Wednesday 22nd of march 2017.
Today I’m going to Lille hitchhiking! I’m going to meet Hélène for a week before crossing the first border to Belgium.
I wake up at 7:10 am (ouch it hurts…) and I’m taking breakfast with the Z. Family who was hosting me for my few last days in Paris!! Then Nathalie drops me off by car at Porte de Bagnolet at 8:30 am before going to work (This was so cool!! Thank you!!).
I had well studied the road and pinned on Maps.Me (a great smartphone’s apps to get off line maps… Well… I don’t have internet anymore on my phone!! This era is over!!) all the potential good hitchhiking spots I could find on the website : hitchwiki.org (the website which can save your life when you’re a newbie hitchhiker and make you save some time when you’re an experimented thumbs up addict). Anyway… Porte de Bagnolet on the paper (in fact… on internet) sounds quite a good spot. You can find the entrance of the highway A3 which is heading north to join the A1 that is going straight to Lille… But you’ll see that it finally wasn’t so easy…
My hitchhiking panel well prepared with “LILLE” written in big capital letters (I’m supposed to go to Lille so I guess that it was the better option) with black marker (the same one I stole from my mother’s office and that I finally didn’t give back… see the previous post “The travel has to begin somewhere”). The hitchhiking spot is good in terms of safety, no risks to take because it’s a traffic light, so basically it’s good to talk with the drivers 🙂 and for them to stop without annoying to much the others… (after, we are in Paris so in any case even if nothing is happening, people here are beeping…)
Except that I quickly realise that almost every cars are not taking the A3, but they are at 80% taking the peripheric entrance… Even the belgium cars!!! And those which are going on the A3 are getting out before reaching the A1 (at least, that’s what drivers are saying to me…).
Anyway… It finally took me more than 1h to find my saviour, the one who helped me to get out of Paris! Damien stopped so and proposed to take me to Aulnay-sous-Bois at another A3 entrance on another good hitchhiking spot (at that moment in the french version of the post I made a good joke… But I can’t find a way to translate it… sorry for english speakers!).
The Aulnay-sous-Bois’s hitchhiking spot is just perfect. A roundabout with traffic lights, so once again easy to talk to drivers and easy for them to stop (thank you dear traffic lights!!), it’s safe for hitchhikers too because you stay on the pavement. Finally, once you’re arrived in Aulnay-sous-Bois, you’re on the A3 entrance just before it joins the A1, so you eliminated a good part of the local traffic and you’ve got a good probability that people who are taking the entrance are going straight to the north.
More than making me to get out of Paris, Damien is much more than a simple saviour because before leaving me he gave me his phone number so in case I have a problem I can call him and he even proposed if needed to squat the couch for the night if I stay stuck in Aulnay. If he’s not a great driver then I don’t know what to expect more!? (Wait, he did even better after that… But to know what he did you have to keep reading 😉 ).
I was saying that the hitchhiking spot in Aulnay was perfect. 2 red traffic lights later, Mohamed stopped and proposed to come with him to look for is truck in the suburb and then go straight to Lille… I can drop me off at the last toll before Lille near Arras. Knowing that the toll have the reputation to be good hitchhiking spots (if we are not being turn out by the police because it’s not really allowed to hitchhike around tolls), I agree immediately!!
Voilà!! It wasn’t so complicated after all :)!! Thank you Mohamed!!
2nd hitchhiking experience, 2nd truck. I thought that Alexandre who took me on my hitchhiking travel between Lorient and Paris in february was driving a big truck… But Mohamed is driving a much bigger truck because he has 2 trailers.
Mohamed, he is really cool. He has travelled hitchhiking few times too when he was younger to meet friends during holidays. We talk all the way to Lille. He even offers me some tea (prepared on a portable stove in his truck, with one hand, when driving… I sware).
Arriving in Lille, Mohamed cross the toll and drop me off on the toll’s parking just after and go back on his road.
