Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Getting From One Place to Another (sorry, few pictures)

November 11

Breakfast at the B&B was fresh preserves with brioche. I also had a big cup of Lipton hot tea. I didn't understand at first that the bowls on the table were for drinking coffee and tea from, but caught on when I saw the Belgian woman drink coffee from hers. They were the size and shape of cereal bowls.

Check-out did come with one surprise - cash only! You cannot imagine my relief that I had enough money with me to pay the bill. I don't know what I would have done if I was short - leave my stuff there and go in search of an ATM, I suppose. But that meant I had very little cash for the rest of my day.

I left Saint Antonin Noble Val around 10 AM and had to be at the train station by 12:48 for my train to Nice. I couldn't get the GPS to understand Gare Matabiau, so I pushed the "home" button and hoped for the best. At least it got me to Toulouse - where I drove around and around and around. The "home" button on the GPS was actually programmed to take me to someone's home, not the car's "home." I got to the mystery house and then just started driving around the city. There were some signs pointing to the train station which I passed on my way to the mystery house, so I tried to backtrack and find a sign. But before I could return the car, I had to fill the tank.

Finding a gas station was much more difficult than I anticipated. I passed the train station once while looking for a gas station, so I had some relief that it, at least, could be found. The only gas stations I had seen were when I first exiting the highway. I found the highway again, but no gas stations. I'm so used to LA where there is a gas station just about every few blocks. Time was ticking down. Despite giving myself about 1.5 hours of "getting lost" time, it was quickly running out on me. I was sure I was going to miss my train. There were some tears. But I figured, worst case would be that I rented the car another day and drove to Nice instead of taking the train.

I finally found a gas station and filled the car, 1/2 tank for 40 Euros, and by then I had lost my bearings on the train station. I drove around and around and around with no sign of the train station. Worried I would need to fill the tank again if I just kept driving around, I finally hit the "home" button on the GPS again, knowing at least it got me near a sign for the train station. Turns out I had wandered nearly 20 kilometers away from the train station on my search for petrol. I saw a sign and followed it, finally driving toward the station with only 10 minutes left to catch my train. It was there. I could see it. I needed to just turn left and go about 100 yards and I could return the car. Unfortunately, I could only turn right. I had to go around the block again, which wasn't really just a block and was not a fast trip, and keep my fingers crossed that if I went up one block from where I tried to enter the parking before, I would be able to.

Every red light, every car changing lanes without signaling, every pedestrian trying to sneak through against a light, they were all working against me. I kept going over the car return process in my head. "Just bill me! I can't stop and talk about this. Here are the keys!" I finally got to the garage entrance, at the same time as another car. I cut the other car off just past the entry gates - I didn't have time to be polite or worry about irritating a driver I would absolutely never encounter again in my life. I went as fast as I could up the ramp to the third floor and found the Enterprise parking. I didn't do the best job of parking and hurried out of my car. Naturally, the Enterprise spots were the farthest from the station and the elevator.

With luggage in tow, I got to the elevators and one of the two elevators was out of service. Time was ticking down. I rode the one working elevator down, dreading that someone would call the elevator to another floor. Finally I made it to ground level and I couldn't find the entrance to the building. Another wrong turn, this time on foot. I finally got inside and found the Enterprise desk and they were closed for a bank holiday today - Armistice Day. I dropped my key through the slot for returning keys and hurried to the platforms. I needed platform 6, but where was it? With the bank holiday and my keys in the overnight slot, switching to a rental car was no longer an option. I had to find my train. Down an escalator. Platform 2, 3, 4, 5... 6! Up a flight of stairs - with a suitcase. There's the train. Get on board. I couldn't lift my suitcase onto the train, but a young woman trying to have last goodbye kisses with her boyfriend on the platform helped me so I would get out of her way. I stepped into the car, the closest one I could find, and almost immediately the car door closed. I had made it by seconds. I then asked other people near the door if I was, in fact, on the train to Nice. Good news, I was.

On the way to Nice, the train stopped for about 40 minutes, on the tracks, in the countryside, requiring some maintenance. In Montpellier the train stopped at the station and I swear the conductor announced we would be there for another 50 minutes, but then the doors were closed and we...just sat there. But not for long. After all I went through to catch this train, it was running very late at all the subsequent stops. Just not at my stop. At least I had spent the extra 8 Euros for a first class ticket, so I was comfortable. And thank goodness for the Evian I bought in Andorra and the granola I packed for the plane.

The train arrived at the station in Nice at around 9 PM. I headed to the information desk…where they were out of maps. The reluctant man who worked there gave me a map and apparently didn't have maps for the other ten people asking for them. I was just lucky, and perhaps looked the most desperate. I figured out the general direction I needed to head, and set out. On foot.

I must have looked pretty rough, because a girl who was biking (at night) saw me and offered her assistance in finding my hotel.  She walked her bike, leading me all the way to my hotel. Elodie. She was the highlight of my day and started me off having a friendly experience in Nice.

My hotel, however, was not exactly up to par. The room was small and warm, which I like, but there was a terrible smell in the hallways and elevator. They didn't have room service, or night food service at the restaurant, so I went without food. They also didn't allow food in the rooms, so I was forced to only eat things which I could finish while walking, or eat at a restaurant. The TV wasn't adjusted properly and the English channels were all news - BBC, CNN, Bloomberg. At least they had some English channels. There was no bath, but there was a shower and the water was hot.

That's the whole room.

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