Wednesday, 15 April 2015

BACKPACKING EUROPE: Rouen, Vernon & Giverny, France

The Old Mill of Vernon, Vernon
As I opened my eyes, the smell of second-hand smoke and last night's alcohol filled my nostrils. For a split second I forgot where I was, until my head began to ache and I immediately started to regret how much alcohol I consumed last night. Note to self; when it's 24 degrees outside and it's only your second day backpacking through France, don't get too drunk the night before.

Desperate for water, as I shoved paracetamol down my throat, I realised that all three of our water bottles were emtpy! Not knowing if the water in France was drinkable (which it is) is probably something we should have looked up before we left for Europe. Second note to self; find out if the water is safe to drink in another country before you drink 8 strong beers and 4 glasses of champagne OR make sure your water bottles are always filled up the day before you backpack in hot weather.

We arrived at our next destination, Rouen, at around 11:00am and thankfully by this point, my hangover had completely evaporated and I started to feel grateful again for my first night in France and the people I had met so far. Jack however, was still struggling with a terrible hangover and as he dragged around his tired body feeling sorry for himself, still regretting last night's 'whiskey breaks', he decided that the only breaks he would now take were the ones to rest his body from the massive weight he was carrying around on his back.

The city of Rouen was beautiful, plenty of architecture and churches to admire but after walking around for a few hours, the weight of our lives for seven weeks strapped to our backs began to weigh us down and we just thought, 'ah fuck it... Let's get a cheap hotel near Vernon to sort our lives out and try to remember again why this is actually worth it.' It had only been one day and we were already craving a night alone in a hotel!

We didn't see much of Vernon, at least the good parts of it anyway. It took us two hours to get to our hotel from the train station because we took so many wrong turns. As soon as we saw the sign for our hotel, we were more eager to get there, until we realised that the distance between places in France is not the same as in England. Looking at the map before we arrived, we automatically assumed our destination was within walking distance... Wrong. Apparently France is a lot bigger than England and Saint-Marcel is not a 5 minute walk from Vernon. Third note to self; Don't fucking assume everywhere is as small as England.

As we arrived at our hotel, which stood opposite an unimpressive and miserable industrial estate, I realised that it matched my mood perfectly and it was probably karma for escaping to the comfort of a hotel two days into our trip. Selfishly barging my way past Jack and muttering some kind of French to the receptionist, all I wanted to do was throw my bag-pack across the room, rip off my clothes and scrub away the sweat and misery from today's journey. I immediately felt better and I decided that the location of the hotel wasn't so bad after all until once again, karma slapped us in the face when we realised how difficult it was to find a nearby place to eat, or even a bloody shop! Everything was either closed or miles apart and all I wanted was a cold, fizzy drink. I was tempted to throw myself into the River Siene and deal with the bad stomach later on.

After walking for about forty minutes in a strop and craving any kind of food and drink, we stumbled across McDonald's, hooray! 'Yep, that will do,' I thought. I specifically ordered a large meal just for the size of the drink and as I gulped down the cold, disappointing taste of watered down coke, I realised how much of an anticlimax it was. 'Ah fuck it,' I thought, 'I'm a traveller now, get used to it.'

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