Saturday, April 30, 2011

Long way to Paris

I'm about to make the longest distance in one day during my French travels and I have quite late start, at midday. But if there are any problems, I'll think about it later.

Problems, yes, there were a few. Really slow ride with a truck driver who was too familiar with me, a succession of very short rides, misunderstandings caused by lack of common language, getting stuck maybe 10 km before Lyon for 1,5 hour. But there were good things too, as usual. First a couple coming back from the Mediterranean Coast rescues me from the horrible spot before Lyon. We share our love for the French countryside, since they live in a village close to Dijon, and I tell them about Provencal villages, totally unknown to them. They give me a longer ride just to spare me any problems with gendarmerie who is there just at the péage.

The second last driver is a Red Cross worker, working with problematic children. He says really enjoys his job, mainly because the contact with people, but the drawback is long working hours and unpredicted schedules. He studied in Brussels for 3 years and fell in love with its artistic side. He's very avid painter himself and has his own atelier at home. He describes his own style comparing it to Jackson Pollock, but his personal favorite is van Gogh. I get excited when I hear this name and tell him I went to Arles just to see places connected with him and now I'm heading to auvers-sur-Oise because of the same reason. He's heading to the Netherlands in the summer, planning to do the same thing.

It's getting late and I start to wonder whether I'd get to Paris at reasonable time. The driver goes to Auxerre, so I send messages to my friends asking if they could find any cheap accommodation there, still hoping that I manage to find a ride to Paris. I get some responses with campsites and cheap hostels, but I don't have to use them, since when I get to the péage, it's still very bright. In this way I save money for 3-9 days of traveling and plenty of time.

The final ride comes quickly. The driver comes from French Guyana and moved to France when he was 3, because of the job offer his father had received. He enjoys life in France, because of better job opportunities, chances to get a decent education, better life status. However, he'd still rather live in his home country - he feels people living there are much different than in a big European country, life is more simple but happier. It's only the problem with finding a job that stops him in France. We talk in English and he's very happy because he can practise and I'm very happy because the time is late and I guess if the driver were French who didn't speak English, I would be yawning and sleeping right now. He sometimes uses only French words and thanks to him and my pocket dictionary I memorize some new words. We talk about travels, important life choices, life in different countries, relations between people. At the end of the journey he tells me that people like me are the future of Europe - open-minded ones, not restricted by any prejudice, eager to experience the unknown. He's very upset that so many people are racists and because of that his life in France is sometimes harder. I tell him that for me the skin color doesn't make a difference; on the contrary, I'm more happy to get to know such a person since I know their background is totally different from mine and they have some story to tell. The driver makes a detour for me, describes main sights of Paris by night and drives me to Arc de Triomphe. After the adventurous trip, I'm happy to finally be there. 

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