So, just came back after hitchhiking to Paris. For charity! The opportunity came about, and so I teamed up with Tom Baker to try and make it to Paris.
We started off at 9am on thrusday, with the weather helpfully not rainiing, and made our way to exeter services. We were there for quite a while until we found someone to give us our first hitch. It was a lady who worked for BP. She was driving back to swindon, so she was able to take us as far as swindon servies. We were not there for very long, as we quickly found a guy who was willing to take further down the road. He was, to be honest, quite strange. At one stage he was quietly praying while driving like a madman on the motorway. Then he pulled over to the hard shoulder, telling us how he knew a great spot to hitchhike from. He seemed very impressed that we were doing this for charity, and very enthused about getting us to a prime location. As he was fairly insitent he take us there, we decided to trust him. Turned out, his great place was a petrol station just stones throw from heathrow airport! It had not been part of our plan to get stuck inside london, and it took us quite a while to get back to plan, onto the M25. We were able to convince an off duty minicab driver to give us a lift, and he dropped us at some traffic lights next to a roundabout, which was another not so great spot. We were there for probably just over an hour, before we were picked up by an engineering consultant who had been working on the fuel economy project at heathrow. He was either incredibly well connected or loved to spin tall tales, as virtually every bridge or building we passed he knew the architect of. He said he had hitchhiked in his youth, and gave us a couple of tips. The most useful of which, was that when not at services the most important thing was to have a place where drivers could pull over after seeing you. Which made sense as soon as swe stopped to think about it. He dropped us in a far better spot, just by a laybuy on a road leading to the M25. The problem was we were running out of sunlight, and we were still there when it got dark. This was when things started to look bleakest, as the later it got, the slimmer our chances of getting a lift seemed. And we did not want to be stuck on the side of the road all night. But eventually a van driver pulled over. Not that he had seen us, he had pulled over in order to phone his wife, but since he was going the right way, he was willing to give us a lift. He was a pretty interesting bloke, as he had driven vans all around europe, and he dropped us at some services about 40miles from Dover. This was a far better place to be, as it not only had a place where we could buy some food, but also as we spotted some fellow exeter-paris hitchhikers. We tried our luck at the services petrol station for about an hour, and a buissnessman on his way home gave us a lift the final stretch to Dover.
We got to Dover about 1am, and managed to get some sleep while waiting for the ticket office to re-open the next morning. We woke early for the first ferry across the channel, but it turned out to be incredibly hard to find a lift whilst on the ferry. There were about 6 pairs of us hitchers, all trying to head to Paris, and there just weren't enough people heading that way. So we arrived at Calais with those fair few other hitchers from Exeter, and found another bunch of people who had been in Calais overnight. Turns out Calais is one of the most depressing places on earth. One pair who had gone into town to look for a lift had been shooed back to the port, being told it was not safe. Then it started to rain, and so we decided to get the train to Paris with our felow hitchhikers. It was about 6pm by the time we got to Paris, and we had to make it to our meeting point, which was the Eiffel Tower, in order to meet up with even more exeter hitchikers. By the time we had found that, we then had to turn about and try to find our way to the hotel, which turned out to be harder than we had first thought. But we managed it, and were able to get to our room and get some sleep.
Saturday was spent wandering around the centre of paris. Saw the Arche de Triumph, walked along looking at some of the shops, and went up the the Eiffel Tower. Then, in the evening, we went out to a parisian nightclub, which was good fun, but we were there for a long time, as we needed to wait it out until the metro re-opened so we could get the subway back to the hotel. So it was morning before we made it back to the hotel. After waking on sunday, we went to get some food, before making it onto the coach for the long ride back to Exeter. Slept a bit during that, and made it home on monday. Took a couple of days to recover the sleep that students requier, and now things are settling pretty much back to normal.
Paris was great fun, and hitchhiking turned out to be a pretty awesome experience. Win!