Register at S.U. (pay 3.50 pounds each and get a "free" t-shirt!).
Write posters on cardboard with words like "South", "Dover", and "Children
Howell and Dave
Begin walking to Princess Rd (a main road) via Cecil St.
Photo session in housing estate.
Start attempting to hitch.
Catch 105 bus (which is the Manchester airport bus) from nr Moss Side
Bus Depot, to M63. Dave uses his bus pass, and Henry and I are given a
Arrive near M63. Walk under bridge to road leading to M56. Henry says
he knows where he's going.
Get a lift with a small lorry, carrying a palette of tiles.
Howell and Dave in the back of the lorry
Get dropped off at a roundabout near M6.
Get a lift in a posh car with a London businessman.
Journey down: fast lane most of way, not much traffic about, warm
No sight of other hitchers. Dave in front, H&H in back. Dave
talked some, otherwise not much. Bloke only gave us lift 'cos
he'd overheard some people talking about the hitch at the last
service station in Manchester - otherwise he would never pick
Arrive at Toddington services, on the M1, north of M25. Watch car
drive off, then look around to see where next lift will come from.
Decide to try the lorry park and wander around for ages under the
electricity pylons, knocking on lorry doors and asking where the
drivers are going. Lots of foreigners who don't speak English &
others who are sleeping. See another two hitchers around the
lorry filling station, but they wander off.
Get picked up by Express Freight lorry, and taken to Dover. Henry
and I sit in the back with 50 tonnes of Fiat axles, while Dave
sits in the cab with the driver. He didn't want to pick us up at
first, because he's not allowed to have people in the back of his
lorry, and only one up front with him. Dave argues with him and
manages to get him to change his mind. There is a close call
getting into the back as some police are patrolling the area in
a police car. As they go round a corner out of sight, Henry and
Howell jump in and the doors are closed. For the first hour, it's
light, then for the last two hours it's complete darkness, and
Henry and I talk, while freezing to death. The axles are VERY cold.
Spend ages wondering how much longer it's going to be. Occasionally
see silhouettes of trees passing on the side of the lorry. Can't
find any openings to look out so just sit there in the rattling.
Arrive 1 mile from Dover. We get out on the main road, on the upper
roundabout, so the Police won't see us, as people are not allowed
in the back of lorries. At first we hesitate as there are lots of
cars about but decide to get out anyway. Dave tells us about his
conversation with the driver, including how there's a bed in the
cab for him to 'sleep' on. We passed two girls hitching somewhere
en route & the driver wished he hadn't picked us up 'cos he liked
the look of 'em! He says if we meet him in Calais he might drive
us as far as Italy - however there is no guarantee he'll be on the
next ferry, 'cos of the lorry queues.
Arrive at the port. Walk down a sloping path past huge cliffs. Dave
says he'll climb them on the way back. Meet lots of Mass Rag
hitchers in the waiting room. Dave chats up a woman called Lindsey
who works behind the P & O counter. Loads of arguments over where
we are going to go. Lots of people seem to be going to Calais so
we reckon we want to try somewhere different. Look at the options
and EVENTUALLY decide to go to Ostend. We pay 21 pounds for a
two and a half day return to Ostend. We rush to Dover town centre
(market square) to get money from the cashpoint. Dave accidentally
presses too many zeroes and withdraws 100 pounds! Head back to the
port via an alternative route just to be confusing.
See Adam, with his hitch partner
Sarah. He's all hyperactive as
usual, and just says a casual 'Hi', as though we were just in the
house. He's hoping to get a ticket to Calais for the 21.30 sailing.
No chance. You have to be in the departure lounge approx 3/4 hr
before the departure.
Arrive at Departure. Show our passports first, then get passes
(pieces of plastic with P & O printed on them) and sit in the
Departure Lounge. Dave has hassle from the passport inspector 'cos
he's just got a one year visitor's passport and forgotten to sign
it! 1See lad who does 2nd yr maths who Howell knows from Freshers'
week. After a while, we show our passes and get on a bus, to take
us to the ferry.
Dave and Howell on deck
Board ferry - "Reine Astrid".
Ferry departs - see the white cliffs of Dover. Walk round the decks
of the ship and have a drink in the bar, amongst other things. Dave
buys a large bottle of Southern Comfort. Head down to the 'comfy'
chairs in the front of the boat but most of them are full. Luckily
manage to get three seats together. Lots of people sleeping, but
ones near us are woken when we start talking. Eat some food & try
3.09 (Euro time)
Arrive in Ostend. Head out to where the traffic leaves the ferry.
We try to hitch with lorries leaving the port, but no luck. Lots
of other hitchers also standing around the same area, but none of
them get any lifts either. We head out into Ostend and try to locate
a main road - with no luck. We wander around for a bit. See a huge
LED display above a shop which shows the current temperature -
something like 4 deg C - very cold!! Head back to the port and
enter the railway station (part of the ferry terminal) - other
hitchers are there lying in sleeping bags on the benches.
No more lorries leave the port, so we decide to give up hitching,
and go into the town instead. Dave gets 1000 Bel Francs from
"Mister Cash" cashpoint (Barclays cashcard). We spot two cashpoints
altogether - Dave's cashcard works in both of them, but Howell's
only works in one of them. Very colourful & bizarre animations.
Howell asks an old man where the nearest pub is (since they're
open all night here). He points one out.
