Travel stories blog hitchhiking Paris

What Looks Like French Bread But Isn’t?

What springs to mind when you think of France?

The Eiffel Tower? Frogs legs? A French man on a bike with a beret on his head and a baguette tucked under one arm?

The French are world famous for their baguettes or french bread aren’t they?

Wander past any boulangerie in France and the smell of freshly baked baguettes will entice you inside to buy what Aussies and Kiwis call a french stick.

Crusty on the outside and oh-so-light-and-fluffy on the inside, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to resist breaking off the end of your baguette and tucking in as you walk along.

So you know what a baguette is don’t you? Because it’s important for this story. But I warn you, it might change the way you think about France, French men and french bread forever.

I’m a francophile so I studied french in London which was where I met my great friend and most adventurous travel companion Fiona.

She was born one day before me, and we were both tall, independent, and keen travelers.

Because neither of us liked London much, Fiona and I decided to treat ourselves to a weekend in Paris for our 2oth birthday. It became quite a tradition and we looked forward to nothing better than packing a small bag and hitchhiking to Paris in the springtime.

Getting to Paris from London is fine but hitchhiking back out of Paris is a real palaver.

First you have to take a bus north out of the city and get off at the last stop.

Then you need to walk across four lanes of speeding traffic and stick your thumb up from a narrow spot between them, and another four lanes of traffic heading the other way.

It’s a terrible place to hitchhike from and to make it worse you have to wait on the wrong side of the road because the four lanes of traffic split into two lanes. The right lane leading still deeper into the suburbs and the left lane the start of the motorway north to Calais.

The traffic is fast and furious, as only Parisian traffic can be, and there’s nowhere safe for a car to pull over.

Anyone who wants to pick you up has to do an emergency stop, completely halting all traffic behind them on a narrow underpass right before a tunnel. Cue lots of hooting and angry gesticulations out of car windows.

Even most French drivers avoid this level of danger so you tend to wait a while for a lift there.

Fiona and I arrived early one Monday morning after a lovely weekend sightseeing, wandering round Paris and enjoying several crusty baguettes.

As we stood in the middle of eight lanes of traffic waiting for a ride we noticed a man in a multi-storey car park whistling at us. He was on the other side of four lanes of traffic so didn’t pose much of a threat.

We tried to ignore him but couldn’t help glancing up at him now and then and wondering what his problem was.

His shrill whistling could easily be heard above the roar of the engines.

It was getting depressing with no sign of anyone stopping for a lift plus we both felt terrible after too many late nights and too much French wine. There wasn’t much to say but after a while Fiona asked:

Travel story france parisWhat’s that he’s holding?”

“I’m not sure.” I said “It looks like a baguette.”

We looked at each other, then looked back at the man again. He was wearing the kind of blue overalls with buttons down the front that French car mechanics favor. The buttons were all open.

Still he stood there grinning inanely at us across four lanes of traffic slowly stroking something. But what was it? Now we were both staring openly at him trying to make it out.

Suddenly Fiona gasped and clapping her hand over her mouth.

“That’s not a baguette.” She said. “He’s flashing us.”

Sure enough closer inspection confirmed that, although reminiscent of a baguette in both size and color, that was most definitely not a loaf of bread in his hand.

Did You Enjoy This Story?

Stay tuned for more Naked Travel Stories.

I’ve got plenty more where that came from, but mercifully none of them involve a case of mistaken identity and baguettes.

Fiona and I eventually got a lift and made our way safely back to London. Despite the faux baguette incident we even hitchhiked back to Paris again the next year when more lasting memories were formed. I’ll tell you those stories another time.

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Photo credit: LCBGlenn
Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Diggy May 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Hi Annabel!
Long time miss, how are you doing? I hope life is goooood!

Haha, crazy story. I’m happy I didn’t experience that when I went to Paris last year. What I did see was that there were a lot of bums and homeless people in the city, especially around the train stations.

There were also an incredible amount of pretty girls all over the city, haven’t seen many cities that compare to Paris in that way:)

Ciao bella
Diggy

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Annabel Candy May 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi Diggy, sounds like you enjoyed your time in Paris – so glad you didn’t get subjected to that too!

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Sara at Saving For Someday May 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Annabel, that’s crazy! Although, I have to say that the only place in the world I’ve ever been flashed has been in Paris. Now I wonder if maybe it was the same guy?

Sara

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Annabel Candy May 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Hi Sara, thanks for seconding my guess that France is the flashing capital of the world!

