“Eponymous” – Rapid Eye Movement.
It was summer 2009 and my life was in disarray. I was coming towards the end of a 12 month renting lease on a flat in the seaside district of Southbourne in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. Times were changing and looking back at that now (here in May 2023), it is now almost 14 years since I lived in the United Kingdom – England or Northern Ireland. I didn’t expect that then, when I booked a one-way ticket to Taiwan with my perky Estonian friend Natalja. There was of course a premath, a beforemath. There were reasons for our wacaday adventure ahead, but first I did a bit of rare, uncovered backpacking at that time – I toured parts of England, Northern Ireland, France, Brittany, Sark, Herm, Lihou, Guernsey and Jersey and some are still unwritten of course. I hope they all see the light of day as I still strive to make this the best travel blog in the history of civilisation.
The Premath to Saint Malo Away
Life had been devastating that year. Granny died on Mother’s Day (March 2009) in my fifth month of “Lovefall” (poetry to come). I worked in 3 jobs, ran this travel blog (Don’t Stop Living) and chaired the South of England branch of the Northern Ireland Supporters Club. Life was busy and I worked “8 days a week” for 9 months of that year. Yes, 4 shifts in 1 job, and 4 shifts in another job in the space of 7 days with one day working from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m.
It was an all time low for me up to then. After backpacking Hungary (Debrecen away) and Venice with the gorgeoucative Hungarian dancer, Noemi Linzenbold, we parted ways. No decent reason was given. Noemi had made up her mind that she didn’t want to see me again. Our beautiful swansong, a gondola, wine and Lido at Venice away…
“You’re my wonderwall” – Noel Gallagher.
Not Escaping The Ghost Of You
That fizzled out so I worked my ass off over a 9 month period so that I could afford to emigrate, at least temporarily. I never expected all these years on, to still be living abroad. This was the first step and it all started with the split from the lovely Noemi. But on this trip, freakily she would be EVERYWHERE I GO. The crockery had our names on the same shelf in a souvenir shop – both with ONE letter wrong – Noemie and Johnny.
My waitress for my morning coffee was called Noemie. When I ordered my meal on day 2, I was asked if I wanted Hungarian or French salami. There was also a nightnurse sextoy with Naomi written on it in a different souvenir shop. Then I was walking through the city and the lad that was busking played Wonderwall (video below) – it’s the song that leads me only ever to Noemi. Then in a bizarre personal twist of fate, I realised we were backpacking Saint Malo on Bastille Day. No big freak to some, but this was my Grandfather Sam’s birthday – he was born on Bastille Day. That freaked me more given that he had died 10 years prior, and this year, I had been with Noemi all day, the day that my Grandmother Mary died. It was all too much for me to take. I couldn’t escape Noemi. I was in a true lovefall.
“I can’t escape the ghost of you” – Duran Duran.
So I tried to escape the ghost of her and the plan was to go backpacking/emigrate and see where I would end up. I was already a travel blogger back then of course, as this blog was born in August 2007. But the blog didn’t start making money until 2012. So I worked my ass off for those 9 months (January – September 2009). My three jobs in those 9 months were:
1.Barman at the Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth.
2.Seafront Assistant at Best Break, Bournemouth Pier Approach.
3.Ferry Steward on Condor and Brittany Ferries routes to Poole, Weymouth, Saint Malo, Cherbourg, Jersey and Guernsey.
I was really busy working like a nut and here’s the proof if you don’t believe me…
Through the third job on that list (on the ferries), I got to travel with work and was able to backpack through all those places (Poole, Weymouth, Saint Malo, Cherbourg, Jersey and Guernsey). On top of that I also toured Portland, Dorchester, Durdle Door, Sark, Lihou and Herm.
My best mate in The Best Break job was “Frog”🐸, a French lad who worked with me. His real name was Maxime Froger but we and he loved the frog moniker.
Frog left the job at Best Break and wanted to head back to France so I suggested we get the ferry together to Saint Malo and spend a brace of days there before he would return south to his home city. At the time, I worked on the cross Channel ferries, so my tickets were free and Frog was discounted. We also travelled with his mate Martin, who I also got a discounted ticket. For his leaving do, I infamously dressed up as a frog and it was nuts as that was during my 6 month period of zero alcohol in the UK as I was saving all my cash for Taiwan away. I could drink abroad though on my loophole.
We woke up the next day and headed to the Poole ferry to sail south to Saint Malo, which is in Brittany and France…
A Hotel called ONLY Hotel!
Once we arrived in Saint Malo, we had no accommodation booked and as we walked towards the old town, we found a Hotel called Hotel! Now that’s perfect. That’s Eponymous! We decided to stay here and share a room as the rate was decent.
“It does exactly what it says on the tin” – Ronseal.
We booked in for a night and then toured the city – well Frog and I did. Martin returned that day to his home town. Here are the only photos I took in the “Hotel called Hotel”.
Night Out in Saint Malo
That night, Frog and I ate crepes and toured the bars of the city. At the time I was on a 6 month abstention from alcohol in Northern Ireland and England. I did that to save money. But my rule allowed me to drink alcohol when not in Northern Ireland or England, so here, I was abroad and able to have some beer and wine. We toured the bars that night and met a few people. It was a really decent night out. I had been in deep depression at the time and needed this trip.
Backpacking In Saint Malo
The next morning we toured a bit of the city and around mid-day I said goodbye to Frog. He knew it was a fond farewell and I’d be around the world after that. I would be reunited with Frog in Bournemouth again, but not for at least 5 more years!! Saint Malo is a cool city and this was my second real visit and about my 100th visit (as I was here on the ferries with work 100 times).
Here aren’t the details for booking a room or dorm at the Hotel Hotel in Saint Malo, France!! The reason is that the Hotel called Hotel is no longer there. I searched Google Street View, Google Maps and just couldn’t find it!!
Here are some videos from my time backpacking in Saint Malo: