We’ll always have Paris!

My friend Mafalda and I bought the plane tickets to the city of Love without much thinking. It was one of those “let’s do it now or never” moments. It would be a weekend getaway to celebrate her 23rd birthday on Saturday.

Early on Saturday morning, while the city still slept, we found ourselves at Lisbon Airport.
Our adventure had already began the evening before, with Mafalda celebrating her anniversary with a late dinner at a Nepalese restaurant (quite a good one!). Of course, the candles were only blown once the clocks announced midnight.

Biz

Once we landed, off we went straight to the Eiffel Tower. Going up was not in our plans (I have been already) since it was quite expensive and we were on a low-cost mindset. Paris’ recent history with terrorist attacks, the city was on defensive mode… plenty of military strolling around, the ground area around the Eiffel was limiting the access only to paid visitors who had to go through a tight security check. We’d better enjoy the view from a bit further.

Hidden

We crossed the Seine to the Trocadéro area. Sun was high and warm. Laying down on the grass, treating ourselves to a sunbath sounded plausible, but we had to keep on going. Resting only once we’d be back in Portugal!

We try to chase down all the freebies. Checking out my square and avenue was one of those. Arc de Triomphe soon followed.

Triomphe

From the top of the Arch, I saw a skyline of high-rise buildings further down one of the main boulevards (later learned to be part of the Axe historique). In between those glass towers stood the Grand Arche de La Défense, a modern, 20th century reinterpretation of the famous old Arch. Having a knack for modern architecture and having heard of it before, I immediately wanted to go there.

PicNic

Soon it was time to grab something to eat. We found a supermarket where we bought some goods and went towards the cube. Along the way we found a park, Bois de Boulogne, were we decided to stop. I put out my blanket (one of the perks of flying business class…) and we had an healthy meal together. The only things missing were baguette, cheese and wine, in order to make it extra French.

Grand Arch

With our energy levels restored we walked down 5km to La Défense. This modern neighbourhood was bustling with people, commerce… life!

 

Nous

Rouen

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Back home.

Let's Fly Away

Wanderlusting facts & figures

  • 2 siblings
  • 41 days
  • 13 countries
  • 2 flights
  • 4599 kilometres travelled
    • 2763 kilometres by hitchhiking (48 rides!)
    • 1836 kilometres travelled on 7 trains and 2 buses
    • First time hitchhiking on a truck!
  • 40 nights
    • 10 nights Couchsurfing
    • 5 nights with friends and families
    • 9 nights wild camping
    • 2 nights on a campsite
    • 12 nights on hostels and guesthouses
    • 1 night sleeping (or trying, at least) on a bus
    • 1 night sleeping under the stars
  • Black riding dozens of public transportation
  • Lost (& not found)
    • 1 mirrorless camera in Geneva (Vitor)
    • 1 shirt in Vaduz (Catarina)
    • 1 t-shirt in Verona (Vitor) – deliberately…
    • 1 pair of swimming trunks (Vitor) – deliberately…
    • 1 bottle of water in Venice (Vitor)
    • 1 hoodie in Budapest (Vitor)
  • Stranger things
    • We saw an accident live!
    • Thought we were going to be kidnapped by a Russian in Albania
  • Climbed 11 mountains/mounds/hills.
  • Wrote twice on a complaint’s book


12 messages from my mobile service provider welcoming me to each of the 12 countries visited. Yeah, in the end it was 13 countries. But in one of those I did not turn on my data plan… Can you guess which one?

 

Thumb #17

From Gyenesdiás (Hungary) to Budapest (Hungary) – 194km


Mr. Wilfried was not willing to let us hitchhike to Budapest (“it was unsafe”…), so instead he advised us to take a bus from a town nearby directly to the capital. We agreed, even so bitter-sweetly. Forty-seven rides in the end, we thought.

Right after the last sightseeing stop, at the city palace, our Hungarian grandfather drove us to the supposed bus station/stop, to which he had never been before. The bus venue was nowhere to be found… and we ultimately agreed that it was too late to catch it. Before turning back home (Gyenesdiás) to look for the next bus, I told Mr. Wilfried we could just hitch to Budapest! We had come all the way from Vienna the day before, so how hard could it be? He sighed, but readily drove us to a spot right before the highway entrance. Fare-wells behind us, we put our thumbs in the air for one last time.