Go into a Jupiler pub (by the way, the pubs here don't have names,
just the name of the beer they sell - mostly called Jupiler). We
each buy a glass of Jupiler lager for 35 Bel Francs. A Belgian man
who'd been to Liverpool buys us a pint each since we're from
Manchester. The jukebox is really mixed up about the names of
English songs (e.g. "Everything I Do" by Bryan Adams is just given
the name "Robin Hood".) Howell puts on "Wind Of Change" by The
Howell goes to the toilet, but gets worried when he can't work out
which one is which, then realises that "Adams" = Gents, and "Evas"
= Ladies. The very nice barmaid shows Dave how to play the "Monster
Lair" arcade game. She's very good at it, and speaks good English.
Howell stops calling Jupiler 'Jupiter'. Dave tells him it's a l,
not a t.
We all buy a glass of something called Rodenbach. It has a weird
combined taste of beer, wine and cider. It has a bitter taste.
A Belgian man who is very pissed has been talking to Howell. He
tells him all about the Belgian government and other stuff. Howell
tells him we are doing a hitch-hike for "Children In Need", but he
gets the crazy idea that WE are the "Children In Need". He tells me
about a hostel where we can all sleep for the night (but it's
MORNING now!) and get a good meal. He says it's for poor children.
He's weird. Henry takes a photo of the Belgian talking to Howell.
A cleaning woman comes out to mop the floors and we all have to
A dodgy Belgian talks to Howell
Dave and Henry leave the bar and say they're going to continue to
hitch-hike, as we've already spent too long here. Howell can't tear
himself away from the Belgian - he keeps starting to talk about
different things each time Howell is about to get up. Dave and Henry
decide not to leave Howell, but hang around outside.
Howell finally gets away from the Belgian, and we leave. He follows
Howell out of the pub, into the street, and continues talking to
him. He gives Howell 100 Bel Francs approx, to give to "Children
In Need". We head up a long curving road which looks like it goes
somewhere important - end up at a motorway.
We get a lift from the start of the motorway at Ostend by someone
who's on his way to work, in Gent. The car was going really fast,
and the driver suddenly saw us and screeched to a halt. The
driver's probably Belgian. We have trouble communicating with him
- we speak a tiny bit of French to each other but that's it, as his
French isn't very good. He has to show us on a map where we're
going. Howell goes in the front seat this time.
Arrive at "L'auto-stop" (as our driver calls it) in Gent.
Apparently this place is excellent for hitchhiking from, as it's a
very busy main road.
Within SECONDS of Dave putting his thumb up, we get picked up by a
French man going to Paris!!! This is incredibly lucky. He stops his
car and asks if we're wanting to go to Pairs. Before he can breathe
another word, we all say, "Oui!". We'd planned on going to Germany
from here, so this is a bit of a surprise and adds a twist (or kink)
to our journey. The driver's on his way from Amsterdam (after
dropping off a woman friend of his there) and is now going home to
Paris. He lives just outside Paris. He's been driving continuously
all night - without any sleep or food. He left Amsterdam at about 7
or 8 pm last night, and it's now 8.07 am!!! Howell talks to him
almost continuously for 3 hours, in FRENCH!!! (with a bit of help
from Dave's housemate's pocket French dictionary). Along the way,
the driver tells us that we should buy him some cigarettes for him
giving us a lift. We stop at a service station. Dave goes in to buy
him some cigarettes (he takes a while as there is a long queue, and
the driver gets all jumpy and impatient, so Howell goes in to find
him). We drive off.
Drive through the Belgium-France border. It resembles the tollgate
at Dartford Tunnel according to Dave.
Pass through Lille.
Pass through tollgate on the motorway. The driver has to pay to go
through. (In France, have to pay to use certain roads - the driver
tells Howell that he thinks it's disgusting; all roads should be
Pass through Amiens.
Stop for petrol at a service station in Beau - 79 km from Paris so
that we can buy him some petrol. The driver puts some petrol in,
and tells us to pay for it. He originally wanted to put 100F worth
in, but Howell objected STRONGLY - 10 pounds for God's sake - so he
puts 50F worth in instead. Howell tells him we haven't got any
French francs, but he ignores us, and goes on into the shop.
Dave pays for the petrol using his Visa card. A few minutes later,
the man returns from the shop and asks if it's all sorted, and we
drive off. Afterwards, Dave remarks that the only reason the driver
picked us up is because he didn't have enough money to get to Paris.
Dave says he'll have to try this ripoff himself, it's a cheap way to
The driver becomes a pig - takes lots of Dave's crackers and wolfs
them down. Plus, he eats the hard-boiled egg centre of one of Dave's
Scotch eggs. He wanted the whole thing (he kept looking back at Dave
when he got it out). Henry and Howell were going to have some food
themselves, but decide not to now!
Near Chantilly Castle.
Pass through another toll gate on the motorway. The driver doesn't
have enough money to pay for the ticket, so he stays very close to
the car in front, and when the barrier rises, he follows the car
nose-to-tail under the barrier. He then slams his foot down and
speeds off around the car and into the third lane. All three of us
look out the back window, and think "Shit! What if we get caught
by the police?"
Arrive just outside Paris. Say thanks and get out of the car, after
3 hours!! We hurry around, trying to find some proof that we are
here in Paris at this time (i.e. before 11.30, less than 24 hours
after we started the hitch). We are looking for some kind of
receipt. We look for a cashpoint, so we can get a receipt, and some
cash. We can't buy anything from a shop, because we don't have
any cash. So either we get money from a cashpoint, or we buy
something with a Visa card from a shop. We go to a chemists, and
try to buy some sweets with a Visa card, but they won't let us,
because they'll only accept a Visa card for payments of at least
50F (5 pounds). But we don't exactly want to spend 5 pounds or more
on something just to get a receipt. At last, we find a cashpoint.
