Taste of Civilization

journal reflection

Location: Revin -> Charleville-Mézière

The ride today was a non-event. It was 44km of, again, pristine paved voie verte. I reached my destination very quickly. Along the way I passed several little pillboxes facing north upriver. I’m guessing it was to harass an attempt at nazi incursion into france.

a pillbox along the river
At most soldiers stationed inside could have harried incoming transports. I'm guessing they were primarily there to inform of an invasion.

By noon I was in Charleville-Mézière. I had a whole day to be in the city. It was by far the largest place I had been in for almost two weeks.

After getting a spot at a campsite, the first order of business was to straighten out taking the train tomorrow down to Reims, where I was going to hang out with Etienne for the weekend. He had planned a weekend of sophistication for us: champagne tasting, beer tasting, general drinking. He knew better than to take a flannel-clad, cargo pants wearing american elsewhere.

I spoke with the lady at the trainstation and got everything straightened out surprisingly easily. The train was actually a bus scheduled for 15:30 tomorrow.

Having taken care of my one task for the day, I headed to the grocery store to get lunch and beer. Since I was homeless, three beers seemed appropriate.

I posted up at Winston Churchill Place, a little square with a memorial to fallen soldiers of the city. I had expected to have the square to myself, being that it was early afternoon on a friday.

A group of three girls in their seemingly early 20s walked by. I didn’t think anything of it. Then another group of girls about the same age walked by. Then another. At this point I thought to myself, something is going on. Looking to the right I saw a mass of kids hanging out and talking. At this point I realized that they probably aren’t in their early 20s, but they’re highschoolers in their late teens, and they’re congregating for some unknown reason. I was sitting on a bench, dirty, scruffy, with my bags and bike, drinking beer, where the highschoolers come to hang out.

memorial to the fallen from the city
This square was chosen quite innocently.

I fully appreciated how this probably looked. But I wasn’t going to leave until I finished my third beer. I was there first, after all. And the bar I had planned on going to later didn’t start happy hour until 16:00 (pints of le chouffe were 5 euros).

After a brief walk to kill time until the bar opened (le rétro), I sat at the bar and had some more beer. The music was good, the weather was nice, and the beer was cheap. Unfortunately, a few 8% le chouffes later, I was holding on to my chair to keep from falling out.

I asked the bartender if I could pay. He looked at me and said “that’s probably a good idea.” I retired to my campsite for dinner.