Saturday, December 21, 2013

all roads lead to Granada, part II: wine country

previously on hitchhiking stories:

It took me the same amount of time to get from Berlin to Utrecht than from Utrecht to Lille and it's a third of the distance... hitchhiking works in mysterious ways. Finally I met Matylda, a friend of a friend of mine. We almost meet last summer for the hitchgathering but she didn't go. Only stayed one night in Lille but it's alright, I was there last year.

The 800 Km between Lille and Bordeaux seemed doable in one day except for one tiny little detail: Paris was in between...

and now...

The night before leaving, me and Matylda were checking google maps for a decent petrol station before Paris. What is next might not say anything to you but it did to us: there were two huge petrol stations on the A1 before Paris, one right after exit 11 and the other one after exit 7. I thought that getting to the closest one will increase my chances of getting a ride across The City of Light

After saying goodbye to all the nice peeps I met the night before, finally meeting and exchanging stories with Matylda, getting a few gigabytes worth of music and sleeping only for a few hours, I was ready to whatever may lay ahead of me. Of course I was hoping for the best. I thought that if by any chance I would get stuck in Paris it was better just to find a place to crash there instead of trying to cross it. It took me almost two hours to cross BXL.

By 8 I was already on my way to the first petrol station on the motorway and after a coffee and a baguette with Speculoos pasta I was on my way to the petrol station closest to Paris! But wait, this is still not a victory. I still had to cross one of the most populous cities in the world. The city that once took me 4 hours just to get to the place to start hitchhiking.

I was smoking a cigarette in front of the shop when a guy asked me, what I'm assuming since he had a cardboard sign, if I was going to Le Mans or Angers. I smiled and said that I also was going there. He kept telling me spells in french until I realized that he thought I was a driver and not a fellow hitchhiker.

So far I found all rides quite fast so standing for more than half hour I started to become anxious. Will I need to go into Paris? not particularly in my wish list for the day. I still had the sign that the couple in Kielce gave me, the one that had written "Kraków" in it. Now it had also written "Le Mans", "Angers" and "Paris". I was goofingly showing all destinations to drivers, didn't work in getting me a ride but at least I made smile more than half of the people I showed it to. Partial success from the making people smile point of view.

My saviour came in the form of a spanish/french speaking portuguese driver, Tomás. There was some kind of prohibition for trucks: they weren't allowed to cross Paris. Instead, they had to go around it, meaning that going on the ring road will add 1,5 hours to the already long 600 km gap. By 19h00 I was about 90 km from Bordeaux. So close yet so far away. Portuguese people "weren't" going in my direction (Bordeaux). Long story short: after a tasty baguette with eggs, ham and cheese with french fries courtesy of corsican driver, a coffee courtesy of a spanish driver and some fun talks with spanish drivers (including an ride offer to Sevilla) I accepted the fact that I was not going anywhere that night. I slept inside the truck, very uncomfortable in the passenger seat but hey it wasn't cold and I had a roof over my head.

Guillaume, a french hitchhiker whom I almost met earlier this year in Tallinn offered me an "emergency couch" if I ever made it to Bordeaux. Well, here I was, very close to it. He lives in a small town north of Bordeaux, a couple of kilometres to where Tomás was actually going! 

Staying with him and his dad and brother was something truly extraordinary. I felt at home all the time.  Guillaume showed me his city. We shared stories. I never got bored staying in Saint Loubès. We are very similar except that I cannot play one single music instrument and he can play 89 instruments. He's a wizard when he's playing the piano. He taught me the super basics on how to play the contrabass. It was harder than I thought.

Bordeaux is a lovely city. Big but nice. The center can be seen in a couple of days. It has some lovely architecture all over, multicultural neighborhoods. It's home to the longest pedestrian street either in France or Europe. Googling that I found that there is another longest pedestrian street in København, so who knows. The longest or not, it's a very nice street full of life. On one end is some sort of immigrant neighborhood, really cool. Full of kebab restaurants. The other end being the posh end of the street, not so cool but still nice.

I didn't want to leave Bordeaux/Saint Loubès without hitching with Guillaume. We tried to hitch to where his mum lives, Arcachon but no one picked us up. I guess the green hair was scary to many people maybe? Near Arcachon is the tallest sand dune in Europe, Done du Pilat. I have to see that, I have never seen a sand dune before. Hitching to Arcachon didn't work but I'm a stubborn bastard so the next day we successfully hitched the 15 km between Saint Loubès and Bordeaux. 15 fucking kilometers and it only took one hour and two rides! Regardless, it was fun!

Bordeaux is a hard place to get out from but Guillaume drove me several kilometers to the first petrol station on the motorway heading south. He said it was big but it was nothing extraordinary. Anyways, it was super helpful to be in that place. Many many truck drivers heading south to Spain... Spain, many people say it's hard to hitch. My first and only time hitchhiking in Spain was alright. I mean, wasn't slower than other places I've hitched but now it's winter. Things are different in winter.

I asked several portuguese drivers, nothing. Finally I found a ride with Vicente. Actually he was walking towards me to ask me where I was going... I was in Madrid before sundown.

Saint Loubès at 6 in the morning 

Guillaume playing the piano

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