Dave gets 100F from a bank with his cashcard (with Visa). The
receipt is our confirmation that we were in Paris at 11.30 am. This
is EXACTLY 24 hours after we started (since it's 10.30 am GMT).
Get on the Metro (the Paris Underground) at Simplon station, to
Trocadero station (Nr the Eiffel Tower). Everyone buys themselves
some postcards, and various assorted souvenirs (eg Howell gets a
keyring, a pen, and a small Eiffel Tower model for his mother from
the souvenir shop). Dave sees a most remarkable French woman, and
so forgets to note to time we arrive at Trocadero. We go to look at
the Eiffel Tower, Howell buys two long postcard compilation things,
then just wander around. Dave notices some obscure thing involving
a man on a motorbike. We almost get run over trying to get across
a roundabout, then head down some side-streets. We ask lots of
people where a bank is - 'ou est la bonk?' but no-one understands.
When Howell tries 'out est la bAnk' an old woman understands
immediately and tells us in long complex French sentences! But we
find it. We sit down outside "Credit Agricole" bank in Place Victor
Hugo in the centre of Paris. We have a quick photo session.
Howell and Dave in front of the bank
Dave and I leave Henry sitting outside the bank, so we can go off
and buy some stamps, without having to lug our heavy bags around
with us. We look for a Cafe-Tabac, which Dave reckons sells stamps,
but can't find one, so look for a post office instead. We walk past
the Arc de Triomphe, and along Les Champs Elysees. There's lots of
expensive shops there, including a big McDonald's. We change some
money into francs at a Bureau De Change. We find a post office
(with a crap yellow sign), and buy some stamps. When we leave the
post office, Dave reckons he knows a shorter way back. We get
completely lost, and walk around for ages trying to find our way
back to Henry. Luckily, Dave remembers that the place is called
Place Victor Hugo, so we ask for directions. During our wandering
about, we pass by the Arc de Triomphe several times (as there's lots
of roads branching off all around it - it's at a roundabout.
The Eiffel Tower
We finally get back to "Credit Agricole" bank where we left Henry,
but he's not there! He's taken our bags with him, which weigh A TON,
plus his rucksack. We have to find him, as he's got my passport, in
my bag, and Dave has the return ticket for the three of us, for
the ferry home. I ask Dave to wait on the seat, while I go off to
buy some drinks. I buy a 4-pack of Pepsis from a nearby supermarket
in a shopping centre.
Henry: I've been sitting around for hours and hours getting bored
and I want to go up the Eiffel tower so I figure they'll be
intelligent enough to guess where I've gone, so I get up and leave
- going back the way we came to the tower, where I take a few photos
and head up to the dizzy heights of the top, where I hang around
for a couple of hours to see if 'they' turn up.
I return to Dave, but Henry is still nowhere to be seen.
I go off to look around the shops, while Dave waits on the seat in
case Henry shows up. I go to the indoor shopping centre again, and
to a few other shops. I just buy lots of food - some French crisps
- including Bolognese flavour, and some delicious chocolate cream-
filled biscuits amongst other things.
Get back to Dave, but Henry is still not back. We go to the Eiffel
Tower. We pay approx 6 pounds to go up it. Dave takes lots of
photos. There's lots of places on the way up, where you can get off.
There's a cinema on it, two restaurants (VERY expensive), some
souvenir shops and lots of other things. At the top, there's lots
of windows with photos of the surrounding area, showing what's what.
There's also a few binoculars you can look through. I ask a French
woman where one of the monuments is, and she tells me all about
the monuments we can see.
Howell and the Eiffel Tower
We get down from the Tower, and luckily find Henry, along with about
8 other hitchers from Manchester, under the Eiffel Tower. When we
started in Manchester, there was a sign in the student union saying
"People going to Paris - meet under the Eiffel Tower at 6 pm for a
pubcrawl." Henry has had a group photo taken with the others, so we
missed it. We all head off to get some drink from a supermarket. On
the way, Henry takes a photo of me with the Eiffel Tower behind me.
We go to a supermarket and buy some cans etc. I buy 8 small cans of
lager (maybe Heineken), while Dave and Henry buy lots of bottles.
Dave opens his camera and discovers the film in it has broken - all
the photos he's taken are no good! The other hitchers mention
staying at a cheap hotel near the airport for the night. They
suggest going for a pubcrawl there. Dave, Henry and I originally
planned to go out on the town to 24 hr pubs in Paris. We each pay
31F for the metro to Charles de Gaulle-Roissy airport (10 of us).
We arrive at the airport metro station. We take over the floor in
the centre of the station and unpack our stuff there. Henry takes a
photo of us all. I write out some postcards. I give my address to
the other hitchers, so they can contact us about a get-together and
possibly about the group photos taken under the Eiffel Tower (which
Henry was on). One of them maybe takes a photo of us all. While
unpacking his bag, Dave discovers that his 9 pound 1 litre bottle
of Southern Comfort has smashed in his bag, along with a bottle of
Kronenberg. All the drink, mixed in with broken crackers, really
mucks up his bag (actually it belongs to his housemate Gary! - He
borrowed it from him for the hitch). Dave turns it inside-out and
uses it like that.
A man ask me if we are all Germans (in English). Another man asks me if I'm
cold, as I'm only wearing my Rag T-shirt.
The other 7 hitchers decide to forget the pubcrawl, and leave, to start
hitching home instead.
We go to one of the airport terminals in a shuttle bus (which incidentally
played some weird 'star trek'-like plingy music either when you get on when
you get on or when you get off) , so Dave and Henry can buy some stamps from
a newsagents there. I finish writing my postcards and then post them all. We
return to the railway station.
Writing postcards in the station
We decide to leave the railway station and try to get to the motorway to
Lille, to start hitching. We head off along a road for twenty minutes (N.B.
