Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Marseille to Paris

"I can't believe we're here," LK said last night as we had a drink in Paris.

This was not a "I can't believe how wonderful Paris is and how great it is that we are here." Nope, this was a no-frills, brown-bag, "I can't believe we somehow ended up getting to Paris." And I shared her feelings.

We began the day leaving the ship at the Port of Marseille. We got off around 9:00am and had train tickets to Paris for a 12:30 train. We were both wondering how we could kill 3+ hours while simultaneously having to drag all our luggage around with us. We shouldn't have worried.

Mostly because all our luggage wasn't there to be dragged around. One of our bags - black with a pink ribbon on the handle - had gone missing, and as the baggage area emptied out one lonely bag remained. It wasn't ours, but it was black and it did have a pink tag on it. No one needed Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Mike and Connie from North Palm Beach had grabbed our bag instead of theirs.

Fortunately, they had indicated on their luggage tag that they were going to a hotel. Unfortunately, that hotel was in Avignon, more than an hour away. I can spare you the details. The fantastic woman running the baggage area contacted their hotel; when they arrived they were told they now had the joy of paying a round-trip fare back to Marseille in order to swap bags.

So our morning here was spent sitting around on the benches of the luggage collection area. During that time, we met several lovely couples who arrived to board the ship we had just left. Being all bubbly and excited to be starting the cruise, they chatted as if we were old friends. It passed the time.

Our bag finally arrived and we took a taxi to the train station with about 40 minutes to spare. Of course the elevators weren't working so we had to drag five suitcases weighing almost 100 pounds up some steep steps (did I mention we're travelling light this trip?).

Anyhow, I had a sheet that had the reference number for our train ticket purchase, and I knew I had to put it into the kiosk to get the physical tickets. LK suggested we drop the bags in one place and she would wait while I went down to attend to it. So I left her in front of the McDonalds (yes, they really are everywhere).

Only it turned out that the number I had wasn't the one I needed to get the tickets. There was another code, and I hadn't printed that out. I considered going to the ticket windows, but the lines were stretching forever and there was no way I was going to get there before the train left.

Looking at the clock which was now giving us less than half an hour, I hurried back to LK, pulled out the computer and prayed I could find an Internet connection so I could retrieve the code. No luck on the first few stabs. Then LK suggested that if anyone was going to have free Internet it would be McDonalds, which is where we were standing. Bingo.

Armed with the new code, I hustled back to the kiosk. 25 minutes left. Punched in the code, and the computer gave me this message: "It appears these tickets have been printed and collected. If you believe this is an error, please see one of our consultants." You know, the ones at the end of the 40-minute lines.

So I decided I would have to buy new tickets and sort out a refund later. Only all the trains to Paris were booked full for the rest of the day.

I went back to LK and suggested that we were stuffed. With 20 minutes left, we may as well consider heading to the airport. She said I should at least try the ticket agents in case they could get us on a later train.

After an information booth attendant who steadfastly refused to speak English, I stood in the line where I calculated it would be more than an hour before I could speak to anyone. I decided that since we would miss the train, anyhow, I may as well go have a cup of coffee first.

Passing the kiosks on the way back, I thought I may as well try to get our tickets one more time. And this time, of course, the computer thought the code was perfect, printed out our tickets and wished me a Bon Voyage. I smiled broadly - until I looked at the clock and realized we had about 10 minutes to find the right track and get on the train.

I doubt that anyone expected a sequel to last year's movie, "Run Fatboy Run", but the folks at the Marseille train station saw it. And, bon chance!, the track was close to where LK was guarding the luggage.

We actually had two or three spare minutes before the train took off.

So last night we sat outside, had a cocktail, and both of us really meant it when we said we couldn't believe we were in Paris. This morning we fly to the US.

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