Journey to My First WWOOF Destination

| 7/1/2015 11:08:00 AM

So after a week-long stay in St. Petersburg, Russia to participate in a small sustainability conference and four flight changes, I finally made it to Montpellier, France. My final destination is about 30 km (19 miles) away, near a small town called St. Martin-de-Londres. Now you’d think that making it from Montpellier to St. Martin-de-Londres would be a simple affair, however, I seem to attract small misadventures everywhere I go and this excursion happened to be no exception. So I figure we can start our WWOOFing adventure together with my little misadventure trying to get to the farm.

My flight landed in Montpellier at 7:40 PM, which I figured would still leave me ample time to travel 30 km down the road to reach my first farm. However, I was quickly realizing what I may be stepping into when I couldn’t find an ATM or currency exchange at the airport in Montpellier. After a brief conversation with the clerk at the information desk in the best French I could muster (which apparently still needs quite a bit of work), I found that the reason I couldn’t find an ATM was because there wasn’t one. So my first lesson learned is to never make assumptions. Well, I didn’t have Euros. I had tried to get Euros back home in Kansas before I left, but the rush of students from my university venturing out on their study abroad programs completely wiped the local banks of Euros. So my second lesson learned is to be sure and exchange my currency well in advance.

I ventured out of the airport and into the pleasant Mediterranean sun. I take a deep breath. The air smells and feels like my childhood years in Florida and the evening sun was casting a warm, amber glow on everything it touched. There were taxis lining a narrow lane in front of the airport, but I cringed to think about how much a 30+ km taxi ride was going to cost. After a quick look around, I spotted a bus headed into Montpellier. Not having any Euros, I was hoping against hope that the buses here might take a card. They don’t. Luckily, the bus driver agreed to let me ride into town on the terms that I pull money from an ATM at our destination and pay the fare then. Now, this took a certain amount of trust on his part because the ATM is across the street from the stop, around and behind a building. I imagine that he must have had more than one person just never come back, and I base this assumption on his incredibly animated and energetic reaction when I actually returned with the bus fare. I’m telling you, he was genuinely excited. Arms flailing in the air he jumped up out of the driver’s seat, smiling and ushering me onto the bus. In fact, I can’t think of any other time that I have ever been greeted with such enthusiasm by someone I had only just met. Besides just his warm greeting, it was a good thing that I went back for another reason. I was under the impression that the bus into St. Martin-de-Londres was at the destination of the bus that just dropped me off. This apparently was not the case. The bus driver showed me the tram and explained to me in an energetic fit of charades how the tram worked, printed me out a 1 Euro tram ticket to get me on my way, and handed me a tram map with a smile.

Montpellier Alleyway Night 

It took me about 10 minutes at the tram stop to figure out how the whole system operated, decipher the map, and figure out which direction I was wanting to go. I wanted bus 108 to get into St. Martin-de-Londres, and bus 108 took out from the tram stop at Occitaine. After about 15 minutes on the tram I arrived at Occitaine. I got off and walked around until I found the bus stop and checked the posted schedule. It appears that the last bus of the day leaves at precisely 7:40 PM. It’s too bad my plane didn’t land at the bus stop. Well, at this point I’m thinking I’d better get a hold of my host family and let them know what’s going on if I can and in order to do that I need Wi-Fi. I’m also getting pretty hungry, having spent the past 19 hours subsisting off of airplane food and a granola bar that, after 4 flight changes, had returned back to its natural granola state. Surely, there has to be a place to eat nearby. Now here’s a piece of advice, if you ever find yourself in Montpellier and need to find Wi-Fi or something to eat, do not go looking for it around Occitaine. I’m telling you, Occitaine is a veritable food desert. I walked around for over an hour and found nothing. So after a fruitless search (and yes, that’s a shameless pun), I made my way back to the tram station, figured out how to use the tram ticket kiosk and bought myself another ticket.

I remembered seeing a lot of hustle and bustle at one of the stops on the way to Occitaine, so I decided to backtrack to where all of the action was. Two stops in on my ride back, I heard something unmistakable, loud, and familiar; it was two girls speaking English. I went up and introduced myself, hoping to acquire some knowledge of the local area. They were in Montpellier for a study abroad program, one girl from New Jersey and the other from Canada, and were only there for a few more days. They couldn’t help me with any hostel recommendations, but let me know that McDonald's has free Wi-Fi and that there was one that I couldn’t miss a few stops ahead. I’m sorry if there are any McDonald's lovers reading this right now, but I dislike McDonald’s. I especially dislike McDonald’s outside of the US. But it was already dark at this point and I was needing to get a hold of my hosts before they got too worried. So I got off at the stop they recommended and they were right; the yellow light cast by those golden-arches was a veritable lighthouse for lost and weary travelers. I may not have been lost, but I was becomingly increasingly weary.

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