My bag is VERY heavy - esp. with all the cans in it). We see a map along the
way that seems to indicate that the motorway is back along the way we've
come. So we head back, past the railway station, and along an upward-sloping
winding road. When we reach the top, we see that the road leads back into an
airport building. So we turn around again and walk for a bit (the way we went
originally), then give up again and go to back to the railway station.
We eventually get back to the railway station. I go up to the woman at the
counter and tell her that we've just been SEWING!!! She, and a man, look at
me rather strangely. I realise what I've said, then I ask (in French) if there's
any trains later that night out of the airport. I think she says there is one
more soon - the last one of the night. This would take us away from the
"recursive roads" of the airport, but we decide not to take it. Instead, we
find out that the motorway was indeed along the road we had spent a while
going along in the first place - further down it (We'd been back and forth
loads of times since).
We decide to head off. Dave is sceptical about whether or not the motorway is
at the end of this road, but I try to reassure him that it is, because the
woman just told me it is.
Escape from airport, on the way to the motorway (A1) to Lille/Paris (since we
are now on the outskirts of Paris). We stand on a slip road nearby. We wait
there for ages, trying to get lifts. Some cars pass by, but no lorries. We
walk further and further towards the motorway, but still no lifts.
We are still trying to hitch near the motorway, and we are frozen stiff. I am
wearing 3 layers of socks on each hand, plus 16 layers of tops and 2 layers
of bottoms, but still I'm freezing. We notice two hotels either side of the
road. Firstly, we go to "Holiday Inn", which is 740F per night for a single
room (74 pounds). I ask the female receptionist in French if there's any
possibility of us being able to have a cheap or free room between the three
of us. She laughs (at my French), tells me I'm English, then politely tells
us to try the other hotel on the other side of the road, which is cheaper.
We go across to "Hotel Ibis", which is 415F per night for a single room
(41.50 pounds). We notice that there's a nice settee and lots of armchairs in
the foyer. I ask the male receptionist in French, then English, if we can
possibly sit on the settee and chairs in the foyer/lounge for a while (which
is nice and warm). He agrees (we are very surprised, but relieved). Dave and
I sit on the settee, while Henry takes an armchair. We can hear a party going
on in a nearby room, and see a few children running around. Dave and I fall
asleep. Apparently, Henry doesn't sleep. I snore very loudly.
A young boy (4 or 5 yrs old) comes right up to me and just stares at me,
because I'm snoring, and looks very frightened. His father comes over and
carries him away. Then the party finishes and lots of people leave (some
of the guests are not staying at the hotel, but probably lots of them are).
A couple come to the door, see Dave and I sleeping - and hear me snoring, and
think "What kind of place is this? - with people just lying around in the
foyer snoring away!". They go to sit on some chairs near us, so they may
think that we're in the queue, waiting to be served, and it's taking so long
that we're virtually "camping out there" to get a room. Before they reach us,
the receptionist comes out of the back room, says a few things to them to
explain what's happening, then they go on to book a room.
Dave and Howell asleep in reception
I snore VERY loudly, according to Henry. The receptionist brings three pieces
of flan cake stuff for each of us, which are probably leftovers from the
party, plus a glass of water each. Henry eats his, and tries to wake Dave and
me. He can't wake us. He manages to wake Dave after a while, and he eats his.
Dave and Henry try to wake me, but I just continue snoring loudly. They even
pick up my arms and legs and shake them around, but still no response. The
receptionist giving us food may have been a subtle hint for us to leave,
as we didn't say we wanted to sleep there for hours - he just agreed to let
us sit there for a while to get warm.
I eventually wake up, eat the flan pieces (which taste weird, oily and a bit
sickly, a bit like Indian sweets - but to not eat them would have been
ungrateful) and drink the water. Henry tells me everything that happened
while I was asleep. He says it was very funny.
We leave the hotel, and thank the receptionist. We offer him money for his
kindness, but he refuses, saying that he was a student himself once. We go
back to the main road (A1) to Lille, and try to hitch again. We get a huge
shock from the intense cold. I put a few socks on each hand, have 16 layers
of tops, and put my jumper over my head. While Dave and Henry are trying to
hitch, I stand at the roadside, and fall asleep standing up!! I was even
snoring. I was just so tired and cold......
I wake up, and we decide to give up hitching again. A few lorries and some
cars passed us, but ignored us completely. We head back to the station.
Arrive back at metro station.
Henry catches the shuttle bus to aerogare 1 and aerogare 2 (airport
terminals) to find out the prices of flights to Manchester. Dave and I sit
around. I get a hot drink from a vending machine, and a cake, and then
discover the toilets. We look at a map of the metro system.
Henry finds out the prices and tries to head back to the station,
but can't find the place where you get on the buses. Eventually he
figues out that they spiral round to the next level up & he gets
Henry returns from the terminals and says he wants to fly home!! I'm
flabbergasted!! It will cost him 85 pounds.
We all board the shuttle bus for aerogare 1.
Henry buys an air ticket to Manchester for 85 pounds using his Visa card. His
flight is at 11.30.
After a bit, we say bye to Henry. I am just completely stunned and amazed.
We (now just Dave and I) catch a metro to "Gare du Nord". We see two
incredible American girls (with long blonde hair!) on the train. I'm too
embarassed to sit with them, so we sit opposite them - on the other side of
the carriage. I just LOVE their American accents. Just before we get off (the
train), Dave goes up to them to chat them up, and asks them if they'd like to
hitch to Belgium with us (it would do WONDERS for our lift-getting). They are
impressed, but unfortunately they are on holiday for a week with their
parents, and have to meet up with them in Gare du Nord. What a shame!!!
