Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Art of Hitching

There's a bit of a knack to hitching - don't ask me what it is because I still depend on dumb luck and big smiles. However, you have a fair amount of time to kill whilst hitching (no one ever said it was the fastest means of transport, usually just the most interesting!). So, E and I came up with some rules for hitchhiking.

1. No one in a moving car can tell if your smile is forced.

2. Always carry emergency gummy bears. We didn't end up needing ours but when it's raining and 3am and you're tent is broken because somebody sleep walks and you're in the middle of nowhere... they can become vital.

3. A pity ride is still a ride.

Ok, so these images seem pretty random but I swear, this is what comes up when you google 'pity ride'. Take that as you like. 

4. You can definitely fit on that tractor, yes, even with your bags.

5. Avoid sunglasses where possible as they disrupt eye contact. Which you need because...

Would you pick up this creep?
6. ...the efficiency of the guilt stare has yet to be proven but it will definitely make you feel better.

7. It is legitimate to talk solely about the weather with numerous people for 4 hours.

8. Pubs are in every town and they often have wifi, toilets and, well, beer.

9. No matter your political, social or religious views, while you are in a car you nod and smile.

10. Expect your reaction to creepy vans approaching to change dramatically.

11. Being heckled by passersby will suddenly begin to feel encouraging.

12. Thou shalt get a weird tan line because:
        a. you have bugger all clothes and only one pair of sandals and,
        b. you've forgotten to buy or apply sunscreen and you've been standing on this roadside a while...

For us shorts and jandal tan lines were the worst. Any non-kiwis, a jandal is a flipflop or a thong (Australian).
13. If you are very nice to the police, they might drive you to a better hitching spot. (In our case it was after fining us but I've heard stories where they were just nice!)

14. Whether or not they are allowed, some truck drivers will pick you up, so it's worth keeping your thumb out or chatting them up at service stations.

15. Accept all offers for showers and food - laundry you may need to ask for.

16. Of course it's not weird to stay with that friend of a friend of a friend in Paris (something that didn't end up happening but we were all for it).

17. Last but not least, listen to advice from the locals. We ended up doing a bunch of cool things because random people who picked us up were local and suggested them.

Taking over a bar in Galway

Conquering Carrauntoohill

Walking through the Gap of Dunloe then sailing out


Fireworks competition

Dune du Pilat

Free concert in Paris

Chaumont Buttes park

The best view of Paris (which isn't from the Eiffel tower by the way)

This jungly restaurant
It's also good to learn some songs to keep you amused. Our particular favourites were The Philosopher's Drinking Song by Monty Python and Tutira mai nga iwi for a taste of home.We tried to learn Come Out Ye Black and Tans for Ireland and a French Children's rhyme (Une Souris Verte) but they didn't stick. Possibly because we lacked the proper accents.

Also, a bit of advice for anyone considering giving rides to hitchhikers:

Find a hitcher. Pick him up. All day long you'll have good luck!

Relax Mum, we didn't actually do this!

Friday, August 30, 2013

L'autostop en France: Paris

The last stop on our hitching tour (though not for me as it turned out) and the furthest distance to travel. We figured it'd take us two days and we'd camp out on he grass at a service station somewhere. Well, either the French had warmed up to us or really all roads lead to Paris.
It took us eleven hours but we made it to Paris in a day.

Our last ride was a young Parisian couple who were particularly helpful by suggesting things we could do in Paris that were either within our budget or worth spending some money on.

We arrived at about 8 and, following the first one of their tips, immediately caught the metro to the Hotel de Ville  for a free concert.

Afterwards, unsure of where to sleep but having read that it was possible to sleep under the Eiffel tower we started wandering along the Seine in that direction. There was an event called Paris Plage (Paris Beach) which involved turning the banks of the Seine into a golden beach along with giant hammocks and palm trees.

These blindingly bright and incredibly loud ships would pass by periodically packed to the brim with tourists. We felt smug for having done it rough, but less so when we remembered we had nowhere to sleep and they probably had a glass of wine in one hand and an eclair in the other.

 Next follow some random photos of pretty Parisienne things from our walk.

Tipping her hat, because what else do you do when you're posing in front of your 141st pretty, old building?

Flash probably would have been a good decision that first night...