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Thea | Write Change Grow May 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi Annabel
Oh dear, thankfully that has never happened to me on my trips to Paris.
I just wanted to say hello and tell you I like what you have done with the two blogs. I must admit it has been a while since I’ve checked out your site, so I wasn’t aware of the changes until yesterday. I made sure I signed up for both Get in the Hot Spot and Successful Blogging Facebook pages, so I can keep up to date.
When I was reading your profile, I realised you are actually living in Australia now. For some reason I thought you were an American. I hope you are really enjoying Noosa, it’s a lovely spot. I will definitely be back here for more travel stories. I love travel (and travel writing) and always enjoy hearing about people’s adventures.
Cheers
Thea

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Annabel Candy May 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Hi Thea, thanks for stopping by, it’s great to see you again. Yes, I’ll keep you updated on Facebook:)

Yes, I live in sunny Noosa now, I’ve been here two years, very lucky. Happy to meet another Aussie and it looks like we have a lot of the same interests: travel, writing and blogging:) What else could there be in life… oh I know, do you like chocolate too?!

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Catherine White May 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Mae West would have asked is that a baguette in your hand, or are you just pleased to see me.

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Annabel Candy May 24, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Hi Catherine, lol, she would have had to yell it over all that traffic though!

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Suellen Hughes May 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

You know I’ll never look at a baguette the same way again and will probably snigger like a school girl next time I buy one!

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Annabel Candy May 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Hi Suellen, I know what you mean! Do you call them baguettes too? Was a bit worried something might get lost in translation here… I think they call them french sticks in the States….

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Molly Kelash May 25, 2011 at 1:13 am

I had the same experience on the Parisian metro late one night…only the “baguette” was a rye bread color and larger than an actual baguette. A sight that was forever burned into my retina, I can tell you that much…you must tell the story of the Algarves next…of you and me and our sunbathing experience…remember?

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

Hi Molly, I cannot believe these French men! So much for them being romantic lovers… Oh dear, I seem to have supressed the flashing in the Algarves incident…. it wasn’t even bigger was it?!

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Kiesha @WeBlogBetter May 25, 2011 at 1:34 am

LOL! EW! Hi, Annabel!
I hate to admit that I’ve had a similar experience while my car was broken down. As I felt the car conking out, I made my way to the driveway of a nearby parking lot. While my friend and I waited for roadside assistance, some creep who thought he was hiding behind a tree was enjoying a moment with his own baguette.

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 8:44 am

Hi Keisha, haha, thanks for the laugh! If only they could handle their baguettes inside, in privacy…. Glad you were with a friend. It’s fine to laugh but things like this would be scary if you were alone and it was after dark.

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Carmen May 25, 2011 at 1:48 am

Funny story Annabel! I don’t know what my karma is but I’ve seen so many unsolicited “baguettes” in my life (although none the true size of one!) I can’t even count. I went to an all girls’ high school which I think is a baguette magnet. We should start a blog just on that subject!

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 8:46 am

Hi Carmen, you too? I have a feeling all young girls are unfortunately baguette magnets. Love that expression but my daughter is six so it’s a worry… but at least we don’t live in France!

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Sue May 25, 2011 at 2:10 am

Hi Annabel,

Great story. Hmm, I don’t think I can ever look at a baguette in quite the same way now. Perhaps I’ll have to shift to the round San Francisco sourdough loaves for my morning toast and jam.

I haven’t been to Paris, but I had a very clear picture from your description about how the crazy traffic looked and sounded. I have very vivid recollections of crazy traffic in India, including a maniac coach driver that seemed determined to want to bash into the back of the autorickshaw we were in, cars driving down the wrong side of a divided highway on the road from Allahabad to Varanasi.

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 8:47 am

Hi Sue, oh yes, the Indians could definitely teach the French a thing or two about crazy driving;) I’ve had some hairy moments there too, thanks for reminding me!

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GutsyWriter May 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Annabel,

I lived outside Paris, “dans la banlieu ouest” and would ride my bike to school along the river Seine as a child, and believe me, I saw baguettes, ficelles and batards, throughout my years of riding my bike as well as in the long corridors of the metros.

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Hi GutsyWriter, lol, if i remember rightly ficelles are the long skinny ones and batards the short fat ones?! How do french children survive this onslaught?

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

And why do these men do it anyway? Big mystery to me.

