How to get a free* hot shower in France

Though by early December, we had become well-accustomed to cold, rainy Périgourdin days, the morning of the the third was bright and my classes didn’t start until the afternoon.  So Phillip decided to come along with me, north into Périgord vert, so we could have lunch in one of the little towns along the route of my thrice-weekly commute.  The tiny village of Bourdeilles looked promising – a Renaissance château dominating the hillside, the Dronne River running peacefully through the town center.  We left the car and walked down to the river bank to take photos.



I took three.  And this was the last one that I took.  For so banal a subject as my feet, it is important to note that both of them are planted firmly on the ground.


Because moments after this was taken, my feet were in the river, my knees muddied, and blood was dripping around the curve of my ear.

A tree stump covered in a lovely layer of moss had caught my attention, and I thought I could get a nice picture of town atop it.  For most, I imagine that a combination of wet bark, thick moss-growth and leather-soled shoes would trigger some sort of “hey, wait a minute…” reflex, but at the time, this was a sensability that I did not possess so I bounded toward it like a puppy, getting about half of my right foot on top of it before my inevitable fall.

I landed squarely on my back, limbs splayed in jumping-jack position.  And then, in an even more interesting turn of events (“somersault” might be more appropriate), I started rolling backwards off the stump, in a way that Phillip has described as “very strange” and “very slow.”  I thunked my head on a rock and kept tumbling, my bag falling from my shoulder and my left foot plunging into the Dronne.

I got up and brushed myself off quickly, feeling only embarrassment, until I reached up to touch the top of my head and felt warm, sticky blood.  Then my adrenaline started pumping and I was talking in circles.  When I called my school to tell them I wouldn’t be coming in, I’m not sure if I made a word of sense, but they told me to go to the doctor to have my head examined.

Easier said than done.  My injury was poorly-placed and poorly-timed.  There was no doctor in Bourdeilles and in nearby Brantôme, the doctor was out to lunch.

So I pressed my gloves harder to the top of my head to stop the bleeding for the drive back to Périgueux.  I walked into the emergency room looking like a little teapot and explained to the receptionist what had happened, gave her my name, and sat down in an empty waiting room.  I stayed there for an hour an a half and heard not so much as a coucou, before I was called back to be examined.  And not by one nurse, but by what slowly grew into a team of six.  They all brushed through my hair, looking for the cut with no success (which obviously had been deemed completely harmless by this point).  Before I even understood what was happening, they shoved a fluffy towel into my arms, a tiny bottle into my hand, and led me down the hall into a big bathroom.  “You can call for us when you’re done showering.  Wash out all of the blood.”

What a wonderful shower it was!  Long and hot and the strongest water pressure in France, I’m sure!  I lathered my head with a thick orange gel that made my hair as dry as straw.

Once escorted back to my hospital bed, the poking and prodding picked up again.  There was pressure on my scalp as a segment of my hair was pulled taut, that pressure then quickly released in time with the metallic sound of scissor blades slicing, and before I had time to react to that, the sound of an electric razor buzzing to life sent a chill down my spine.  My hair!

Luckily the ladies at the hospital made soothing comments to calm me: “Oh, you know really, I always wanted to be a hairdresser” or “I think it’d look really cool if I shaved it here, too,” to name a few.  Merci, les filles…  I would have been happier to participate in amateur comedy hour if only I hadn’t heard one of them whisper: “Ah, there’s no cut where we shaved.”

So after three hours in the hospital, I left.  No concussion, no stitches (the cut on my head was only about a millimeter long, mais ça saigne, hein?), and no bill.  A bit of a bald spot on the left side of my head, which is growing back in rather stupidly, but I had a clear bill of health and Phillip was waiting for me with an onion quiche.

Tout est bien qui finit bien.

*I got a bill in the mail from the hospital a month or two ago.  The correct title of this post should really be “How to get a hot shower in France for 40.38 euros.”


7 thoughts on “How to get a free* hot shower in France

  1. Quel cauchemar! I can’t believe they made you wait an hour and a half and then shaved your head to search for a cut that obviously wasn’t grave…

    At least the shower was luxurious, even if it was un peu chère…

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