Get off at Gare du Nord.
Ask two girls, in French, where the road to Lille is. They turn out to be
two English girls, from Yorkshire possibly. They are waiting for a bus and
have just finished their trip. They get out a huge map and show us where we
are. They give us the map and we leave them. Dave directs us all round the
place. We wander round for a while, looking in shops and at market stalls
in the street selling clothes and household items.
I buy some Golden Delicious apples (which are French!!) - very expensive.
We buy some stuff in McDonald's which is actually the CHEAP alternative in
Paris since everywhere else is so expensive. Their prices are THE SAME as
in Britain (equivalent cost in Francs). I buy a milkshake there.
We find the start of the A1 motorway to Lille. Plus four MASS RAG
hitchhikers!! And a few other further ahead, on the motorway.
Dave goes off to find some cardboard, then I go off to find some.
Apparently, while I'm gone, two Dutch girls pass by Dave, so I miss them.
(You poor deprived person... - ed).
We write out some signs:- "Lille", "Oostende", "Pour charite", "Pour une
charite d'enfants a l'Angleterre:- 'Children In Need'".
Start hitching near start of A1.
Wander round this area, holding the signs in different positions, whilst
eating some of my bread rolls.
Quite a few MASS RAG people pass by, and tell us of their travels. The
really crazy thing is that most of them came to Paris via Calais and so are
heading back there. Dave and I, though, came via Ostend (we know... - ed)
and so we have to hitchhike all the way back to Belgium, to use our return
tickets. They find this both strange and amusing.
Very, very fed up of standing around. I ask lots of drivers who are stopped
at the traffic lights how far away the nearest service station is along the
motorway. Hear lots of different distances. Think nearest one was something
like 2 or 3km and another one said just 15 mins along motorway (but he must
have meant by CAR!!).
We start walking along the motorway. After 5 or 10 mins, we get whistled
at by a Paris police car (head out of the window, blowing a whistle). We
assume that the police car won't be coming back soon, and anyway it's
difficult to stop on a motorway, so we continue to walk along it. But soon,
we climb off the side of the motorway and decide to walk alongside it, to
After 2 hours or so, we spot a cafe, and go to it. I'm dying for a piss
so go to the toilet there. There's a few trucks parked outside, so assume
the drivers are inside the cafe. Dave pays 3 or 4 pounds for a huge meal -
something like pie, peas and chips. I finish off his chips. I go around
lots of men in the cafe, asking "Etes-vous chauffeur de camion?" (are you
a lorry driver?) but it turns out that none of them are. (Or else they
couldn't understand your French - ed).
We leave, and continue following the motorway. We get lost, and ask
directions to the nearest service station. We can't find it, so ask a
security guard at a car park near the motorway, plus lots of people in cars
at the start of the motorway. (some of them refuse to talk to me because
they think we're to hitch with them. Eventually, we get directions to a "huge
service station" and some walkers confirm them. We walk down a spiralling
road to get onto the motorway. We walk in the grass, next to the crash
barriers, for 20 - 30 minutes and then...
Finally, we arrive at a Shell petrol station - fairly small (some pumps and
a shop!) on the A1 - La Courneuve Services. (Although, La Courneuve might
just be the name of the A1, or part of it).
Dave copies down a rough list of the services along the A1 up to Lille,
a rough map of them.
We get a lift with a man in a van who would normally turn off at the next
motorway exit, but decides to pass it and the next 4 exits, just so he can
take us to the next services - apparently it's really big with lots of
lorries, great for lifts! He's worried we would be stranded at this service
Sign - "Lille 190" (Km - 118.75 miles).
Arrive at next service station - fairly big. There's a huge lorry park
here. Dave and I go around all the lorries and ask if any of them are
going to Lille or to Belgium. Some of the drivers are French, Belgian,
Dutch, German and other nationalities. So I get a chance to use my
French and German, but I can't get through to some of them at all. Some of
them show us where they are going, on maps. There's a German lorry driver
who is going to Gent tomorrow, but is spending the night here. But we really
need to head off tonight, since our returns run out at 17.00 tomorrow, from
We meet an Englishman in a lorry. He's a Londoner, and he's a dodgy
character. He's very helpful, but doesn't mind dodging the law when he can.
He tells us that there's some Belgian lorries going to Belgium (!!!) and
that we should try them. I try, but can't get through to them, and some of
them are asleep anyway. There's some law in France that doesn't allow lorry
drivers to drive on Sundays, until after 22.00, so there'll be lots of
lorries leaving then. We need to find one before then - because afterwards
there won't be any more leaving here tonight!!
This Englishman tells us that he enjoys the work, because of all the
travelling involved, and the large amount of money he earns. He says that
one day he's in France, another he's in Italy, or in Germany, and it's great.
He tells us about a GM Metro that's been left in the car park at the
service station for a couple of weeks at least. He comes here regularly
and sees it always parked there. He takes us over to see it. It's in great
condition, and has a note on the windscreen wipers that says something
about the owner coming back some time to pick it up. But his expected
pickup date is a few weeks ago. So the lorry driver suggests we nick it.
He even gets a piece of metal for him and Dave to slide down the window
frame to try to break into it. But they have no success. Dave really wants
to steal it. I tell him he's mad and we'd get arrested etc. He says it's
probably a stolen car in Britain which was dumped here. He says that we
shouldn't drive it into Britain for that reason, but that he'd drive it all
the way to Ostend ferry terminal. It would make it a lot easier for us. He
says he's driven on the continent before so it would be no problem for him.
