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ReportsTuesday, 22 May 2001
Lille --> Versailles (F) About waking up earlier than I am used to and making a 205 kilometres distance into France, hanging out with a crazy Australian gal and her little kid while the sun is burning me 'till the bones...
As Alban had already left for his school exams, Virginia woke me up with a an ocean sounds CD in the cd-player, which felt very strange when I opened my eyes on the bed-couch in their livingroom. As I took a shower Virginia prepared breakfast and already packed a little bag with some food and drinks for on the road.
Two baguettes, three cans of drinks, candybars, cheesebars, cookies and of course the gifts for my next host... No mum, I certainly don't get spoiled in France!
Before she got to her classes Virginia put me of at the first gasstation on the highaway that goes directly to Paris from Lille.
That's the best thing about hitching from Lille: this city is centered between four important cities (Amsterdam on the North, Brussels on the East, London by boat or train on the West and Paris on the South), so the infrastructure is really good!
After I said graceful goodbyes to Virginia I only had to wait less than an hour to get a ride. I first tried all the parked trucks on the parking, but none of the drivers where awake or where going my direction.
The man that finally took me with him made me try really hard to express myself in my highschool French. "Est-ce que vous allez a la Paris; monsieur?" worked out fine at 9.30 am in the morning...
In the car he explained he had to go to Paris for his work, that the man is originally from Poland and that he has a Dutch wife living in Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
After a short stop for some coffee at a rest stop along the road he called his wife on his mobile phone (he actually made Polish and French phonecalls in the car most of the time) and explained to her he took a hitcher called Ramon with him. I had told him the story about travelling over the world like this for the coming 3 years, so he had a funny story to tell her too.
At that moment he listened to what his wife was saying and answered questions which I couldn't understand. When he closed the connection he came up to me and said in French: "My wife knows you, you are this internet traveller, isn't that right?"
When I tried to explain him the compleet story in French, he started to look with very cheerfully eyes. He said that he never had a famous person in his car. Oh my god, what is happening with me!?
He set me of in the centre of Paris around 11am and I thanked him for the ride. While loading my backpack on my back again I suddenly looked at the biggest building of France. There it was: the Eiffel Tower.
At that moment I was proud of at least making it this far.
"Paris assaults all the senses, demanding to be seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelt. From luminescent landmarks to fresh poodle droppings on the pavement, the city is everything it should be - the very essence of all things French. If you come here expecting all you've heard to be true, you won't leave disappointed."
- Lonely Planet about Paris.
From this place I walked a while on Paris' boulevards, looking around wide-eyed, until I ended up pretty sweaty of the burning sun, at a green grass field. I took of my backpack and immediately unzipped the bottom trousers of my pants to make it a summer short; it was just to hot for long pants!
As I lay in the grass, getting sun tanned like a dozen of other young people there, I called some of my friends in Zwolle (The Netherlands) to tell them everything was okay with me and to hear how things are at this place I'll always call home.
I heard one studentcafé in Zwolle is turning off all the music and turns on all tv's with the volume up, as soon as I do my report on Dutch national television; "Hey Ramon, you've got yourself a fanclub!", this friend told me.
And here I lay in the grass while staring at the Eiffel Tower in France [the camera zooms in and fades to white... ;-) ]
At 2pm my host Erin Johanson picked me up at the Place de Bruteuil, with her 3-year-old son Tirian being very shy in the back.
She toured me around Paris a bit, showing the most interesting things this worldcity has to offer. Including the French style of driving through high traffic (lanes? why do we need lanes, in England they need lines!) where everybody just pumps there car in the direction they need to go, which looked very un-normal to me...
Erin is originally Australian but met her current husband on the internet in 1995. When she and her mother visited the UK, she visited this internetfriend in Paris and it ended up that she decided to stay with him and they got married. Ain't that romantic? (now you know, the idea for the movie "You Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is stolen!)
Today the Belgian Radio2 had also an telephone interview with me and asked what I would be doing if I would find 'my true love' during this worldtrip; I answered "I'd give her my phonenumber and will ask her to call me in a few years..." Haha!
Actually I don't really belief in this true love, I care much more for my family and friends at home in The Netherlands, even if I'd ever meet this lady...
But it wasn't only talking about Australia and about the arrogance of the French people ("Take the arrogance of a typical arrogant person, multiply it by hundred and you'll have a French person", Erin said), but as a real fan of the Icelandic singer Björk, she was more promoting Iceland than all the other countries involved...
She is currently part time studying to become a communication engineer, just like her husband who is currently installing new communication systems for the UN-army troops in Kosovo!
On her way to her home in Versailles (almost a suburb of Paris) we even passed the "BIG" (how many footballfields was it?) Palace of Versailles, but we couldn't actually see it completely because of all the busses loading off masses of tourists on the special busses parking lot in front of this historical palace! It should be prohibited!
At home I handed her The Gift I carried with me in my picknick bag from Virginia. She got a package of original Northfrench beer-cookies and a bottle of white wine from Jura, the Southern French provence where Virginia and Alban originally come from.
I got in contact with this crazy Aussie girl when I was with this priest Jurgen last Monday. He knew about this Erin living in Paris and while she was online with her webcam I spoke with her on Jurgens' phone and I arranged that I could stay at her place today. By the way, her webcam is also connected to her personal daily journal, go check that out (I think she is spreading lies about me, hihi).
At her home I was able to do wash my dirty laundry again and hang it in the hot sun, while Erin continued her internet chat addiction and little Tirian was running around the house.
Erin made me some delicious mix of cooked patatoes, salad and saucages for dinner and we watched the video of the Australian ABC-tvseries "The Late Show".
While writing this it's already 1.30am in the night and I am getting ready to go to bed. The radio is playing music of the French pop-band Air, who actually come from Versailles!
I hope you don't mind that I stay in Paris a few more days.
Just take away the French arrogance and you'll find style!
Have you seen the tracking map on Ludo's website yet? It's in Dutch, but you'll see a lot!