A tale of hitch hiking in the south of France

Here’s a story from the large ‘dumb things I’ve done, but I’m glad I did’ bank I store in my brain*. It’s nearly as big as the ‘dumb things I’ve done, but wish I hadn’t’ collection I have up there!

Many years ago, as a carefree teenager, I spent the summer of 2000 working in the south of France for PGL, in a village called
Giens near Hyeres. I spent my summer sailing and drinking and playing
on the beach. Getting a tan like no tan I’d ever had before and going blonde

There wasn’t much to do in Giens
when we weren’t working besides go to the beach and sail or go to the local vineyard
and buy gallons of wine or go to the Carrefour and buy beer. Once we week we
might be able to jump on the trips to Cannes or St Tropez or the waterpark (I know, poor me),
but adventures were mostly self made, and as none of us had a car, we were reliant on the
terribly unreliable public transport.

And this is how I found myself,
with another sailing instructor Dee, hitching a ride in to the local town,
Hyeres. In reality there wasn’t much to do in Hyeres,
but there were more shops than we had in our village and it was something to do on a day off. 

We’d set off to get the bus, and when it didn’t turn up, we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride with the first car that came along. It wasn’t unusual, we all hitched everywhere when the buses didn’t turn up, the unwritten rules were that no-one hitch hiked alone, but it was just something we all did. And it worked out well, most of the time. We’d had lifts from authors spending their summer writing near by, and mums with their kids in the car, old couples heading to a market, farmers letting us sit in the flatbeds of their trucks. It was the south of France in summer, everyone was a friendly face!

So we’re stood there, two 19 year old girls who, lets be honest, didn’t speak much French, dressed in shorts and vests and flipflops waiting for a car to pull over to take them to town. And we didn’t have much luck to start with, but we also didn’t see a bus, but finally a little car with two guys a bit older than us, and

who didn’t speak any English, pulled over and told us in French to get in the back……in hindsight, you know, with my now infinate wisdom, getting in the back of a 2 door car, with some random guys in the south of France probably wasn’t our greatest plan. But we did it. And it all seemed to be going pretty normally for a hitched ride. We told them we wanted to go to the MacDonalds (it was easy to drive to and we knew where it was) they said ‘we’, we had a chat in very broken French about what we were doing. It was all perfectly fine. Until one of them took a call and told the friends on the other end of the phone that they’d picked up too girls and were bringing us to meet them. What these guys might not have realised was that we understood far more French than we could speak, luckily. 

And now Dee and I are sat in the back of a of a 306, with two random guys who didn’t speak English, were going in completely the opposite direction we wanted to go in on their way to meet two of their friends, with us………and it’s safe to say we were shitting ourselves a little bit. But it’s lucky that they don’t speak much English because we’re sat back there planning our escape. Do we say we need a wee? Do we need to kick out and try and injure someone? Do we scream for help, and if so, what do we shout, what are the words we need in french? And we quickly realise we’ve not even got proper shoes on to aid our escape. All the while, we’re still travelling further and further out of the area of town we know.

Eventually the car pulls over in a carpark on the other side of Hyere to where we wanted to be. We can see it’s pretty built up, there are some bars and restaurants and a few supermarkets. The driver gets out to go greet his friends in another small car but the guy in the passenger seat is now grinning at us manically. So we took our chance and popped the drivers seat forward opened the door and ran. I don’t think I’ve ever run so hard, not even when I am late for work and I can see the bus is almost leaving the station. 

Behind us we can here some (we assumed half hearted) running and shouting, telling us to come back, lots of laughing. But we didn’t stop, we didn’t turn round. We didn’t even talk to each other until we ended up in a small supermarche round the corner. Where we burst out laughing. I know in my case was laughter out of shock and fear, but it was still uncontrollable laughter. 

I don’t have many memories of what we did in Hyeres that afternoon, I do know we treated ourselves to an afternoon beer though, we had it right before we hitched a ride home. 

Yup. You read that right. We’d just made a run from a car and our brains honestly thought it would be a good idea to hitch hike home! But in our defence, we chose to get a ride with a woman, in a convertable. We figured we’d be able to get out easier if it all went wrong again! 

Now come on – before I spill more stories of the dumb things I have done, tell me some of yours! Please, it’ll make me feel better! 

* I
think it’s really important to have these memories, and I have a lot of them,
although many of them aren’t safe for repeating in a public forum.

One comment

  1. The internet is great! There I was, descending rapidly down a rabbit hole into my past and landed on your post here. I was a kid at PGL Hyeres (or at least I think it was Hyeres) in 1995. Having read this I kind of wish I’d gone back a few years later and worked there!

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