Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Caen, France: Becoming a Hitchhiker

It was Friday and I arrived in Caen, the capital of Lower Normandy, via my first Covoiturage. Caen is a town packed with history! Including being home to William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England and being the closest city to the D-Day beaches of WWII. Unfortunately WWII destroyed this city, it is a mix of new and old. In the old town one street might be cobblestone and the next a modern style tile. On a hill in centre of town lays the almost completely destroyed castle of William the Conqueror.

Shortly after arriving I meet my first host, Orianne, a young teacher and regular traveller that is now enjoying the Islands of French Polynesia. We are joined by one of her friends, a French Canadian, at a cool little bar with a multi-page beer menu. She buys my first beer, a 13% Belgian beer, from the tap. After a couple of drinks we say goodbye to her friend and drive back to her place. We have another beer when we arrive and for the first time on my trip I finally gave in to inhaling something that enables you to sleep easier... I did sleep well that night.

The next day Orianne left for the weekend. Although my Couchsurfing experiences have been very comfortable I decided to live it up and check into a hotel. I laid in bed all day and all night!

The following day I met my next host, Clement, along with his girlfriend and his mother at the local Sunday market. Another ridiculously big market that sells everything. After stocking up we go back to his place for possible the biggest feast I've had in my life. The large square coffee table in the lounge room was completely covered in food. When I am completely full and have absolutely no room left Clement says "I will go get the dessert"... I thought you have got to be joking. I squeezed it in. After 3 hours of eating it was nap time.

Although Clement had never ventured to the land of the kangaroo he had a didgeridoo, he and his housemate surprisingly played quite well. During the rest of my stay Clement gave me a tour of the city and took me to the D-day beaches. In return I cooked my famous meal for the 6th time and bought some beers.

It was time for me to leave the land of Camembert for Rennes. Clement and his girlfriend convinced to hitchhike!... Pourquois Pas (Why Not)!

I was  in the perfect spot under a bridge at the start of the highway going 160km to my destination. It begins to rain and the traffic is heavy. A van stops within 15 mins... but there is one minor problem. I don't know much French and he can't speak a word of English. I show him the sign and he says some stuff in French that I don't understand. I just say "oui oui" and hop in. Then I realise what he said is I'm not going all the way so I can drop you off where I turn off the highway. Houston We Have a Problem! This turn off was 60km down the highway in the middle of nowhere and it is raining. The closest town was 21km away (west instead of south along the highway) and the speed limit on the highway was 130km. I walk to a near by truck stop, grab a coffee and sit at the exit with my sign on the table. Over an hour of waiting goes by... I thought stuff it, 21km walk to the next town with 30kg of luggage in the rain, let's do this!

After walking 300m a BMW 730D pulls up in front of me. Let's think about this for a little while. I'm a wet backpacker walking in the rain and a $200,000 car pulls up in front of me. I walk up to the window and it is a 70 year old man smoking a massive cigar. I sit on his nice leather seats and he drives down the highway in the middle of the two lanes at 180km/h while smoking his massive cigar and texting on his phone. He eventually answers his phone and slows down to a turtle pace of 150km/h.

I arrive in Saint Lo where a train ticket to Rennes is the same price as where I started. I squeeze in some sight seeing and catch a train... it was a fun adventure!

Lessons Learnt:
When things go wrong just go with it and enjoy the ride, everything will work out.
Covoiturage is awesome.
Hitchhiking works


  1. Haha ! I'm the French-full-of-vices-girl :) Beer and everything else ! (I sleep pretty well in my new place too !)
    Still enjoying New Caledonia, moving in Vanuatu in November !
    Hope you're still feeling so great in my (ex) cheesy and thirsty country !!
    If you want to follow my trip : (I didn't translated it in English, but there are pictures !)

    1. Everyone has vices... I will see what Google translate makes of it. It looks like you're having an awesome time!