Okay so you have been in Normandy for a few weeks now and nothing very exciting has happened. That is not to say that you are not enjoying yourself, because you are, a lot. You are learning a great deal about construction and you’ve had the opportunity to operate heavy machinery on more than one occasion. Aside from that, you are surrounded by horses, rolling hills, green pastures, and rain. Your hosts are great and you are fed well. But sometimes, you need to break up the monotony and get off of this muddy farm.
Maria wanted you to see Mont Saint-Michel, as it is very close to where you are staying (about 80 kilometers away). You learned later that it happens to be the second most-visited world heritage site, so you really have no reason not to go.
To spice things up a bit, you invited your co-workawayer Clementine to come along with you. Hitch-hiking with 3 people is not ideal, however, Clementine is a very cute girl so you figured it couldn’t hurt your chances. Naturally, she was intrigued by your method of transportation and you thought you’d share your wealth of knowledge with her. (aside: her boyfriend also seemed skeptical of her ability to actually hitch-hike somewhere, and of course, you jumped at the chance to prove some guy wrong).
Thus, your adventure begins:
It was around 11am, a bit later than you’d want to leave, but that’s cool. Mont Saint-Michel is only 80 kilometers away, you can hitch that in no time. Spirits were high and you were just glad to be off of the farm for the day.
On your way into town, you came across this ostrich:
You have no idea where someone in Normandy would get one of these, but you found one nonetheless. This is only one, of about 30 pictures that were taken of the creature.
Finally, you made it down to town and were plucked off the side of the road by a truck driver delivering a shipment of something or other. You had to sit on Maria’s lap because space was scarce, but he was only able to take you 5 kilometers. Boo. This would be the theme of the morning.
The next driver picked you up a few kilometers down the road. Maria thought initially he had some sort of “postural defect” but it turns out he was just a tall man driving a very tiny car. The entire car smelled like petrol and he smoked the entire way. As you and Clementine bobbed your heads along to the French hip-hop blasting from the sub-woofers in the back seat, he casually missed your first turn.
A bad omen. Maria pointed out that we should have turned left at the junction and your driver assured you that this was an alternative route. You consulted Clementine’s Oracle (iPhone) and confirmed that he was indeed correct. This new route went tangent, but parallel with your original google maps plan. No problem buddy, You’re a local, you must know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, this fellow also could not take you very far and you were dropped in a small town again, not very far from where you started.
Spirits were still high, and you proceeded to walk to the edge of town. A few kilometers later, a woman in a roomy and clean van picked you up. Again, she could only drive you a few kilometers, but you were willing to take anything. Still, you found it odd that it seemed to take so long in between lifts and your drivers consistently were only going in very short distances. Oh well, no worries right?
You didn’t know it at the time, but this was about to get bad. All signs pointed to an easy-breezy coast to your next destination. You were on a two-lane country highway, surrounded by fields and farms. Perfect. Anyone going in your direction has NO reason not to stop for you. Everyone is going the same direction and there are no turn offs.
Great. Except for the fact that NOT A SINGLE PERSON STOPPED FOR YOU. This was your life for about 5 kilometers:
Car after car zoomed past you. They turned their blinkers on well in advance and sped past. Most of them didn’t even look at you. Stoic, mean-looking country folk. God, Normandy sucks.
“If this were Belgium we would be there by now.” You said. And this is probably completely true. People in Belgium are NICE and aren’t afraid of picking up 3 well-dressed (read: clearly not homeless or hippie) young girls. What a bunch of idiots. You were slightly frustrated, moreover, scared that you would not actually make it to your destination. Still, despite you slowly freezing to death and being hungry, you were still very happy to not be working today. Surely, someone would pick you up.
They did. But it wasn’t until you resorted to standing by a sign and begging drivers to pick you up. You pressed your hands together on your chest in prayer, tried to look them directly in the eye and in the end, probably overcome with guilt, a woman pulled over for you.
