It turns out that my WiFi-enabled tree in Gignac has gone quiet, or at least there was no signal when I stopped by this morning. Thus I was faced with the choice of either heading back into the traffic maelstrom of Montpellier, or heading east to the virgin territory of Clermont-Hérault. I choose west.
After overshooting the Clermont-Hérault exit, which required an additional 18 km round trip to go down the Autoroute to the next exit and loop back, I arrived in the town and powered up the iBook for some WiFi sniffing.
At the end of the main street I hit what I thought was pay dirt: a really strong signal, and in a nice shady alley to boot. However once I parked and set myself up in the alley, I found that the WiFi, nice as it was, wasn’t actually connected to the Internet, which rendered it useless for my purposes. Onwards.
I circled a bit more around the downtown, and then headed to the outskirts to see if any of the suburbanites were WiFi-equipped. One of the frustrating things for a wardriver here in France is that the ISP Wanadoo has a gizmo for their subscribers that combines router, WiFi access point, and some sort of TV-over-Internet device. Nice for subscribers, but it has WEP (i.e. password required) enabled by default (which is, in general, a Good Idea; simply frustrating for me); there are 25 Wanadoo access points to one renegade WEP-free one.
Finally, on the edge of town near a Mcdonalds and right in front of a video store I found what I was looking for: super-fast WEP-free WiFi with a parking space in front so I could surf from the comfort of the truck.
My only limit thereafter was battery life and the video store: I had about and hour left on the iBook battery, and about 90 minutes until the video store opened and they would start to mind me taking up their parking space.
Fortunately my task list and my battery ran out at about the same time. I managed to update some Yankee web applications, answer all of my email, download some quick reference guides (I’d forgotten how often I use the web to look things up…) and even tried having an iChat with Dad (which didn’t work, seemingly because the AIM servers were offline this morning).
When I was done, I heeded Catherine’s advice to get something to eat and drink if I felt hungry and thirsty, but managed to ignore her advice to avoid Mcdonalds at all costs, thus making a hat trick of one-time visits to Mcdonalds in foreign countries in an “emergency” — Bangkok, Barcelona, and now Clermont-Hérault. I had a Royale with Cheese (really), which was piping hotter than at home, by suffered from all of the same downsides otherwise.
Thus sated, I got back in the truck and drove home. I decided to stop at Le Glacier, right next to the parking lot for the truck, for an iced coffee and a read through the Daily Telegraph (purchased earlier at the newsstand on the way out of town). Ten minutes in, Catherine and Oliver ambled by on their way back from the playground, thus rounding out our reasonable facsimile of everyday town life.
Returning to our house, we found that the l’Atelier de Musique next door, which had been uninhabited and silent until now, was in fact the studio of a hand drummer. He’s been at it for the last two hours in the back garden with intensity. Faced with the choice of treating this as unwanted noise or an unexpected gift, I chose gift, and have been bouncing along with him at the keyboard throughout.