Our first sight of the tower

Eleanor being very excited by biophilic cities! They are kind of a mix between law, public policy and the environment so obviously incredibly exciting for us nerds.
Having made it to the Eiffel tower without spotting any attractive parks we decided we would kip down there after all. We overheard and Australian accent and got chatting to some Canadian/Australians. While talking to them we saw three guys with backpacks head to a nice grassy spot and start putting down their stuff. Slightly nervous about sleeping exposed in the middle of Paris (the police are tolerant to sleeping bags but not so much tents under the tower) we went over and organised to sleep near them.

I've got to say, it was not a bad view.

Literally the view from my sleeping bag. And for anyone who's been on the internet lately, no, it is not literal in the figurative sense. That is an abomination.
That was until we got sprayed in the face by sprinklers at 5am and again at 7am after moving beds. Oh well, with a view that good for free there was bound to be a downside.

I kind of feel like I'm a perv in this photo - looking up the Eiffel Tower's skirt

We stumbled around gathering our things and went to a cafe for a coffee and to regroup. We were both exhausted, hadn't eaten well for a while and the coffee in that situation was making me lightheaded. Despite having committed to not paying for accommodation we decided to spring for a cheap hotel (when you're traveling in pairs it's often cheaper than a hostel). If we didn't we were going to be zombies and have no idea that we'd been to Paris!

The first thing we did was shower and nap.
For everyone back home - this is what the other end of getting a postcard looks like.

Planning the next few days

E passed out - yes, this photo is slightly creepy. She thinks so too and probably won't like seeing it on here. I feel sneaky because she's chopping beans about a meter behind me!

Feeling much refreshed that afternoon we set out to Chaument-Buttes park that had been recommended. We ducked into a bookshop and picked up trashy English novels for about a euro each.

 We stayed at the park for an embarrassing length of time, (both of us are readers, so neither of us ever tells the other that now is not the time for a book!) then headed on to Montparnasse Tower, another recommendation (seriously grateful to that couple)!

You can go pay to get up Montparnasse tower or you can tell them that you're getting a coffee at the restaurant at the top and go up for free. In that case you actually do need to go to the restaurant but you can get a wine and the view for only a euro more than the entrance fee you avoided paying, you smart cookie, you!

We were feeling fancy so sprang for the second cheapest glass of wine!

Yep, not actually as pretty as you think it'll be, but it's still got that something.

Look at that classy lady with her expensive wine.
After we'd hung around as long as a single glass of wine can justify and had our fill of the view, we popped down to a supermarket and bought food for a picnic. We wandered to the Seine and crossed the Pont des Artes which lovers put padlocks on and then throw the key into the river below. This is a show of their devotion, and though various bridges around the world are used for the same purpose, this is Paris so it's obviously way more romantic.

Random pretty building on our walk

When picnicking on the banks of the Seine wine and chocolate a mandatory, trashy novels and dates are optional. Dates the fruit by the way.

This is actually a snapchat I sent to Chris, who was tipsy snapchatting me at the time, but I liked the photo. Mum, I'll explain what snapchat is later.
Our second morning in Paris we decided we'd better knock the Arc de Triomphe off. I translated (poorly) a speech by Charles de Gaulle for Eleanor, with the help of a very amused Frenchman, then was made our way down the Champs Elysee.

Following yet more of the recommendations, we'd decided to head to Cafe du Commerce for a meal. We arrived too early and got macarons and sandwiches and went to a park to chill.
Macarons in Paris - something E has always meant to do.

This little guy came to join us for lunch
Admitting defeat we killed the rest of the time in a cafe playing two-handed 500.
 We eventually made it to the cafe and were pretty happy we had. The interior was made up of mezzanines and plants. The seating was pretty tight but it was a cool place, within our budget and the food was good. The waiter who dropped off the food gave us a half amused-half confused look as we'd begun playing 500 again while waiting for the food. I swear it's just a really good game.

Dessert - Pannacotta
We walked home through the centre of Paris and out to our suburb that night. A long walk but beautiful and good for digesting! We also stumbled through a fun fair...


E left early the next morning on her bus to Breda and I hung around the whole day, mainly reading in parks for my bus to Calais that night. Which was the entirety of the transport that I'd booked. You'll find out how I got to Wales of all places soon. But as a final note, E and I swapped trashy books before she left and we each left and inscription for each other (finding inscriptions in second hand books is the best).