Eight Hours Over France

Monday, June 06, 2005

I woke up in the morning to someone else in the hostel who had a flight to catch yelling, "It's 8:30!!". My train left at 8:45 and my alarm hadn't gone off. And I hadn't gotten in until about 3 AM. I tried to wake up instantly, throwing myself off my bunk in a poor attempt to jump down. My feet weren't quite awake yet and didn't manage to get under me, so I basically plummeted to my backpack on the grounud below, waking up the girl sleeping below me rather abruptly as well as spilling the contents of my day bag all over. I tried hurriedly to get everything packed in, but I couldn't close my suitcase and the clock kept ticking. Eventually, 8 minutes had passed and I was still not able to close my bag (though everything else was done) and I realized I was beaten. I jumped back up to bed and slept.

I was going to just stay another night in Barcelona, but the hostel was full, so rather than hunting a new one out, I went and caught a later train. Thankfully, I was only out the 6 Euro to reserve the train. I arrived in Montpellier around 8 PM and discovered quickly that my French is nowhere near as good as I thought it was. But I found my way via tram to the hostel and checked in for a night.

Big fountain and a new fangled Arc
The next day was a whirlwind. I woke up, checked out, and met a couple guys from Red Deer with whom I explored the city. They were staying another night, but not me, so I had my massive backpack in tow. There were no lockers at the train station. We walked around and saw what appeared to be an aqueduct and some other neat sights. It's actually a cool town and again I wished I'd stayed a little longer, I would've liked to see the beach here too, since it's very Cancun-like in structure (a lagoon and a strip of beach on the ocean). We walked around from about 10 until 3 and I caught a 3:15 train to Avignon. I got there at 4:30 and booked a connection for two hours later to Nice. I'd been talked out on Marseille by too many people who'd travelled and not liked.

The new house of the pope
Anyway, with only two hours I cruised up the street from the station towards the Papal Residence, where the Pope had fled (and taken the Vatican with him) some 7 or 8 centuries ago. Hungry, I grabbed a Chicken and Cheese crepe, which, if I may say so, was exquisite. I wanted to eat on the run, but it was too messy, so I stopped at the foot of Palais de Pape and ate. A tour guide of older people came by looking at the place, but I swear that out of thirty of them, only five were listening to their guide. The rest were looking squarely at me and my meal. I gather it had been a long day for them too, and I heard people saying je faime and so on. About 15 separate people came up as I sat there eating to say Bon Apetite and make various small talk. It was quite interesting.

The Rhone river and Ponte Avignon
I finished my crepe and headed inside. For 9 Euros, you get inside and get one of those phone guides that talks about whereever you are. Mine crapped out quickly, but while interesting, it was just as well. The clock was ticking. I saw the place and was impressed, and made my way to the bridge, Pont Avignon, as heard in some song. Then, realizing I was 2 km away with only 30 mins to my train, I jogged a good portion of the way back, sweating like, well, someone that sweats a lot. I got there with five minutes to spare, and discovered, dripping sweat, that due to the strikes, my train had been cancelled. I did get upgraded to the ultra-high speed TGV which left in 30 mins, but I had to take a bus to get there and quickly. So I made it to that train stepping on just as it started to move. Whew. On to Nice.

Since yesterday, I'd wandered around Barcelona, Montepellier, Avignon, and now arrived in Nice. Talk about whirlwinds. The hostel in my guide to Nice was closed for the night, but by chance, The Pink Lady (named after the proprietor, who does, indeed, always wear pink) next door had an opening and was actually a decent place to stay. Jack, who really runs the place since he's actually multilingual, was super nice and I'm glad I got to stay there.

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