She drove you to the next town (thank GOD) even though at the time you were unaware that it would take an actual miracle to get you out of it. According to your first driver with the postural defect, if you made it to Avranches, it was “right next to” Mont Saint-Michel. This is actually FALSE (fun fact: locals actually don’t know anything, thanks, townie).
Your miracle came as you rounded a curved part of the road, hugging the guard rail as not to be murdered by a careening semi-truck. They were passing you in droves.
“Okay guys, if we aren’t within reasonable walking distance at 3pm, we should turn back, deal?” Everyone agreed. It was just before 2. Time was running out.
Your “trail angel” of two women with some common sense, picked you up and told you they would take you to a proper place to wait for a lift. This turned out to be the junction to the motorway. It was now after 2pm and you had been hitch-hiking for nearly 3 hours and you still had about 20 kilometers to go.
The three of you, tired but still determined, ate a hasty lunch of brioche, brie, and tomatoes on the on-ramp. You were so close, and this was your last-ditch effort. There is no more walking from there, as it is illegal to walk on the motorway. There you stood with your sign, begging people in passing cars for a ride.
As fate would have it, you were plucked off the road by a very drunk, but friendly, French farmer. He took you the back way directly to the monument, however, it was not without a price.
He was VERY serious about making sure everyone in the car CLEARLY understood the history of Mont Saint-Michel. And so it goes, in the words of our friendly drunk:
“FIRST….it was an abbey…..THEN…it was a prison….AND THEN…..it was a fortress….AND NOW….it is tourist attraction for American and Japanese tourists.”
lol. Oh monsieur, you are so silly.
But no, he stared back at you in the back-seat. Clear blue eyes bulging out of his head. He glanced at Maria and repeated himself two or three more times.
Long story short, Saint Michael slayed a dragon-devil riding the place of evil for good. When we arrive, we must keep our eyes up at all times, and give our sincerest thanks to Saint Michael for what he did for us.
We finally got out of the car, shook the man’s hand, and darted down the causeway. FINALLY:
You made it to your destination! Just as it was beginning to rain! But nothing was going to crush your spirits now but you had won because it was EXACTLY 3pm.
And so the three of you sauntered around the monument, sans evil, thanks to Saint Michael and all was well in the world
After you decided it was time to leave, the second wave of anxiety set in. You had roughly 2 hours until sunset and if getting here was any indication of the journey ahead, you needed to seriously hustle.
Perhaps, the gods felt as though you had paid your dues, because you were quickly grabbed from near the visitor parking lot by a couple who brought you to the junction where your road home was. You waited there for maybe 10 minutes before two young guys in a utility van pulled over for you.
This was great. You remembered your first ride in Ireland fondly. Two guys pulled over and put you and Maria in the back of their van with no windows that didn’t open from the inside. You were excited that Clementine would ALSO get this experience in her first day of hitch hiking. And so Maria sat in front with the fellas and you and Clementine hung on to ladders and tools in the back.
The drove you quite a distance and thanks to Maria’s artful conversation skills (in French) and a good-natured guy, she managed to get you a lift right back to the small town you needed to get to. Oliver (your driver) had to pass by St. George de Rouelle on his way home from work. If it was alright, we could wait 15 minutes while he dropped off his van and punched out, he’d come back and take us all the way home.
And so it was. We had a lovely ride with a very polite, very nice French guy and made it home in about an hour. A complete 180 from getting to the monument. You are used to this though. Sometimes hitch-hiking goes very well and for some reason it doesn’t. What most impressed you however, was Clementine’s high-spirit throughout. She never lost hope and stayed positive the entire day. Even when Maria lost her cool for a moment and threw down our sign, she stayed happy, cheerful, and determined.
So does hitch hiking require skill? In some ways yes. You need to have a good attitude and it often comes down to managing your emotions. You just need to be willing to go with the flow. You came away from this adventure with a win. Thank you Maria and Clementine for a very memorable outing.
End of the story.