Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Excerpt: Trying to get to Switzerland

Ah, a comedy of errors! Our day started out well enough. We walked to the post office twice to mail boxes of goodies home. You can mail about 14 pounds of stuff in an XL box for 41 euros (expensive, I know but if it doesn't fit in your suitcase, it doesn't fit!) We walked around a bit and got a late breakfast at a little cafe off the beaten path. Oddly enough, a customer walked in with his little dog, who proceeded to sniff out any crumbs on the floor. I remember our tour guide saying that there were 3 million dogs in this city of 6 million people. They are allowed just about anywhere -- cafes, stores, railroad stations, etc. That's a strange feeling for someone used to the "No dogs" policy of the U.S.A.

After eating and wandering around for some last minute photos, we headed to the hotel, figuring to pack and get to the train station early to eat a little lunch before we boarded. It was just one stop up on the metro from one of our nearby stops, so we decided we would brave the metro with our luggage. Well, Paris (and most of Europe) is not friendly to disabled people, so there are few escalators or elevators to help you up and down with luggage. So, bonk, bonk, bonk ... we went down a flight of stairs and bonk, bonk, bonk up the stairs to the platform. We didn't have to wait long. The Metro stopped at our stop (Bastille) and headed towards Gare de Lyon, where our train was. Now, as we got on, I heard an announcement in French about the Gare, but it was noisy, and I figured it was "next stop, Gare de Lyon." Oh, no! It was "The stop for Gare de Lyon is closed for improvements today." We sailed right past it! So we hopped off on the next stop, crossed the tracks (bonk, bonk, bonk up, then bonk bonk bonk down). You know what? It was still closed! (LOL) so we ended back at the Bastille. I stopped at the info booth and asked the lady where we could catch a taxi. After much gesturing, she indicated a corner near the metro stop. So bonk, bonk, bonk, up stairs again.

The taxi stop was just a few yards away, so we sat and complained about the calluses on our hands. After a few minutes, a taxi came and took us to the Gare, which was really within walking distance, but it was nice to have a ride. (4 euros). We went in and found a place to sit and have a soda. I also ordered something to eat. After awhile, I looked for a bathroom, which was about as far away as it could be. It cost 1/2 Euro to use. I also did a little last minute shopping and bought something to eat on the train.

The train station is open air and there were a few pigeons flying or walking around. Some little boy dropped a roll on the floor, and that almost started a fight.

Anyway, we were able to get on the right train (and we had to lift our own luggage). We used my cable lock to lock our suitcases together in the compartment between cars, but later we saw that the train wasn’t that full, so we brought them into the car with us and sat them on some empty seats.

An older lady sat across from us who was headed to Bern to visit family. She worked in an international business and spoke English, French and German. She was a fount of knowledge, too. She told us that Switzerland was her favorite place to go … relaxing and with great scenery. Most of our trip was spent looking out the windows and trying to get decent shots of the scenery. After such a harrowing start to the trip, it ended up pretty relaxing.

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