The summer of 2015 was marked by my first Erasmus+ internship in France. As it was a bit of „last minute” decision I didn’t have much of choice left from a places that would possibly be interested in taking on board a young linguistics student from Poland ! The goal of my internship being mostly to brush up my linguistics skills (I had really poor command of spoken French at that time - to the point that I struggled in every single conversation, not to mention passing oral French exam…impossible!) I couldn’t care less and I just picked up whichever hotel was still available (in France, of course).
I applied to work at the reception at the 4* hotel in the small village of Pouligny-Notre-Dame and this is how my „French romance” has begun! So here am I - 100% Varsovienne, born and raised in the capital - just arrived in the pure French cottage ! You can only imagine how much out of comfort zone I felt at the very beginning - the village was so tiny, that the closest Carrefour was 10 km away ! Luckily…because the only way to get there was on the bike and there were absolutely no excuses not to go cycling !
What if I told you, Google Maps weren’t there at the time ? I mean, maybe they were, but definitely cheap roaming wasn’t ! And I am not kidding here - I actually got by only using super-simple, tourist map you would get from the hotel ! It didn’t matter that half of the routes wasn’t marked and that I got lost all the time - it made me appreciate the landscapes even more!
Working at the hotel meant that I could use some of its features (and bikes for rent were one of them) for free. It was just a „bike” - even its’ name is very much telling „le vélo” - means bike in French. But I wouldn’t even know how make use of a gears at the time - even if they were provided. This „le vélo” was my getaway - as the job itself was really tiring (middle of the season in the hospitality sector) and there was nothing else to do - I would just go cycling out of boredom. First to Carrrefour, then to the next village, which was only 5 km away.. and another one.. oh there’s another one, only 2 km away? Easy! Turned out I was already 40 km from home on a shitty bike and nobody to call for help. But guess what - it didn’t scare me away or discourage, but exactly the opposite. I absolutely fell in love with this two-wheel thing ! But it’s not the bike itself, but the way of exploring the unknown… The feeling of complete freedom and independence when cycling have become my favorite sensations since then. I became addicted to it and this is how my passion was born. Everyone at the hotel would look at me as if I was crazy - „you REALLY went THAT far ?’ But..WHY? There’s nothing to see…”
But to me THERE WAS ! So many beautiful villages, rural landscapes, endless kilometers of roads and almost no cars - perfect conditions for exploration ! And this tranquility… I have never seen so little people ! Some days I could just cycle through the villages and not meet a single soul. But I didn’t mind. I needed to recover properly after hours spend at the hotel reception. This experience has really made me grow and appreciate the simple pleasures in life. And it was just the beginning of my discovery journey through different regions of France. Since then I would escape every single summer in the city, year by year, just pick up a different location. You know as they say „The appetite comes with eating” and it’s absolutely true! And I still have so much more to discover… TBC