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    Day 1.366 – A Night With The Homeless (UK)

    Limoges -> Guéret
    Distance (km) : 87
    Time on bike : 5h 56m
    Brutto time: 09.45 – 17.15
    Avg : 14.7 km/h
    Max.speed: 46.6
    Total (km) : 60.439
    Altitude: 550 m
    Difficulty: 4

    It’s looks gloomy, white, and cold as I look out the window this morning in Will’s apartment. I have zero desire to cycle today. The weather forecast says it ain’t getting warmer anytime soon, so I can’t really come up with any reasonable excuse for not hitting the road. Will’s company would be one, and we sure have spent some wonderful time together here in Limoges, but all good things come to an end.

    Countryside outside of Limoges, central France.

    Two weeks have gone since I was on the bike last time, and this chilly morning isn’t the best of reunions. It takes some inner pep-talk to get going.

    Saint-Leonard de Noblat, France.

    The temperature hovers around minus 2-minus 3 degrees Celsius all day. The terrain is frustratingly undulating (and snowcovered), and minor ridges rise to around 600m (from the surrounding approx. 350-400m).

    Saint-Leonard de Noblat, France.

    After nearly 6 hours of winter cycling, I arrive in Gueret. The snow has started falling again. In a local supermarket my body temperature drops rapidly, and the tiny bells of panic start ringing inside of me. I cross the town and find two hotels – both totally out of my “fiscal” range at 69 and 89 Euros – and don’t really know what to do at this point. Camping is not really an option, considering my body that shakes like a dog and the fact that the ground is covered in 15 cm of snow.

    Back in town I follow some signs saying something with “jeunesse” (youth) and try my luck. The lady in the youth centre can’t help me, but asks me to go next door and talk to the guys there. So I do.
    And this was my lucky strike. In French/English I explain my situation to the two men present, and shortly after I’m told to follow one of the guys (in his car, me on the bike). I have absolutely no idea what’s going on or where I’m going, but my instincts tell me it’s going to be good.

    Winterscape east of Limoges, France.

    Near the train station we arrive at the Asile du Nuit (Night Asylum, sort of) where I get my own little (and more importantly, warm!) room. The caretaker tells me that dinner’s before 8PM and that I have to leave the room tomorrow morning before 8AM. I find that a trifle on the early side, but don’t complain as I feel I’ve just been saved from freezing my ass off. As usual, I ask for the price, hoping this Spartan room will be significantly cheaper than the 69 Euro hotel room I’d just checked out.

    Zero! says the man, grinning. You’re lucky, my friend, he says, and then goes on to explain that this is a place for homeless people, the guys begging in the streets etc. I suddenly get it! It’s another “first of” for me, sleeping in a home for homeless.

    My room at the home for homeless people in Gueret, France.

    Soon the other 5 “residents” arrive, 40% of them with dogs (one girl, four men), and I recognize the smell of alcoholism. I don’t (can’t) talk much to them as we all sit at the table having dinner (micro-waved canned stuff, the things I usually eat, basically) and coffee. Personally, it’s a very interesting evening for me, a mini-anthropological study among people you don’t often get close to.

    On this day..

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    3 Responses to “Day 1.366 – A Night With The Homeless (UK)”

    1. Søren Says:

      Interesting story – you sure experience quite a lot. Back home in Denmark your homeless experience would probably would have taken a more negative and freezing twist. All NGO’s that care for the homeless and arrange places for them to sleep have to choose between cutting themselves of from receiving state subsidies or receive state subsidies and close the door for foreign homeless. The logic is that if foreign homeless haven’t got a place to sleep – they won’t come to Denmark. So you are a lucky man Nicolai that the French aren’t that selective as the Danes….
      Eventually see more here: http://politiken.dk/indland/article873983.ece

    2. Nicolai Says:

      Yeah, it really did feel quite strange that I could just pop in and “act” like a French homeless. At least I was treated equally fine, as a “person without a home for the night” and that I found quite beautiful and humane.

      Comfort, bed, food. Couldn’t have asked for more!

      Nicolai (Couchsurfing in Sens, France – a different kind of home for the homeless)

    3. André Says:

      Hey,

      Great journey. Great Inspiration. Keep going!

      Best of Luck!

      PS: Thinking of doing something similar, but more along the lines of the old silk route.

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