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Monday November 30th, 1998 to Thursday December 3rd, 1998

The trip south to Luxembourg was easy: I managed to do it all in one ride, with a French truck driver who, about half an hour into our conversation about Canada, asked me "Where is Canada exactly? Near England?"

Luxembourg is a fairly spectacular place: the old city is perched on the side of a cliff. The hostel is located near the base of the cliff, so I got plenty of exercize over the next few days climbing in and out of the city centre.

Remnants of the city's long and interesting history abound, including the Citadel du St. Esprit, the Bock (a 1000 year old cliff-top fortress built by Count Sigefroi), the 16th century Grand Ducal Palace, and the "Chemin de la Corniche," a pedestrian path that runs along the top of centuries old ramparts at the top of the cliff. There are, in fact so many ancient structures around the city that not all are marked as tourist spots, and some of the most memorable things I saw in Luxembourg were things I unwittingly stumbled across, most notably an abandoned grotto chapel carved out of the rocky bank of the Alzette River.

Fairly small, and full of narrow, winding (and often hilly) streets, Luxembourg is a great place to simply wander; I did a lot of walking, but it was extremely cold when I was there so I took every opportunity I could to get inside. I spent the bulk of one comfortable day at the Musée national d'histoire et d'art de Luxembourg; in addition to excellent displays depicting the history of Luxembourg from it's glacial formation through to the present day, the museum contained the most impressive elevator I have ever ridden: enormous and constructed of wood and glass, it offers incredible views into the valley below the Bock.

After 3 cold days, it was time for me to set out for Paris. On my last night, I planned my trip on an overpriced map in a small, ancient pub over a glass of one of Luxembourg's famous beers; I had 2 days in which to travel across the top of France on the superhighway, but I was hoping to be able to do it in 1.

I set out the following morning, and got my first ride very quickly. The driver could only take me about 40km to where a number of highways crossed, but I figured it was a good sign for the rest of my trip (for one thing, at least I was in the right country by this point — we entered France shortly after leaving Luxembourg city). Near the city of Metz, the driver very graciously backtracked a little in order to get me to a service station on the right side of the highway, and I thought I was in good shape. I stood for an hour or so at the service station before giving up and walking up the highway to a nearby entrance ramp. After a couple of unsuccessful hours I decided that my best bet was to get beyond the highway interchange. I walked for a couple of hours to find a ramp, where I stood for another hour or so — literally hundreds of cars went by on the road above, but not a single one came down the ramp. According to my map, there was another ramp about 10km further on, so I reluctantly set out, having completely given up on getting to Paris (still more 300km away). It was already starting to get dark as I walked with my thumb out along a hilly side road that runs parallel to the highway. After I had been walking for nearly an hour, I was picked up by a guy in a van who said he could take me as far as the next entrance ramp.

When I arrived at the ramp it was almost dark. I figured that I might as well try to get a ride in what little light was left (I thought that if I could just get to a service station along the highway, I might be able to hit a truck driver up for a ride to Paris), but I was more occupied with getting some food out of my bag and looking around for a sheltered place to spend the night. Just as I was pulling some bread out of my bag, a Mercedes-Benz pulled over. I ran up to the car, dropping stuff along the way, apologized, went back and picked up the stuff I had dropped, ran back to the car, and got in. The driver, a doctor with houses in both Geneva and Paris, was going straight to downtown Paris. He was a very interesting guy, and he had been to Canada several times; we spent the ensuing 3hrs discussing politics, culture, and various other less profound things while speeding across France. At one point we stopped for gas and I offered to help pay; he looked at me like I was crazy and said "C'est pas ça le hitch" ("That's not hitching "), and refused to accept any money (I suspect that he didn't really need the money, anyway). He dropped me off around 9pm at Place de la Bastille in Paris.

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