And then, the drama happened… I realised that I was stuck in the parling. No way to access the toll’s area. The parking is completely surrounding by a tall fence. I started to say to my self that it was not smelling so good for the following step… I took a break and took time to walk around, and more and more I realised that I was completely stuck on the parking. Why not leaving the parking to go to the toll area? In fact the parking wasn’t very welcoming and no cars were stopping there. Then it was at only 20km from Lille, so people who were going to Lille had no reason to stop there. So there were only few trucks from Belgium and Netherlands there because the drivers had their reglementary break. So when they were seing my little “Lille” panel, they were all saying no with a sorry face (or maybe they were just happy to have a good excuse to say no but I have no way to know that) because they were all going out of the highway at the next exit that was really close from the toll (I was able to see it from the parking).
Anyway, I kept thinking more and more that I was going to stay trapped there for a long time. More than this, the parking had fence on the highway side (it was really too dangerous at least for me to walk along the highway to go to the toll area), but in fact he had fence even on the country side… That meant that even if I wanted to get out of here walking… Then I would have to climb the fence with my 15kg backpack… let’s just say that I wasn’t really happy about the idea.
When a car from the toll’s company arrived on the parking, I stopped them to talk 2 min, and they confirmed me that I wasn’t in a so good situation… I told them half joking that I just had to wait for them to end their day, so they’ll have the possibility to take me out of this… They laughed!! Me too… a little (well at least I have to laugh at my own jokes…)… It was already past 12:00 and spending the afternoon on this parking didn’t seem to make me feel like a great activity.
I arrived at some point when during 5 min I even climb the fence enough to drag my “Lille” panel over it to see if the cars coming from the toll could see it so maybe someone will come on the parking… LOL!! (This panel seemed so ridiculously small at that time… I was dreaming to have a super big panel with flashing lights all around and that I had a megaphone…). I stopped this quickly… Saying to myself that it was ridiculous… There were no chances that someone could see me.
… I can declare that I stayed really calm. I knew that some people were actually working at the toll station, so that I was not going to spend the night there. Good moral point, I received a text message from Damien! You remember? My saviour! He was asking me if I succeeded to find a lift from Aulnay and if not that his work was sending him in Creil, so that he could come back to pick me up and bring me their. You see? When I was saying that he was really cool. I stayed stunned.
Anyway, during this time, a new belgium truck arrived. A young driver got off. I presented myself to him and talked with him about my situation. He said as the other drivers that he was leaving the highway at the next exit. We watch the map together. And that’s when I discovered that at this famous next exit it’s not a highway but a national road with a roundabout!!! I’m jumping on the occasion to ask him if he could take me their so this way I’ll out of this parking. He said he was ok but that he had to stop before going back on the road. Comforted, I dropped off my backpack and enjoyed a bit the sun that was showing a little over the clouds.
10 minutes later, a car (yeah, you red me well… a car) arrived on the parking. I hurry and run to it. The driver opened his window, I explain my situation and he showed the empty seat beside with a welcoming face. Guillaume was going straight to Lille. In the center!!
I went back to tell the truck driver that I had found another lift and to thank him.
What was Guillaume doing on the parking? A stroke of luck… Guillaume was driving from Paris to see his daughter in Lille, and crossing the toll, he stopped to prepare his GPS because it didn’t know where his daughter was living exactly…
Finally I spent anly 30 minutes on this parking!!!
I arrived in Lille around 1:00 pm.
The sun came out after all, it took me 4h30 to hitchhike from Paris to Lille so I had the all afternoon to do nothing waiting for Hélène.
I went to the Café Citoyen, a great alternative bar in Lille (you have to go there once) having a good beer and something to eat :).
Then I went in the Saint-Sauveur park to have a nap and it’s where I took the photo of my backpack.
* Damien : who had travelled a lot in South America, in Europe. He worked everywhere as a bar tender. He settled in Paris for a while but wants to go back on the road at the end of his actual contract
* Mohamed : who worked in every areas that exists in the world, but more as a truck driver. He has always lived in the parisian suburb, but he travelled a lot around the mediterraneen see in Spain, Portugal, Marocco, Algeria, Tunisia…
* Guillaume : who is a marketing director in a private company. He is a real parisian and he has 3 children who went all study in Lille. So he’s often coming in Lille to see them.
A new excellent hitchhiking experience for me! I’m thanking all these people with who I spent time on the road!