The highs and lows of GIANNA TOMASSI’S Parisian adventure…
48 hours to get as far as possible away from Cardiff and back with no money, how far could you go?
As relative hitchhiking virgins we headed to the train station first in the hope of blagging a free ticket.
After a chorus of ‘no’s, Mr National Express smiled upon us and we were soon on a bus to London Victoria. There we discovered the generosity of the general public and raised enough cash for a bus to Dover.
Our excitement soon dissipated as the reality of hitchhiking at the Port of Dover at 11.00pm in the pitch black dawned upon us. We donned our hi-vis jackets and biggest smiles but after two hours in the cold, no suitable offers and several ‘friendly’ chats with the local police we headed into the 24 hour passenger terminal to warm up.
Not perturbed by our lack of success we went back out at 2.00am and were soon picked up by the lovely Luca, an Italian man driving to Paris to pick up his girlfriend and dog for a new life together in London. We became firm friends, sharing our aspirations and life stories, and six hours and two group naps later we were in Paris!
We started, as you do, with breakfast on the Champs Elysées and a stroll around the Arc de Triomphe. After breakfast we began our route back – heading to the airport, where we endured five hours without luck.
As the last of our energy ebbed we retired to the international mother ship that is McDonalds for refreshment only to find that they had run out of McFlurries – Sacre bleu! Desperate times required desperate measures and after tears at the BA check-in desk failed to win us free 200 euro flights, we had to look at paid options.
Shaking our charity buckets, tupperware and lunchboxes and explaining our situation in broken French, the (rare) generosity of the Parisian’s saved the day and we funded a bus trip back.
We pulled into a deserted London Victoria just before 5am. Among the weary party goers and habitual tramps we looked less out of place than anywhere else, but we needed to keep moving.
Desperation soon took hold, but thanks to Naveed at the Gatwick Flyer and a lovely man with an Easyjet minivan, we got as far as an M25 service station.
From there hitchhiking was a dream and much sooner than we anticipated we were in an old school Land Rover hurtling up the M4 driven by a very interesting man whose company make luxury tree houses for the rich and famous.
Mr Treehouse left us at a service station near Swindon where we met a chatty A&E nurse who got us all the way back to Cardiff. We walked the final stretch of our journey, shattered, aching and delirious, we arrived as the first team to cross the finish line and enjoyed a glass of champagne at Jailbreak HQ.
It’s safe to say I won’t be hitchhiking on a regular basis, but it has made me less suspicious of the whole business. And best of all, we didn’t get murdered.