Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 2: Calais-Paris, an awkward day indeed

Three rides; A French businessman, A Belgian guy, and two Romanian dudes who speak no English and little French. 

I woke up around half past ten in the morning after a good long sleep, following a long day of walking to god-knows-where, the day before. Took a shower and went down for a breakfast which Benoit, the host had prepared for me. Later, made a sign "PARIS" on an unused box. By then it had already been 11 am something.

Then, he sent to me to a road about ten minutes away from his home, right at the entrance of a motorway towards Paris. He thought that I would had a better chance to wait for a ride over there. While holding the sign on my chest, with a thumb up in the air, and a smile, I left everything in the mercy of the kindness of the strangers, hoping that somebody would be so kind and give me a ride.
behind Notre Dame Cathedral

About an hour later, a French businessman pulled over his car and asked something in French, hahaaha I on the other hand was just trying to mumble something from the French BBC guide book that I had perused only lightly, on the night before. Thank goodness he spoke English well, and asked if I was looking for a ride to Paris, he wasn't going there but it was possible to get me about 30km further, just after a toll plaza in the motorway.

He was quite friendly, introduced himself as Olivier, who made a living from working (or managing?) in a family business, making fishing nets etc. with his brothers. They've got a factory in Tunisia (or was it Libya? I can't quite remember now). I was in his car for only about 15 minutes or so, then he started to complain about the cumbersome of French labour regulation, minimum working hours, labour unions and stuffs like that. He said that it was difficult to do business in France because of the rather inflexible and rigid labour system that they had.

Eiffel Tower

After he dropped me, I put on my iPod, and waited for another hour before a Belgian guy stopped and again uttered something in French. Dude, I can't speak French for God sake. This time, he brought me to somewhere like an R & R in the highway. Can't recall his name now, he was a rather quiet guy, and suggested some places that I could visit when I'm in Brussels.

I was a bit too shy to just ask people who were stopping there for petrol. So instead, I just walked around, trying to find a spot to start thumbing in the air. Found the road leading towards Paris, stopped there, had some water and started smiling/thumbing/holding-PARIS-sign to the cars which passed by. An hour later, a rather odd looking, old van stopped. Two Romanian guys asked something (I think it's French), with the words "Paris" "Paris" in their sentences. I didn't really understand anything, but decided to go with them, as they looked alright.

It was really an awkward journey as they didn't speak English, only French, and I don't speak French at all. They smiled at me, then I smiled back, and there were some building/construction stuffs at the back of the car. I spent the time by occasionally writing in my journal, and just looking for the signs, making sure that they were not kidnapping me or something. hahaaha. Around two hours later, we reached a Parisian suburb called Bois Colombes. They stopped there, I think for work. They were really nice than what I thought of them at first, walked me to the metro station, asked the receptionist for a map of Paris metro, and offered me to use their phone if I wanna call somebody. Too bad, I couldn't take pictures with them as I've forgotten to bring my memory card, only the camera.

Since my phone was not able to roam, I was a bit at lost as to where I should be heading and how I'm gonna call my host in Paris; a wine merchant named Jean. Stopped at Paris St Lazare, and heading out of the station, walking aimlessly. Hoping that I'd somehow find a internet cafe somehow, to check my email/couchsurfing account.

Me, Jean and Julian

Around two hours of walking, and after asking a few people around without any luck. I was a bit hungry by then. Stopped at a bench on a street and open my can of baked beans, some passer-byes were looking at me as if I were a homeless dude. Haahaaha. :p

Then, I entered a hotel asking the receptionist if he knew of any nearby internet cafe. He said nope. On my way out, I noticed a computer which was in front of the reception desk. Then I asked, what about that? Oh yeah, you can use that. with a 5 euro charge per hour. (what the hell dude, do you understand my question beforehand?)

Jean had replied to my message on couchsurfing saying that I had to wait until 9pm, because he was still working at the wine shop. And he forgot to include the address in the message. BUMMER!! waited for an hour there, hoping he would reply my email with the address of his place.

No luck, opened up his couchsurfing page again, everything was in French. Google-translated that, and found out that his place is about ten minutes from a metro station called Vincennes. Arrived at the station, with no phone to call him. I was a bit at lost again. Saw a public phone in the station, after looking at the phone booth hopelessly, only then I realised the visa/mastercard logo on it. Hahaaha, the public phone uses debit/credit card, not the special phone card like in Malaysia (which was what I thought when I was in Calais, trying to call Benoit, the day before).

Musee du Louvre

Called him, and he came in about 15 minutes. Got back to his place, and met with another German couchsurfer, Julian. He cooked dinner for the night, some eggs with potatoes. Went to bed...Very tired..

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