OK... Today is September 11, a very famous date because of a disaster which happened in New York exactly 6 years ago... The day after tomorrow Muslims (at least in Malaysia) will start fasting for the month of Ramadhan... So let me use this date to make a posting which will close the on-going session of stories made in 1997 based on a hitchiking trip in Europe of 1995... Here is part 10 and the last... Enjoy it... Cheers! :]
“When in Paris, don’t forget to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arch De Triumph, the Louvre and shop at the Champ Elysees,” a friend advised when I said I was going to include Paris in my travel around Europe. I did heed the advise, yes I did but in a manner that only a tourist with two Francs in the pocket can do.
Imagine if you were a stranger coming to Kuala Lumpur for the first time with only RM2 in your pocket. You don’t know the people. And you’ve lost the phone numbers and addresses of the ones you knew. What to do? At least with RM2, you can get three trips on the minibuses or two trips on the Intrakota. In Paris, the two Francs wouldn’t cover even the cheapest bus trip!
What would you do if you were in my shoes… In a country where the people refuse to speak or simply don’t know the language you spoke be it English or Bahasa Malaysia? Check the nearest Malaysian Embassy?
Actually I did think of that. Problem was I didn’t know where it was and wherever it was, it usually has to be somewhere in the city centre, quite a distance from where I was.
You see, I was dropped more than 25 kilometres outside of central Paris. I was lucky enough to get a lift in the morning from a nice middle-aged French lady who took me from Lyon driving 448 kilometres all the way towards Paris. The problem was she was going somewhere else. So I had to get off at Evry on the outskirts of Paris... A bit like being dropped in Kajang when you actually want to get to Puduraya.
As it turned out, this was the start of a walk covering a distance of fifty kilometres in two days. I had no choice!
So there I was walking alone with the heavy backpack trying to get to Paris, the capital of France where many rich Malaysians travel around in rented limousines or luxury coaches. It soon started to rain… I took shelter at an office at a construction site off the highway.
Next was at Ris-Orangis near the river Seine where my last Francs (French currency) was spent for a bottle of cola and three loafs of baguette. After my tea cum lunch, I went northwards passing Orly airport, two kilometres of the distance spent walking underground beneath the runways.
Whenever there’s buses and cars heading to central Paris, I posed a sympathetic look at the drivers, hoping to get a lift. But people rarely give strangers lift on their cars in the city, in fact in any city. Common sense soon told me it’s better to just keep on walking…
Paris had an extensive network of underground train. In London, I used to slip through security barriers at the train stations easily avoiding the train fare but it was a lot tougher in Paris. Each entry point was secured by a turnstile and a steel barrier that only opens when you insert the ticket into the receiver. There were also staffs hanging about watching the flow of customers getting in and out the train platforms not to mention the security cameras observing every nooks and crannies.
I was tempted to take the risk to go through the barriers and hop on a train relieving me the torture of walking for miles and miles. But the thought of the time spent in a police lock-up in Lyon two days before plus the fact that my name was probably in the police list advised against this.
What can I say… It’s walk, walk and walk again. By the time the sun sets (it was after 9pm, after all it was summer!), I was at … (sorry, couldn’t catch the name of the place as the hardcopy for this story had a cigarette burn hole at this point), a few more kilometres to go to Paris. I stopped there for a short nap on a bench.
An hour later I arrived at Port D’ Italie on the fringe of the city of Paris. The entrance of a botanical garden nearby became the sleeping spot for the night…
Paris on foot was not a bad idea. From Port D’ Italie, I went pass Les Gobelins and Port Royal to Jardin Luxembourg where the Palais de Luxembourg lies, a palace which was once a prison for politicians and writers during the French Revolution. This was where Georges Danton, one of the founders of Republique of France was detained before he lost his head to the guillotine (the authentic French head-cutting machine).
From the palace, I walked across the river Seine to an island where the Palais de Justice, the local high court is situated. It was not far from the world-famous Louvre which houses some priceless paintings including some by world-famous turtles – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. But I contented myself with just posing among the monuments and gardens surrounding the Louvre.
There was also the Grand Palais and the Petite Palais (big palace and small palace. Now that’s two too much palaces in Paris, isn’t it?).I also went to the Eiffel Tower, a must-go place for all tourists to Paris. My brief sojourn was spent under the Eiffel Tower right in the middle between the four main pillars of the structure.
Then there was the Trocadero, a square with cannon fountains, the Arch de Triumph, a world-famous archway and the Champ Elysees, the city’s main shopping street with its restaurants, boutiques and departmental stores ready to suck the tourists out of their hard-earned cash.
I concluded my tour of Paris at the Monmarte, the district known for its artistic population as I passed through a gathering of philatelist exchanging stamps on the benches in front of a park nearby the famous Marie Du Nord church with its erotic pointed towers. At a patrol station off St Denis, fifteen kilometres out of Paris, I got a lift from a Parissian heading for Denmark. That brought me to Brussels, capital of Belgium where Van Damme and his stupid accent was spawned.
By this time, I was running out of steam. The original plan was to get back to Amsterdam where I first started out my European tour. But I was tired, so tired… And I had totally ran out of food and money.
Brussels was also known for its chocolates, Belgian chocolates… My favourite since I discovered Thornton’s ( a chocolate brand) in London. But I can only look at those little creamy pieces and dream at the pleasure it has to offer… Arrgghh!!
So that night, 17th September 1995, using my crumpled London-Amsterdam round-trip ticket, I took a bus back to London ending 31 days of walking and hitchiking through eleven countries on 180 Pounds (Actually 130 Pounds as 50 was spent for the London-Amsterdam round-trip bus ticket).
I was glad to finish this journey. Travelling over 4,000 kilometres on the road on several different vehicles and 200 kilometres on foot was trying physically but satisfying mentally and spiritually. So was sleeping at various different God-forsaken places.
It was a lesson in survival, people skills and how to deal with danger and diffuse hostile situations. It gave me a bit of understanding of different ways of life, of why things are the way they are… Everybody whether thieves, muggers, prostitutes or executives, bankers and models can teach you something about life.
Thank you everybody for enriching my life. Adios…
122, jalan warisan indah,
Post a Comment