GutsyWriter May 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Yes, you’re right about your description. I think when I grew up there, and perhaps it’s the same today, you just grow used to this. Something that would not be tolerated in the U.S. There were also populations of “gypsies” living by the Seine and a few times, they would chase me on my bike and ask for money. Perhaps that’s why I’m Gutsy. lol. :)

Annabel Candy May 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Ah yes, that old saying what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is true:)

Sally Foley-Lewis May 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Ooh, la la!
So many bad bread jokes running through my mind now!

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Oh Sally, I want to hear them:)

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Red Nomad OZ May 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Haha, that’s HILARIOUS!!! Wonder if any of the other Parisians noticed??!!

But it’s curious how an experience that would be a bit unsettling or scary if you were alone becomes a great reminiscence to laugh over (and dine out on!) when shared with a friend!!

Such a pleasant surprise that you’ve ‘come out’ as a follower – and friend – on my blog!! I’m honoured!!

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Annabel Candy May 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Hi Red, they didn’t seem too… probably too busy careering all over the roads:) So true, I was with a friend, it was daytime and we were unassailable. I was way overdue clicking that follow blog button, I’ve been following your adventures for a while and couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it official!

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Red Nomad OZ May 27, 2011 at 11:38 am

Thanx again! Hope you like the new layout!!

Leon Noone May 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

G’Day Annabel,
I’ve long believed that inspiration is where you find it; eight lane highways included. “Just gotta keep you eyes open and your mind ready” I used to say.

Your story does add another dimension to the “Eyes Open” bit. And I have to say I’d think twice before inviting you to bring rolls to a picnic.

By the way, is it “francophile” or “francophall?”

OK OK. I’ve punished you enough.
Best Wishes

Leon

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Annabel Candy May 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Hi Leon, lovely to have a man’s perspective here:) Definitely francophile, not the latter! Lol:)

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Sandra / Always Well Within May 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

What’s the matter with these men anyway? I’m glad you were in good company and got safely home. I’ve always found France hard to navigate not speaking French. I enjoy the countryside most.

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Annabel Candy May 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi Sandra, the pervs are in the countryside too though. The thing is now we’re older and braver and would give them what for they don’t bother us now!

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Penelope J. May 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Funny, funny, funny. Must have been a long you know what to mistake it for a baguette – even at a distance!

What used to put me off in France was seeing how men tucked their baguettes under their sweaty armpits to take home. A bit of the savory, no?

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Annabel Candy May 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi Penelope, lol ewww, another reason to flag the baguettes!

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Seana Smith May 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Haha… hitchhiking seems so long ago and far away for me… by the way, many baguettes also spotted when I was an au pair in Italy. Mostly demi baguettes, mind you.

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Annabel Candy May 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

Hi Seana, demi baguettes, lol. Yes, it was only two decades ago but it seems like two aeons!

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Tim Maggs May 27, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Hi Annabel!
I finally made it to your blog!
I love it just by reading some of your posts, it shows that you really captivate the reader and I definitely think you should share some of these stories at Toastmasters!

Tim

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Annabel Candy May 27, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Hi Tim, yay! I’d love to:) Thanks for visiting!

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Tess The Bold Life May 29, 2011 at 12:01 am

What fun you must have had. I hitch hiked in Mexico when I was in my late 30’s. I was studying there with a group of younger kids that just graduated. If I wouldn’t have went along with the crowd I would have missed out on the fun.

This line seems surreal. Awesome!
It became quite a tradition and we looked forward to nothing better than packing a small bag and hitchhiking to Paris in the springtime.

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Annabel Candy October 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

Ah Tess, Mexico, that was brave! I’d do it all again in a flash;)

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David Stannard June 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Nothing anywhere else in the world compares to French bread. Everyone tries to imitate it but fails big big time! As for French men, beware the DSK effect. Underneath the surface….

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Annabel Candy October 12, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi David, if only you’d told me that when I was a girl all this could have been avoided!

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Aussie in France January 7, 2012 at 1:17 am

Hilarious. I’m adding your blog to my blogroll. I haven’t often been flashed in my long life as an Aussie in France, I must admit, but I do have a couple of hitchhiking stories. My first flash was on the London tube and my second on an empty university campus in the south of France. Neither looked like baguettes though. I must have been too close up!

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Grace January 18, 2012 at 1:18 am

What a tres, tres amusing story and I can just imagine any French people around when the ‘baguette flash’ occurs shrugging their shoulders as only the French can do so eloquently, the French equivalent to our ‘whatever!!’ Great post Annabel.

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Zara @ Backpack ME May 8, 2013 at 6:45 am

I did not see that coming when I read the post title!! :O

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