He can't open the car, so says he might try later on. It's dark, but it's
possible to see the car from the shop and vending machines in the service
station. It closes at 22.00, so Dave says we could take it after then. He
decides to leave it for now. We go off to the shop and decide to continue
asking round cars and lorries. The Englishman gives Dave 3 tachograph
disks to offer lorry drivers as persuasion to give us a lift. They can then
fake their actual journeys and go where they want.
I buy something to eat and drink (chocolate + a can of something) in the
shop. Dave looks at 2 large atlases of France on sale there. One of them
seems to be better than the other one. He is considering buying it, and
continues looking through it. The woman cashier says something to Dave in
French (which I can't understand) and motions for him to put down the
atlas. I ask a few things to make sure, and she says he can't look at it.
Dave is pissed off at this, puts it down and storms out of the shop. The
map costs 139F, 13.90 pounds. I buy my stuff and possibly a hot drink from a
machine, then leave and find him talking to the English lorry driver again.
We go round some lorries again, but get nothing useful. We decide to ask
cars at the service station, and people in the shop. I ask lots of people
if they are going to Lille. I find a man who is going that way, up to
somewhere called Arras. He shows me where it is on a map. He goes into the
shop. He seems a bit weird/quiet, especially the way he just walks away
from us, into the shop. He comes out later and says he's leaving in 10
minutes, or something similar. We decide we will go with him.
Leave service station with him. I try saying a few things to him in French
in the car, but he doesn't really want to talk. He says a few things, but
not much really. I find him creepy/weird. He seems like the kind of person
who might kill us in some horrific way at the side of the road!! Maybe I'm
just weird. (True - ed.)
Arrive at a service station south of Arras. Seems fairly isolated here. We
sit just inside the door to keep warm. I buy some weird green chlorophyll
sweets from the shop, Dave buys a huge map of France, which he can't fit
inside his bag, and so is very difficult to carry. He also buys a giant
bottle of Coke.
We ask lots of people who come into the shop, and lorry drivers outside,
if they're going towards Lille or Belgium. No luck.
I remember the shopkeeper continually walking outside with customers and
coming back in. He must be doing something to their cars. I am confused!
We decide to look around the car park again, and we approach a lorry. The
lorry driver is Dutch. I think I speak to him in English. He says he's
going to Belgium, and it turns out he can drop us off at a place called
Nazareth, which is fairly close to Gent. He seems very good, and agrees to
us going with him immediately, even though we're in the corner of a car
park at around midnight. We could be dodgy characters.... (You are - ed.)
Leave with Dutch lorry. I talk to the lorry driver briefly, then fall
asleep for the whole journey.
Arrive at Nazareth. Dave and I get out of the lorry, after he wakes me up.
He has a lot of trouble waking me again. We are at the side of a motorway.
There is a small service station at the side of the road (the right-hand
side) where we get out. As we walk towards it, I am very confused and don't
understand where we are. I ask Dave, "Where are the others?"!! We go into
the shop and ask the cashier where we are on the map, and how we can get to
Ostend. We ask drivers just outside the shop, and loiter around there, and
the cashier tells us to go away (he has a hole in the window outside so
that people can pay him for petrol, or whatever).
There is another half of the service station at the left-hand side of
the road a little bit further along (for traffic coming up towards us). We
know we cannot stay on this side of the road. It is biting cold and we
can't get any lifts, and don't expect to at this time in the morning. Dave
sees some bushes and trees at the other side of the road (the left) and
says we should sleep under them, on the ground. He says it's a lot warmer.
I don't believe him (although I do now), and tell him that I won't sleep
on the ground. I suggest we cross over the motorway and see if we can sleep
in the toilets there (at the other half of the service station). We cross
over the busy motorway many times. We RUN for our lives!!! The shop is at
the end, so we stay in close to the building as we get there so that no-one
sees us from the shop.
We go through the outer door and see two doors, one for gents and one for
ladies. We go into the gents toilet. There's 3 or 4 urinal bowl thingies in
there and a door leading to the sit-on toilet on the right as you enter. I
sit on the floor, then lie down, with my head below a urinal bowl. I
realise this is not a very good position, what with people walking in to
use it all the time, so I lie the opposite way. Dave sits on the toilet,
leaning against the wall, with the door open. Someone comes in to use the
toilet, and I realise I must look weird spread across the floor, so I sit
up against the wall. I think Dave finds it uncomfortable on the toilet, so
he sits down in front of it. We both sleep. At many times people come in
to use the toilet. Most of them give us weird looks, but continue to use
the toilet. Some people see us, and leave. Maybe these people needed a shit
but see Dave in the cubicle. One person comes in and speaks some Belgian -
"bla bla blub blub squatters blub blub." He then leaves. I worry that
someone might tell the man in the shop about us, and we might get thrown
out but, luckily, no-one tells him. I wake at about 6.00am, and wake Dave.
Apparently I've been snoring loudly all night. So people would have heard
me as they approached the toilet. Also, we were lucky the man in the shop
didn't hear me, since I do tend to be loud.
We leave the toilet to hitch-hike around both service stations and
motorway. We cross the motorway many times. We talk to the man in the
service station opposite to the one where we slept, and he shows us
possible ways we can leave the station, in order to get to Ostend. We try
to hitch-hike at both sides of the motorway. We go round lots of lorries
parked at both sides, and keep a keen eye-out for new lorries arriving,
and approach them. We also approach lots of cars, including lots of cars
and lorries at the petrol pumps, as they're buying petrol. We find a posh
car with a mother with two children, and someone else. They're going to
Gent, but refuse to give us a lift. Apparently, there's not enough room.
