With Mandie To Paris

Mandie and I were excited for Paris after about a week of catching up with some old friends in the Netherlands. We’d been juggling various requests on Couch Surfing we’d sent out in Paris looking for a place to stay there. We hadn’t quite gotten any responses, but we were set to go anyway knowing it would all work out.

We were slow to get going, more stroopwafels and the like, but finally we got a ride from our friends to a good place to start hitchhiking. We were picked up right away by some bubbly girls excited to give us a lift and offer us treats as we went, they were promoters, this made sense.

They dropped us off in Utrecht, the next fair sized city, landing us at a petrol station (gas station if you’d like) on a road parallel to the freeway. It became a bit of a mess, a bit of local traffic, not great places to stand, cops coming through and even a big truck that parked right in front of us at one point which made us move to a different spot all together.

By this time we’d made a sign that said “Breda” with the thought of staying there the night now that it was becoming clear that Paris would be a long shot before sunset, plus Mandie had a friend there and it was possible we could stay with her.

At last a guy gave us a ride to a truck stop up the way, he’d seen us earlier and thought it would help. There were three hitchhikers there already looking ragged from a long wait. Mandie and I sat on the sidewalk a ways away getting into deep conversation with nostalgia, philosophy and spirituality, watching the poor hitchhikers sag their shoulders and slump after each car passed them up. We were too excited for such sulking and began willing a ride upon them so we could get our own shot.

Eventually they got their ride, not only that, but Mandie went into the truck stop for the bathroom and returned with food as well, all was joyful. We were all smiles, we agreed that we were siblings in a past life and that our friend Nick was quite possibly a sibling as well in that life. Life was too easy, too happy, beautiful as it were and this all translated to getting a ride to Breda straight away.

It was an interesting ride, a guy who used to diffuse bombs and was now into art, happily taking us into the town and dropping us off near a cafe where Mandie’s friend was with some friends and family. We met up with them, only briefly and dropping our bags off to leave them to their meal, it was somebody’s birthday, then we went on our own wander.

We walked along the water, through pedestrian walkways and giant stone squares that seemed prevalent in all of Europe, massive churches and the like to be seen all over, just incredible buildings. Tea by the water and munchies at the grocery store, then at last meeting up with her friend again at a beer bar near where the first cafe was.

We headed back to her friend’s house afterwards, it was a couple actually and we sat around for a while in good conversation and tea (the Mandie way) before calling it a night.

Pancakes, coffee and showers in the morning, then a ride to a petrol station so we could continue on to Paris. We still hadn’t gotten a response in terms of a place to stay in the big city, but we were tuned in and easy going together.

We seemed to get two rides at once, choosing the one going towards Brussels to a spot we were told could take hours to get a ride from. We waited just a little bit until a short limo pulled over asking if we had money for him, we didn’t of course, we were hitchhiking here. Mandie’s smile and some back and forth and we were soon on board and cruising down the freeway free and clear.

Although he’d given us a ride, and was going to Paris, he was nervous about taking us over the border to France since we were coming from the Netherlands, the assumption or fear being that we may have pot or some such and could pose a problem. We assured him we didn’t, but it didn’t matter, he dropped us off at the last gas station before the border. Even though the border was like state borders in the US, which I mean to say is typically just a sign on the side of the road, sometimes unnoticeable, that says “Welcome!”.

Once at the gas station I felt like a fool because, hell, I did have some weed I remembered. Where from who knows, but I went ahead and ate it while in the bathroom, it wasn’t all that much anyway. Weed is a funny thing for me, I don’t smoke on my own accord all that much, whenever I have it, by whatever means, I tend to give it away to people who crave it in one fashion or another, smoking it with them and leaving the rest in most cases.

We stood by the exit of this place and smiled with our thumbs out holding our Paris sign. One guy really wanted to give us a ride, he approached us on foot and lead us back to his car. It was packed to the brim with luggage and general stuff. My mind started going into tetris mode, but even this was quickly abandoned as two other people, one pregnant, came approaching who were already riding with him, there was no way physics would allow us to join in.

We turned down a ride from a cute girl for some reason, but then caught a ride from some guy with a big board in his backseat that needed to be shuffled around, he got us further down the road to another petrol station. We waited a while there, police pushing us back to a less opportune spot where we still managed a ride from an older couple down the road a little further, still inching our way to Paris.

We stood in the sunset, so close now and still sure things would work out well. That’s when Sebastian picked us up, an amazing guy who spoke decent English and was loving the practice. He worked security around an embassy and told us some stories. He let us use his phone to get internet where we discovered there was someone in Paris who was up for hosting us last minute. The host lived close to the the Eiffel Tower and, despite traffic and a wife wondering where he was, Sebastian turned into a hero going out of his way dropping us off directly in front of the Eiffel Tower, it was a hell of a way to arrive in Paris.

We walked several blocks and met Hakim at his apartment, we dropped our bags off, got a sandwich down the block, and walked to the Eiffel Tower armed with a bottle of Hakim’s wine to sit in the lawn and enjoy the view, taking in Paris after the two day hitch.

Mandie headed back to the house, rightfully tired, I opted to stay out and take it in a bit more, Hakim took me to a couple other spots and we roamed around another hour or so before heading back and calling it a night ourselves.

We barefooted it around Paris the next day, just Mandie and I, carelessly walking past the Eiffel Tower again, the Louvre, parks and statues and gardens and everything, the museum that is Paris. Before night we returned to Hakim’s place to grab our bags and head out once more, Mandie was checking into a hostel and preparing for her European exit, more or less.

We had a little meal with bread cheese and Mandie’s creation of goodness, myself with a bottle of wine. We went on one last wander, looking for a meeting we never found and didn’t need to, relaxing by the river and taking everything in, then doing the same on a bench in front of Notre Dame. We eventually hit the metro, snaking through, Mandie sweet talking police, and finally having to part ways. She was off to her hostel, I was off to... I wasn’t sure yet, as far as the metro could take me without getting caught.

I got moving again, missing Mandie, but happy to have had another adventure with her. My Europe days were running short, less than ten days until a flight would take me from Dusseldorf, Germany to New York City. I rode the metro until it’s northern end, Belgium, I figured, that was the place to be. There was still beer I hadn’t drank, ranked best in the world as it were, beer that wasn’t distributed even within Belgium itself. The only way to drink it, practically, was to go to the source, to the monastery. Seemed like a good enough excuse to me.

September 24, 2011 to September 26, 2011