast ‘A Thousand Words’. Until next time, goodbye!