A man who works at the service station (opposite to where we slept)
offers to give us a lift to Gent when he finishes work at 09.00. We accept,
but still try to get lifts on both sides, in case we get lucky and get a
lift to Ostend. But we don't get any. So we go to the service station by
about 08.45 to wait for the janitor-type man. We sit inside a door, at a
bench. The janitor buys us a cup of hot chocolate each from the vending
We leave Nazareth, in a van with the man. I'm a bit upset, as I didn't
drunk all my hot chocolate - I was waiting for it to cool down. I
reluctantly leave it behind.
We get dropped off near St Peter's train station in the centre of Gent.
We arrive in the railway station. Dave suggests we pay for a train to
Ostend, as it's not really that far away, and it's fairly cheap (I think
about 5 pounds). He says it would be a lovely scenic trip through the
countryside, plus it would be good to experience the Belgian trains. I tell
him it would be "cheating", but he says that's silly. We've hitched all the
way so far, so he says we deserve a break and the experience of a train. He
says that it's only a short trip, so we'll have practically hitched all the
way. I insist that we continue to hitch, so we can say we hitched all the way
there and back. He says that I'm obsessed with the act of hitching, whereas
he wants to sightsee and have a good time. All we've done is hitchhike
continuously, apart from that day in Paris. He has a point, but I make him a
deal: We spend an hour trying to hitch, and if we don't get a lift within
that time, we catch the train. Dave disagrees, but agrees eventually
(probably because I keep on at him - I'm a git!).
We start to walk towards the motorway. Within 5 minutes of when we start
holding the signs up we get a lift... (fluke! - ed.)
A rich old Belgian man picks us up. He speaks Belgian, English, French,
German and Italian. He's on his way to Ostend, to his flat that he's just
bought there. He's going to buy a phone for it. He runs his own business,
something to do with washing machines I think; possibly selling them. He
talks to us a lot, in English.
We arrive at a service station near Brugge. We go into the restaurant, and
all three of us have a pint of Jupiler lager (or maybe some other kind). He
buys us our pints. We talk for almost an hour, about life in England and
how you cannot buy alcohol at English service stations, because of the
worry of drink driving, and other things, including his business and his
flat. He lives in Gent normally, and that's where his business is.
Leave service station, for Ostend. It is very cold and windy outside.
Arrive at the port in Ostend. He drops us off right there!! We check out
the ferry times, and see that the next one to Dover is at 13.15, then the
next/last one we can catch is at 17.00. I buy a can or a snack from the
Dave really wants to explore Ostend. We look around the town. Initially,
I spend ages finding a cashpoint so I can get some money. I walk up to
some hotels near the waterfront to look for one. The ones in the centre
don't work. Eventually I find one, or I just borrow more Belgian money
Everything is just so expensive here. Dave wants to open a bank account,
so he can say he has a foreign bank account. The first bank we go to says
that he needs to live in Belgium, nearby. The second one says it's ok. Dave
goes through a door with a woman, to open the account. I stay sitting in
the foyer, where all the cashiers and customers are. I'm so incredibly
tired that I fall asleep. 20 or 30 minutes later, Dave comes back out, and
wakes me up. All the cashiers and customers are looking at me. I must have
been snoring fairly loudly. He managed to open an account ok. They refuse
to send statements since he doesn't live in Belgium. It turns out that this
bank has only two branches, one in Ostend and one in Lille. The only way to
make transactions is to visit the bank in person!
We continue to explore. All the streets are like small narrow alleyways,
and all look the same. There's hardly anyone around, it seems really dead.
We spend a while looking for a cheap cafe, and eventually find one that
sells takeaway food, like hamburgers, sausages and chips. It has an
American feel, and looks fairly modern. I buy a strange split sausage and
chips. Dave buys a cheeseburger, for only 80F (1.50 pounds - 55 Bel F per
pound at the moment). The man speaks English. There is a TV on the wall
showing MTV Europe. They're speaking in French or something, and I cannot
understand it. They show a video of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe,
then talk, with a picture of Freddie Mercury shown, and then show another
video. Dave reckons he's seen a newspaper headline saying that Freddie died
yesterday (Sunday). I'll get a newspaper on the ferry and find out for
We go to an amusement arcade and play a few games. Dave tries a "grab a
cuddly toy" machine and wins nothing. I buy an expensive stick of Ostend Rock,
then we walk around for ages, and I'm almost fainting from exhaustion. I
continually grumble at Dave, telling him I want to go somewhere to sit down -
either the port, or a bar. He agrees that we should find a bar.
We go to a Jupiler bar, which comes equipped with dartboard and pool
table. The dartboard has no chalkboard and the pool table has an
enlarged cue ball (ooer - ed.). There's lots of locals in there, including
a gorgeous 20-ish year old girl who speaks French, with her mother. They
seem to know everyone there. Dave is impressed by the girl. We buy a pint
of Jupiler each. We have a game of darts, but I get bored and let Dave play
with himself (OOER! - ed.). The girl and her mother are playing pool. After
their game, I ask the girl (in French) if we can join them in a game of
doubles. By tossing a coin, I get paired up with the girl, and Dave gets
paired up with her mother!! They are both fairly crap at pool, especially
the girl. When it's the girl's turn, Dave goes to give her help in aiming
and holding the cue properly. But her mother, who is fairly drunk, pushes
him away, and conveys the fact that Dave is on her team, and by helping out
the girl he is helping out their opposition. He is very pissed off by this.
Every time he tries to help, her mother pushes him away.
Explain to women that we have to leave, to catch our 17.00 ferry. We say
goodbye. Dave wishes he'd got the girl's address. He reckons she was
winking at him all the time, and was really interested in him. He is really
annoyed about being paired up with her mother. He says he's going to come
back here, to Ostend, by car next weekend, so he can get off with the girl.
