Part 3 - the return of the afros keeping to ...
Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
74Trip End Sep 11, 2007
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Keeping to the lord of the rings theme - part 3 in the movie is title "Return of the King" I believe, so I guess this should be called "Return of the Afros" - not very exciting - but hey you are still going to read on ... aren't you??
So, back at St Jean De Sixth and the days coming to an end and hangovers slowly disappearing, I decided to take a look at this big old country they call France. Well, that meant I would try and hitchhike my way down the mountain to the city of Annecy (approx 40km). I figured we were able to hitch hike up the mountain (4km), being able to hitch hike down the mountain for 40km should not be too hard.
On with the jeans, beanie, gloves and the waterproof jacket and off I went. As I started to walk down I thought about different hitchhiking techniques used in movies and reviewed past experiences. Do I wave, or smile, beanie on or off. ohh what to do??. Hitchhiking was easy in Egypt and Jordan - you were different and they figured they could rob you blind afterwards... but here I am in France and you know what they say about the French attitude.... not the friendliest people in the world.
Analysing the surroundings and ensuring that there would be enough room for a car, truck or perhaps one of those luxury 4x4 (hmmm I hope so) to stop. I rolled up the sleeve of my jacket, gave my thumb a few stretches (to avoid injury...) and out she went. Now at the particular moment, I imagined God is sitting above the clouds minding his own business, until he sees me stick out my thumb. Assuming, that he is a bit of a practical joker - he decides to make my challenge a little harder - he made it rain. Not normal rain, but rain that will soak you completely in 11.4 seconds, rain that comes in sideways, rain that is ice cold - so here I am thumb out, starting to shiver, soaking wet looking and looking for a ride. No one even slowed or acknowledge my existence... 10 minutes in still nothing.
Then it happened, a car pulled over, I looked over my shoulder to ensure that it was for me, I ran over and opened the door. To my surprise, a little old lady smiled at me. People who pick up hitchhikers are not what you expect, as I open the door a little old lady greeted me in French. "Bonjour - Annecy " I called back all excited that she stopped. Before I knew it she was putting her French sticks in the backseat, I guess this was a "yes" and I was on my way. How easy is that I naively thought, nice car, heating going yeahhaaa nothing can stop me today....!
Exactly 4.5km later she pulled over and pointed down the mountain saying "Annecy", because her English was so little - I worked out that she was not going any further and this was the end of my ride... Now I am further away from the shelter of the Chalet and a little bit closer to my destination. The look on my face must have been the face of inexperienced, I was thinking "you want me to go back out there in the rain???". Come on Justin what are you a man or a French frog legs....
Back on the road and the rain still pelting down. Wet beanie back on and thumb out. God, give me a break ease up on the rain! Car after car passed - smiling, waving, looking desperate. Exactly why are you doing this I ask myself - it is fun, different and will make a great journal entry... yeah right. Then out of nowhere - it stops. Another car - hopes are rising again. I run over and open the door "Bonjour - Annecy" - "Wee" - is the reply from a young French woman!
Into the car I say something along the lines of "Hi, Australia" and "You speak English?" Then it happens English comes out of her mouth. Turns out she is going all the way through Annecy - confidence is up and the day begins. Turns out she is a medical student in her 7th year and is on her way to another mountain to ski where there are no ski lifts or actual ski runs... and "you are going to be a doctor I ask?". As she had travelled to the odd place I had we talked about the people we had meet and places we had been too. Also I became an English teacher trying to assist with words - guess those years of charades paid off. Before I knew it, Annecy was approaching, with its enourmous lake in the middle of the town and the mountains in the background - amazing views.
So with the winds howling through the small city, I spent the day in and out of little shops, tasting the French cuisine of pastries and French sticks. With the sun coming out (now that I am not trying to get a ride) and people wondering around the coble streets of Annecy, it really began to look French (if there is such a look) - very very relaxing. Found myself a little café to kick back and write postcards (which still have not been sent) and let the day pass. All in all a good day out - oh just for your info I got the bus back up the mountain - this bunny had enough and needed some sleep.
After another big last night of drinking and running havoc in the town. The time has come to clean the chalet and move on back to reality. Because Jez and I are cheap travellers we decided to fly out on the Monday giving us two nights left in France. I really enjoyed France, but I was kinda of just looking forward to getting home and recovering but we have two nights in France. Ok - back to Lyon to do some Lyon stuff and then home.
A quick bus ride to the train station and onto one of Frances better things - the trains. I am a big fan of train travel and enjoyed the opportunity to lay my weary head for a while. Now I did not realise but these trains crack up a fair speed - and the worst thing to think of whilst sitting on a train moving at 200 miles per hour - hmmm I hope we do not crash head on with another train... Because I am going to spill my coke all over my new shirt!!
But alas, nothing dreadful happened and we get to Lyon with no major problems.
Onto Lyon we head, see this is the bit where I give you some sort of background to Lyon, talk about how it was an ancient area for war and the people bounded together and raised a flag to set up a city that is beautiful from every direction - but the truth is I did not have a Lonely planet which I would copy the information out of, so that is all I have to say about that.
But what I can tell you is what I got up to in Lyon. Off the train from Annecy we caught the local bus to the street where the hostel would be nearby. At first I did not really think much of Lyon, it looked like a normal city - old buildings, big river down the middle but then I actually started to look around and notice the little shops, bars and restaurants
Set in the front of old historical buildings. Not a bad looking place....