One final cardboard
B-U-D-A-P-E-S-T

Ride #48
Our ultimate ride! As usual, few cars drove by, some noticing us, some just flying by as if we were invisible… A high-end Audi passed by super fast and I immediately made a snarky comment to my sister about the “typical driver” of cars like this one. If only I knew that right in the nick of time the car turns around to pick us up! Shamefaced me.
Father and son, heading straight to Budapest. We talked little to nothing, but they were kind enough to drop us off where I asked for. We got to Budapest even faster than if we had taken the bus we intended to.

Balaton

Balaton

When we went separate ways, Mr. Wilfriend gave us a little business card of the guesthouse he runs with his wife in Hungary. At the time my sister and I didn’t think much of it, but as days went by, I came to the realisation that it could be a good idea to show up in his town before finally heading Budapest.

And so we did! Gyenesdiás, a town right next to the city of Keszthely, on the northwestern tip of lake Balaton, was the perfect place to rest in between all the hustle and bustle of urban living…

Once we arrived to Mr. Wilfried’s house, I was quite apprehensive, thinking “Maybe coming here was a bad idea… What if he doesn’t recognise us? What if we have to pay to stay here?” [sorry, but it did cross my mind…]. These thoughts vanished pretty fast… Maria, Wilfried’s wife came to the gate, I handed her the business card and albeit being a bit suspicious, she went to get Mr. Wilfried, who was quite stunned to see us there. We were incredibly pampered… delicious food, cozy bed, invigorating swims at the lake. It felt like being at my grandparents’. In Hungary.

Wilfried!
A selfie at Festetics Palace, in Keszthely

Thumb #16

From Vienna (Austria) to Gyenesdiás (Hungary) – 285km


Ride #42
At the petrol station to where we headed, on the outskirts of Vienna, we were actively hitchhiking, meaning that we approached the drivers instead of just waiting for them to be considerate. It paid off immediately: a young Slovenian couple, heading back to their homeland, took us. They had come to Vienna to search for a place to live as they intended to move there, but were unlucky so far.
Before the highway split, one way heading to Slovakia and the other to Hungary, we asked to be dropped at the last highway.
Good luck guys, hope you can find your dream Viennese dwelling!

Ride #43
A ride promptly appeared.

Official HH spot

A blue-collar worker, living in Austria, from some country to the east which I cannot recall anymore. He seemed quite sad with his life, but it didn’t refrain him from wanting to talk, so moments of pure silence, when you are more eager to be lost in your thoughts contemplating the landscape running outside the window, did not happen. Got of near Győr, while he was driving further away…

Ride #44
We waited way longer than we expected… Traffic was heavy, there was plenty of space for cars to stop and still we seemed invisible to everyone… At last one stopped. A local man, going to the city in the direction we were heading. We exchanged a few words, but the wear and tear of travelling for more than a month already was hitting me. My sister and I actually fell asleep. We woke up when we got to Veszprém.

Sunflowers

Ride #45
Another ride with a woman! It’s something not that common, as we experienced from our hitchhiking adventures.
We were still quite dizzy from our nap when she (sorry, names are not my thing, as I have written in the past…) immediately stopped to pick us up! What a cheerful and caring person she was! 😀 A grandmother, she was very keen to practice her English, as she had one of her sons living in the UK, which resulted in having his English friends over at Hungary, at the peaceful Balaton area.

Sweet Lady

Ride #46
Already on the northern lake Balaton side, we were just a straight (still long) line away from our goal. Golden hour came in quickly, so we had time to play a little while we waited… And to get tattooed as well!
Eventually a car came to a stop. We hopped in and hoped it would be enough to get to Gyenesdiás, but our expectation soon faded. This Hungarian man, a former hitchhiker, was going to some friend’s party a bit further ahead, but was still willing to help us.

Ride #47
The sixth ride of the day! We managed to break our record of 5 rides in one day (which was set on day one, from Lausanne to Bern).
An Audi with a Czech license plate, got me to think we would have Czech companionship. Wrong! Inside, an Hungarian father with his blond child in the backseat was our closing lift of the day. Living in Budapest, they often come to Balaton to escape city life.
During our enthusiastic talk, he told us that he also hitchhikes a bit around the area with his son. I was amazed. He already had this cool flair that instantly bumped high above when he disclosed it. In his words, it is a lot easier for cars to stop when they notice a child. Gotta remember that for next time! Kidnap a kid a the beginning of the trip and then letting him go at the end… 😛