‘où allez-vous?’ The man asked as he rolled down the window of the car.
It took a few moments to figure out what he meant. The O’ level French from school three years before hadn’t prepared me to actually communicate.
As I chased excitedly up to the car, with my big bulging ugly blue backpack slung over one shoulder, it came to me, ‘where are you going?, of course, but what’s the reply?
My sign just said ‘A26’ the motorway out of Calais. This was something Bob had left me after he’d got his lift about half an hour earlier.
I’d met Bob when getting off the ferry a couple of hours ago. I’d never hitch-hiked in France and didn’t really know how to start. So when I saw this scrawny looking English chap carrying a backpack, wearing Dr. Martin boots and dressed in black army jacket with the sleeves chopped off, I figured he looked like the sort of person who could help.
Bob was heading South, he’d received his dole cheque for £67 and had two weeks before he needed to sign on again.
“Hitching South through France is more fun than staying in a bedsit in Dover” Bob told me as we walked towards the “best roundabout to get out of Calais”
Bob didn’t want me to stand too close while we waited by the side of the road, “two guys together only go half as fast” he reckoned.
He had lots of good advice like, “The best place to stop for a night is at a motorway service station, it’s got food, water, toilets, sometimes even showers and they are usually located in open country. Just walk out of the back and find a quiet spot to pitch your tent. It means no walking in the morning”
I didn’t have a tent. In my backpack I had a few changes of clothes, a warmish old ski jacket, a sleeping bag, a half full plastic bottle of tap water, a tin of beans I’d taken from Mum and Dad’s house, a road map of Europe, a French dictionary and a few bin bags in case it rained.
Ou allez vous?” The man in the car asked again smiling,.
“A la Grèce” I replied.