I say it's a lot of money just for that, but he says it's well worth it.
Ostend is a dump - nowhere to go and no-one about. We wish we'd caught
the 13.15 ferry instead of the 17.00 one.
We arrive back at the ferry port quite quickly. We fill in an adjustment/
refund form, for Henry's unused return ticket, since he caught the plane
home. We get it stamped, show our passports, then wait ages for a bus to
the ferry, that only goes a few metres!!!
As we wait for the bus, there's a man and woman in front of us who
resemble students and sound like they're speaking English. I ask them if
they're from Manchester, and it turns out they are!! It seems really freaky
meeting them here. We talk to them here and on the bus. It turns out
they've been to Amsterdam, and managed to live with a family in their
house, after pleading for somewhere to live. They exchanged addresses,
and they will visit one another again. I think the family are coming over
next Easter to visit them in England. We tell them about where we've been.
Then we get off the bus.
We board the ferry.
Ferry leaves Ostend.
We go to the comfy reclining chair section immediately, to get a seat.
Dave and I have a few little arguments - that's what comes of spending too
long with one person. We're fairly pissed off with each other.
I go to the toilet to change my jeans, take off lots of my T-shirt layers
and to have a wash and shave. I talk to an Englishman in the toilet about
what I've been doing and where I've been, and he is impressed.
I go back to Dave, with a giant toblerone that I've bought. I eat the
toblerone and feel very full. Dave and I take our shoes and socks off, to
air our feet for the first time in about 3.5 days!!
I continually talk to Dave, and drive lots of the other passengers away
from our section, who WERE sleeping!!!
While I was in the toilet, Dave completely emptied his bag and realised
he shouldn't have bought the Michelin French road atlas or the huge bottle
of Coke. He vows to finish it before we get off at Dover, plus the four
bottles of beer he has, left over from Paris.
Dave reckons we'll have to sleep rough in Dover tonight, as we haven't
got much of a chance of getting lifts at night. Bang goes Dave's chance of
visiting his old school, R.M.E.S, in Kent on the way back!
We both sleep for a few hours.
20.30 (Euro time)
We expect ferry to arrive in Dover at about 21.00
(European Time) so we go
around asking lots of passengers where they're going - if they're going
north. We ask all round the bar and other places, both lorry drivers and car
drivers. Most people are not going our way - eg staying overnight in Dover
- or don't want to give us lifts. Eventually, we find a Dutch father and son
who are going up the M40 to near Birmingham. They offer us a lift with them,
in their car.
We see the couple from Manchester, and they ask us what we're doing about
getting back. I tell them we've sorted a lift out on the ferry. They hadn't
thought about doing that, so they start going around the passengers
themselves. I point out a few people who we've been to, and have not been
going our way.
21.45 (Euro) 20.45 (GMT)
For some reason, the ferry is 45 minutes late - no
doubt due to bad weather
conditions - very windy at sea. Stops at Dover. We go down to the car deck
with the Dutch father and son.
Got lift from Dover with Dutch father and son. I slept for the whole
Dropped off at a roundabout near Banbury (in between sections of the M40).
Wander round roads for a while trying to get lifts, but it is so cold and
late that we really don't expect to get a lift. We expect we'll have to
sleep rough, next to the road.
We are along one of the roads when I tell Dave I can hear some kind of
shouting and whistling. We look ahead of us, and see a car stopping just
off the roundabout, with some lads waving their arms through the windows,
and with their car's lights flashing. We get picked up by them (hmmmmm -
ed.). They're three Liverpudlians who've been for a night out. They have
VERY LOUD rave music on their car cassette player (absolutely blasting
our ears out).
I got the impression they were on drugs. They asked us a few things, but
most of the time said nothing. Then the driver said something about us
having to get out, because the petrol was too expensive, or something. He
had a weird accent with lots of "Ch" sounds in his voice, eg book = booch
(like Welsh 'ch'). We had to get the one in the passenger seat to translate
Dropped off at Rank Hilton Park Services on M6, near Birmingham. Dave said
he was disappointed - he thought we'd have a good laugh with the Liverpool
lads (Sounds dodgy to me - ed.). I said I'd never heard that 'ch' sound
before. It's weird they dropped us off here, since they're going all the
way to Liverpool, which is fairly near to Manchester - nearer than
We played in the arcades, bought some stuff in the shop, and Dave bought
a meal and I bought just a Pepsi from the restaurant. We spent ages going
round all the customers in the service station, in the restaurant, shop,
arcade, corridors etc, asking if they were going to Manchester, or in
Eventually I found a man in the restaurant who was going to see his
girlfriend in Wigan. We waited for him to finish his meal, he showed Dave
exactly where he was going to, then we left with him.
Leave Hilton Park Services with Wigan-heading man. He has a nice new car
which he's only bought in the last few days. Really bright and flashy-
looking! Dave sits in the front with him and talks to him, while I fall
asleep in the back...
Get dropped off near Wigan. Manchester's a hell of a long way away, so
decide to WALK to Dave's house in Bolton. We look out for night buses, but
there don't seem to be any. We walk for hours, and our legs are killing us.
Our bags are so heavy too, that it really is torture. We have regular
breaks at bus stops along the way (drink a can of lager at one of them and
eat some food). We sit on a concrete slope under a bridge at one point,
then lie down and relax. We pass by a sign for Atherton on the way.
Finally arrive at Dave's house in Bolton!!! I use his toilet, and he drops
off his bag there.
Get lift from Dave's house back to Levenshulme, I think I sleep on the way.
Arrive home at number 2, Guildford Road!!