This word, “lairy”, I happened to learn on our first night in Strasbourg, France in a pub, shortly after a Welshman managed to tip an entire table of beer onto my lap. Said Welshman then informed me of this extremely useful word (which vaguely rhymes with “dairy” or “hairy”), which is employed in situations when a person is enjoying themselves while drinking, carousing, being loud and/or bothersome, etc. So really, I don’t mean to say that Strasbourg is a right lairy bastard, it’s just that the phrase is sticking in my mind when I think of the city.
In fact, the city itself is quite beautiful, and Rick and I had a lot of fun exploring it with a fellow CouchSurfer staying at the same house, a Canadian named Jacqueline who is teaching English outside of Strasbourg. She’s lucky in that she’s the Francophone kind of Canadian, so it was helpful to have her along to get back into the swing of speaking/hearing French. We all stayed in the attic of a guy named Gabriel, which was set up with three relatively comfortable beds. Throughout the upcoming series of France-related posts, you’ll see a common theme of CouchSurfing and Covoiturage, so to make sure you have a good idea of what I’m talking about, read below:
CouchSurfing: official website here.
CouchSurfing (CS) is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. It’s a way of meeting natives of a city, getting a perspective you can’t attain by staying in a hostel or hotel, and it opens you up to countless other opportunities on the way (as you’ll see in the Lyon blogpost to come). The added benefit is that you don’t pay for a place to sleep, but to be quite honest, that is secondary to the benefit of meeting awesome people. Although it’s not suited for the unadventurous, CS is extremely safe overall. Check out the website, have an open mind, and try it yourself. I’ve surfed in New Orleans, Germany, Holland, and now in multiple cities in France, and each time I’ve had a uniquely positive experience.
Covoiturage: official website (in French, English and Spanish) here.
Also known as Mitfahrgelegenheit (two German websites, here and here), covoiturage is the French equivalent of ridesharing/carpooling. Pros: great way to travel inexpensively between cities, meet cool people, practice your language skills. Cons: can be extremely difficult to arrange if you don’t speak the language of your driver, scheduling pick-up time/place can be tricky, potential of smelly driver.
Right, so back to the roadtrip:
We Mitfahrgelegenheited from Gießen to Frankfurt (45 min) for 4 Euro. A train would have cost 17. Chillaxed in Frankfurt for a couple hours, watched Glee on my laptop in a Starbucks (Don’t judge — we were bored and didn’t want to carry our backpacks around the city. Ugh, I know, “how American of us, honestly”). Mitfahrgelegenheited from Frankfurt to Strasbourg (2.5 hrs) for 10 Euro. The train would have cost about 50 Euro. Not as cheap as hitchhiking, but you get the idea…
We met Gabriel in Strasbourg, where he greeted us (well, me) with kisses (ah, the French), and immediately said (in a very Frenchy accent), “ok, now we make party!?” and off we went to the bar. There, we met Jacqueline, the Welshman, and a few other internationals/CSers, and despite my soaking wet shirt (seriously, it was a stroke of luck that I wasn’t wearing a white shirt), it turned out to be a very good night.
The next day was full of exploring. Gabriel is extremely proud of his city, and was an excellent host; after splitting up for a couple hours while he ran errands and Rick, Jacqueline and I took an hour-long boat tour through the canals, he showed us his favorite places in Strasbourg (pictures are all here) and taught us how to make Flammekueche/tarte flambée for dinner. Besides having a great CS host, I really enjoyed the mélange of French and German cultures, architecture, and food that Strasbourg offers. It’s a city that’s easy to feel comfortable in quickly, and I think I would like living there if for no other reason than for the opportunity to speak French and German (well, at least to all the German tourists) in the same place.
The next day, Jacqueline invited the two of us to meet up for a picnic with some of the other foreign language teaching assistants in the orangerie by the Conseil de l’Europe. It was a beautiful day for exploring another part of Strasbourg, we got asked for directions by a French man (yay for looking like natives?), met a two guys from Cameroon and Taiwan, a girl from Jordan and walked through the free zoo in the park, learning French animal names in a very hands-on way.
That afternoon, we said good-bye to Gab and Jacqueline, left Strasbourg via Covoiturage and drove 4.5 hours to Lyon for 28 Euros. Our driver was superbly nice and drove us all the way the door of our next CS host, Fred. And that, I’m afraid, is where I’ll have to leave you, for there is duck roasting in the oven and it needs to be eaten!