Off the bus and towards the hostel, now some smart cookie decided to purchase residence to put a hostel at the top of Lyon - I mean at the top. Someone should have actually thought "Well, since there will be BACKPACKERS" staying here we may as well make it the steepest hill in Europe - no the steepest hill in the Northern Hemisphere actually. So we walked and walked and finally found the place to rest our weary heads - I recommend staying at the YHA hostel in Lyon to anyone heading in that direction - very nice and the views amazing!
As sunset falls, we all take a walk up towards the top of the lookout and try and work out particular sites and sounds of the city. Off to bed to get some rest, just as I get to sleep, 3 French guys having a chat in the share-room wake me. It appeared that they were chatting to a 4th person on the phone. Now I am only human and if the opportunity arises to have a listen to people talk or a telephone call I am all ears, but this conversation was not only in French but sounded like drunk talk
Not really sure what they talked about but I am sure they talked about the normal things that guys talk about when pissed with other mates "The Weather, the education system, thoughts on political stances with Iraq and of course cooking!"...
Trust me when I say, I had all the right intentions of becoming a tourist the next morning and seeing the sights of Lyon, but things took a drastic turn when I awoke. "Jez, I am snoozing through the morning" - enjoy your morning and will catch you later. The previous weeks had caught up. At about 11am, I eventually get up, grab my camera gear I headed out to Lyon to explore.
Now I have been in cold weather in the past where it is uncomfortable...Melbourne, Nepal, London even - but for some reason in Lyon it was the coldest I have ever experienced! Piercing winds through jackets and beanies, snow falling and ears that cold that if you brushed past them with your hands, they would either sting for the next 4 hours or just fall off.
Without any shops open on a Sunday (have they not heard of Sunday shopping), to jump into to defrost, I staggered around the place shivering until my rendezvous with Jez came around. So what to do?
Ahh an Ice Rink - being the keen photographer that I have turned into... I thought it would be great to take some character shots of kids trying to Ice Skate. So here I am with my camera leaning over the edge of the railing, snapping away at kids falling over and watching parents panic and try and catch them before they land on their arse. Ahh isnt this nice and funny I gleefully thought. Now that is what it looked like to me - but this is what it looked like to a French Security guard.
I believe he may have had different thoughts of what he saw. Perhaps something like this - "A man by himself, with 3 days growth, no sign of female company or friends and therefore appears not have any children of his own. In addition, taking photos with a big zoom lens and smiling when seeing the children - PEDAPHILE"
When the guard approached me and said something in French, which I could not fully understand and with his body language I just got the idea pretty quickly that he wanted me to leave in a hurry by his body language.
So with my body temperature dropping by the second to a painful death, I catch up with Jez and crew and off to get some lunch! After consuming the largest pizza ever in the history of pizza making, a decision had to be made to kill the afternoon.... hmmmm - I was not interested in wondering around in the streets in the cold and get beaten up security guards for the next 5 hours.
A movie!! Yes, it would be warm and I am sure if we saw one of the big movies they would be sub titled!! What a great idea.... How wrong could we be????
Off to the Cinema and the selection of "Lord of the Rings Part 2" was made. Attempting to buy tickets was hard enough - so we did not bother attempting to ask if the movie would be in English with French sub titles or French with English subtitles. As we climb the cinema stairs, I look across and see what looks like the new DeNiro movie with French subtitles at the bottom of the screen - "Yes" - I thought, what a relief - imagine sitting through 3
hours of Lord of the rings in French.
As we get into the cinema and find our seats of prime viewing and start taking off the layers of jackets and scarfs we had layered on, the previews of other movies begin. All in French - even big USA movies. Oh oh - doubt starts climbing back into my mind. Please god, please god and then it happens.... that opening title comes up and the word PRESENTS - has the e's, with that little hangy thing above it.
Like being poked in the eye with your own finger, the title comes up on the screen. What we are expecting are the words "Lord of the Rings" instead we get "Le Seguma" or something crap like that... Noooooooo - 3 hours of French!!
How hard can it be - I wondered? Surely my French vocob, which contains 4 words, it cannot be to bad, can it? It is funny how they say that the French language is the most romantic language in the world and even watching swordsmen and devils fight it out - it still looked very romantic. Not really understanding the story completely, I have a feeling it is about 2 guys trying to hide their love for each other, one guy has this gold ring, which the other guy likes and wants, but for some reason the main guy has this other lover that he needs to deliver the ring too. At the same time, there is these two old men who keep comparing the size of their sticks and a bunch of weird other Moulin Rouge characters who dance around with devils and demons. There you have it 3 hours later we all walked out quite confused.... but it was fun in a way - and warm!
So as night fell, Jez and I invested some of our last Euros into some more French Beer and reminised about the previous 14 days. Ahhhh how romantic! Next morning, we said fairwell to the city of Lyon and boarded our plane.
Another adventure comes to an end and the planning of a new one begins!!
Editors Note: I hope you have enjoyed the stories of France - sorry to keep them long. Again would like to thank everyone for their emails and just to answer a few questions that you have asked - the book will be on sale when I return to Australia. Kylie Minogue and I ARE together but we are trying to keep it tight lipped and yes I have been kicked out of my house in London and am now crashing on the floor at Tony Blair's house at Nº 10 Downing...
Take care everyone!