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France – On the way to Paris

October 27th, 2022

The previous night, after saying goodbye to Kaveh and Mahtab, I drove for about 2 hours to the city of Arras. It is a small city in Northern France. I found a calm spot in the city next to a canal to spend the night. It was a peaceful night with no extra noise. In the morning when I woke up, I realized that the internet connection is very poor in that place and it’s not possible to conveniently work. I opened the Park4Night app to find another spot and hope that the connection would be better.

I drove to a new spot just about 5 minutes away where the connection was a lot better. During my break, I went out to the park nearby for a quick walk around. There was not much going on in the town. During my lunch break, I decided that I can drive closer to Paris already.

The ride was easy. Though at first, it was a bit confusing how to use the tolls in France. First, you need to get a ticket, and when you exit the highway you put the ticket in the machine and pay for your trip. Some tolls are different where you just pay and enter the highway. The ride was quite easy and uneventful until somewhere close to Paris, near Astérix Park. I slowed down because of the road construction and got stuck behind a customs patrol car. I was not sure about the speed limit, so stayed behind them to ensure I don’t exceed the speed limit. The last thing I needed was to get a speeding ticket.

Somehow, they got suspicious that a lone man in a big car is driving behind them. At first, I did not notice that they were pulling me over. I started pulling over to change my clothes as it was quite hot and I needed to change. But the customs patrol stopped right in front of me and the officers exited the car signing me to roll down the window.

“Hello, French or English?” the male office asked. I replied “English please”.

  • Male officer: Where do you come from?
  • Me: Finland.
  • Male officer: Why are you driving a German car?
  • Me: German car? This is a Finnish number plate.
  • Male officer double-checking my number plate: Oh, sorry. You are right. Where are you going and what are your intentions?
  • Me: I am heading to Paris. I am living in the van doing vanlife and working remotely for a company in Helsinki.
  • Male officer: Oh, that’s cool. Are you carrying alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or cash in the car?
  • Me: I have around 40-50 cans and bottles of beer and a few bottles of liquor. I have a small amount of cash with me.
  • Male officer: That is OK, I meant large quantities. Is it OK if I take a look inside the car?
  • Me: Sure, not a problem.

Then the male officer entered the car and started looking around. I went outside next to the female officer and we started talking. She was curious about my job and life. I told her about my job and what I do and that I will be unemployed next year and will travel the world. She was very impressed and curious to know more. We got to talk and chit-chat about traveling and going around the world while her colleague was just opening the closets and drawers, taking a look, and closing them. After a few minutes, he came and returned the keys. They thanked me for my cooperation and wished me a pleasant journey and all the luck.

When I got back to the car, I immediately changed my T-shirt. It was around 21 ˚C and I started to sweat. As I was changing I noticed that my backpack had been open the whole time and just inside was sitting a very small Dutch souvenir that I forgot about. It did not matter, so I started driving toward Paris. I had already reserved 2 nights in Camping de Paris, a campsite right outside the Paris emission zone.

Here I am in Paris

Camping de Paris is a fabulous place. I couldn’t believe such a place could exist in such a massive metropolitan area. The staff there we even nicer making the stay even more memorable. They were very helpful and accommodating. I do recommend you visit there if you are traveling in a campervan. Just remember to check the emission zones “Vignette Crit’Air” before driving there. I checked in, parked the car, and took a shower before leaving to visit my friend Inna.

We have been very close friends since 2010. Despite life taking us to different paths and countries, we remained in touch and are aware of each other’s life. She is doing her post-doctoral in Michigan, US, and was visiting Paris for a conference. It was the perfect excuse to meet and renew our friendship. It is amazing how you can remain close friends even after not physically meeting for around 7 years.

We met in a Crêperie restaurant in Montparnasse, Paris. Inna had some good news about her work and life in the US. So it was time to celebrate with crepes and some house wine.

After dinner, we were wondering what to do. It was still quite early. I had already visited the Montparnasse Tower. It has an amazing view over Paris from where you can see the Eifel tower as well as the famous sights. The view from up there is magnificent.

We were both excited to go and visit the Eifel tower up close. Despite being a crowded place, there is some tranquility in the park near the Eifel tower where you sit and stare into the structure. The location is perfect. Many nice sights around in walking distance and Paris offers a nice vibe so walking in the streets of Paris is always nice. We walked towards Arc de Triomphe and had a stroll on Champs-Élysées street.

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