This week I had a mini adventure in France. Another travel blogger invited me to stay at their incredible pad high in the French Alps. Even with my dad’s arrival in the UK, and my need to find a supplemental job, I could hardly say no. Unfortunately, on my tight budget I had to cut some corners, and one of those was the crazy-expensive train system of France. Instead, I chose hitchhiking over public transport to get to my destination.
My flight from Edinburgh landed at Lyon airport at 10:35 am. I didn’t purchase a reserved seat, but was lucky enough to get the very first seat on the plane, and was therefore the first one off. The airport was an indication that I had arrived outside the tourist season. It was practically empty. I grabbed my bag (which EasyJet checked in for free) and headed out into the warm French weather to start my hitchhiking adventure. My destination was Tignes, 240 km away from the airport. The last time I had hitchhiked in France, I completely struck out. This time I was hoping for more success.
I walked to the roundabout outside the airport. After a few minutes was picked up by an Arab who spoke several languages, but not English. We listened to his prayer music for 15 minutes before he reached his destination and dropped me off. Notable on that ride was the then when he came millimeters from being smashed by a bus. Glad the bus driver had better driving skills than he did.
He dropped me off at a junction between two highways, both of which pointed to Chambéry. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong highway, choosing the one which went through all the villages instead of the high-speed, toll highway. Thus, my journey was much more stop and go than I would have liked.
My next driver picked me up in the smallest car I’d ever seen. It was hardly more than a single square meter. Without a trunk, I had to keep my bag on my lap. Since there was no leg room, my knees were already up against my chest, which gave me almost no visibility except to the side. The car had seen better days, and didn’t go faster than about 40 km/h on the highway. But I didn’t get to enjoy it for that long, as the lady only drove me about five minutes to the next town and dropped me off at the L’Isle-d’Abeau train station.
That wasn’t the best place to be, since the only place to stand for hitchhiking was on the highway itself. I technically wasn’t supposed to do that. Luckily, a car picked me up after just a couple minutes. Unluckily, he only took me to the next village 2 minutes away, and only to the beginning of the village. From there I had to walk 3 km across the town to where the entrance of the toll highway was. After an hour of holding my thumb out in the sun, I was finally picked up by a nice French lady who brought me all the way to Chambéry. Her English was quite good, and she gave me all kinds of information and tips for my week in France.
In Chambery, I was dropped off at the toll station, which was the only place along the highway where I was able to wait alongside the road. The problem was that the trucks used the lanes on the edges, while the cars used the middle 8 lanes. Therefore, occasionally I was blocked from view to the cars, and the cars wouldn’t have been able to pull over anyway without being hit by a truck. I attempted it anyway for over an hour without success.
Finally I walked along the highway (as there weren’t any other roads) until I got into the town. There, I tried hitchhiking for another couple hours along the road with an entrance onto the highway. Once again, I was unsuccessful. By this time it was almost dinner time, yet I hadn’t even eaten breakfast. I still had half my journey to go, so I bit the bullet and paid for a train ticket to the end of the line.
From there I had a real adventure. I don’t know if I was just exhausted or what, but I managed to get on the wrong train! I only caught my mistake just after we started moving, seeing our destination was Grenoble. That would have been fine if I had been on the slow train, since the train I needed and the one I was on both passed through the same village. Alas, my train was the high-speed, direct train, and after an hour I was 50 further away from my destination.
I waited half an hour to get a train back to that village of Montmélian, and then another hour to get a train to Bourg-Saint-Maurice at the end of the line. I arrived there at 10:22 pm, nearly 12 hours after my arrival at the airport.
Yet my trip still wasn’t over. I still had 30 km to go up switchback mountain roads. At that time at night there were no cars for hitchhiking.
Fortunately, a friend of my blogger friend was there to pick me up and drove me the rest of the way. We made it just before midnight. I was starving, exhausted, had a migraine and was even a little sunburned. I had walked over 20 km between rides, and had dressed for the Alps, not walking in the sun.
But it was worth it. This morning I woke up to this view.
For the next week, I’ll be hiking in the mountains and hammering out as much work I can on my blog. I’ve only been up here a few hours, and already I feel like I won’t be here long enough. Especially with what it took to get here! Ah well, there’s always the adventure to get back to the airport next week. Anyone around to give me a ride?