Thursday was a long day. We woke up early to explore our travel options for leaving Paris. Jonny is and was a gracious host, but we don’t want to out welcome our stay. That and his brother was coming in the same time we were leaving and family trumps friends in the battle for free places to stay. After a bit of discussion and a few more delicious pastries we worked out a plan to leave around 6pm that evening.
Neither Jonny nor Erika had to work and we decided a fun and chill thing to do was check out the famous pet cemetery. Apparently this cemetery has all sorts of famous pets from all over the world buried here, but when we got there they wanted to charge entry so we decided to look through the fence, imagine the stories behind those amazing animals and walk through the park next to it. We met up with one of Jonny’s coworkers and went to his place to make hot wings for dinner. It was a delicious surprise to find out he had a deep fryer. So good.
6pm came around and we planned to leave Paris and head to a smaller town in eastern France called Colmar. Our earlier discussion was about two concerns, the first being the immediate cost of travel through the rest of France, Switzerland, Germany and so on…and the second, determining our travel plans later in the trip with ferries and such once back to the Mediterranean. We had to figure out an alternative economical means of transportation other than the trains and boats.
Our original tour goes as such: Me in Spain and Kristin in Portugal, meet up Barcelona and fly to France, visit friends in Switzerland, Oktoberfest in Germany, a day in Austria and Italy on the way to the beaches and parties in Croatia, ferry down to Greece see some ruins and more island fun, then lastly over to Turkey buy some spices, see another friend, and fly home from Istanbul. 7 weeks touring Europe, but we discovered that once we left Munich we would end up spending 4-5 days just traveling from one city to the next and lose too much time and money in transit instead of visiting and exploring places.
The costs for ferries from northern Italy throught to Greece would end up costing much more than a flight as well so we nixed Croatia completely and planned to visit Berlin then fly out of Frankfurt directly to Crete. This allowed us to visit more friends, see more of Germany and relax on the beaches of Greece like we intended.
After we figured out this plan we still needed to figure out how the hell we were going to get from Paris to Colmar. The prices of the trains ran from 80 euro and up and we needed to save money where ever we can.
Enter Blablacar. Yep, Blahblahcar.
Blablacar.com is a ride share website. You create an account, enter your information and verify who you are: phone number, email, etc. Once your account is set up your free to message or call drivers who are offering rides for all over Europe. Thats really pretty much all there is to it.
It’s simple, search your starting city and your targeting destination like you would any flight on any airlines website. It shows the current rides offered with departure times, seats available and how much per person. The cost from Paris to Colmar was between 25 to 40euro depending on the drivers. We messaged 3 drivers, 2 had full cars and the third came through. We had our ride. Now to figure out how/where to meet up with them and head out.
Wait. Let me step back a second. To set up an account with blablacar it states you need a phone number from the EU. This introduces the issue of setting up a phone in Europe. Which is a pain in the butt. Basically there are 3 options, buy a prepaid phone, buy a sim and put it in an unlocked phone, or use your existing cell service and get raped with ridiculous fees, charges, and other BS they come up with.
Getting my phone unlocked from the EU is next to impossible with ATT. How do I express my utmost hatred for them. Woooooosaaah. I canceled my service before leaving the states but somehow still have to pay another month of service. Also, I didnt know they offer an official unlock service for those outside of a contract nor did the service rep mention this when I called them and explained why the cancelation and how long I was planning on being abroad. I even asked for my options for christ’s sake, seriously!
My recommendation for you is this: unlock your phone through their service and buy a prepaid sim here, done. How do you do this? Submit your information at ATT.com/deviceunlock, wait 2-6 days for their computers to warm up and send a telegraph, then get your response. Official from Apple. But for me, some stupid reason ATT says my iPhone never existed on their service and they can not unlock it unless I call them. When I called from France, they stated they do not offer the service over the phone and direct me to the same site. And finally finding an email address and contacting them like any other company is next to impossible. ATT can suck it. I never liked them as a company in the first place.
Ok enough with the ranting…since we do not officially have a phone, we fudged that part and used a useless sim we purchased for 5eu and simply told the drivers our phones do not work in that country. No problem. Drivers message back, give us a location and we meet them there at a given point and time telling them to look for the two backpackers with huge packs on their backs looking desperate for a ride out of town. Done.
As our first time trying this, it did make me a bit nervous and I had kristin take a picture of the license plate just in case, and Jonny knew where we intended to go and where we were meeting. But the driver showed up as promised and next thing you know we are in a complete strangers car heading east at 130kph towards Colmar. Yep, no problem. This casual attitude to ride sharing here further reinforces my idea of the ridiculous paranoias of America for me. Knowing my luck I just introduced a new ‘based on a true story’ horrible horror movie idea into the universe. Anyways.
5 hours later, a whole lot of bla bla bla and we arrive in Colmar at 2am. We hiked to our camp grounds and were nestled in our sleeping bags by 330am. Im glad I found a spot under a tree because it rained a bit that night and any deterrence from direct rain is good. Exhausted from a very long day and only getting about 3 hours sleep in the last 48 hours we slept in till noon again. This time, I don’t care. Enter disgusting cute towns galore in beautiful Alsace.