Sunday, October 26, 2008
Escape from France or How We Put One Over on SNCF
Joe and I have been traveling since 9:30 this morning and are on our third train of the day, heading along the northern coast of Italy and into Genoa. Just now, the conductor checked our train tickets – a first today.
We lumbered into Marseille last night around 9:30 pm and went directly to our hotel (very nice – a great boutique hotel I got very cheap and last minute through booking.com).
We hoped to make it down to the Vieux Porte and have ourselves some bouillabaisse but we were thwarted by the late hour and the prices (59 Euros per person!). Instead, we returned to our ultra comfy room with its queen-sized bed (luxury!) and snacked on fruit and nuts, resisting the over-priced items in the mini-bar. We took care to turn back the time on our cell phones as Daylight Savings Time was ending in the European Union. Our plan was to get a good night’s sleep and make it to the train station to catch the 8:37 am train to Ventimiglia and then go on from there to Genoa, arriving mid-afternoon. Ah, the best laid plans…
The alarm went off at 6:30 am and I thought it seemed very light out for that time of the morning. An hour later I discovered that AT&T had also turned back the time on my cell so it was an hour later than we thought. No time to make the 8:37 train. There was a train at 9:37 but…. oy … it was a TGV. We decided to take a chance and see if we could get a reservation. We cabbed it to the train station and got there at 9-ish only to discover a huge line of people waiting to make reservations. And there was only one ticket window open. Great. I stood in line for about 20 minutes, sandwiched between two people reeking of garlic (I imagine I don’t smell so great, myself) in a train station that reeks of piss. Piss and garlic. Great combo when all you’ve had is a couple cups of coffee and a sandwich in the last 24 hours.
Realizing I’ve got no chance of getting a reservation before the train pulls out, I ducked out of line, grabbed Joe, and we headed for the train. Screw the reservation, we’d take our chance on the train. What’s the worst they could do? Put us off at the next stop?
We found a couple of empty seats in the first class car and rehearsed our story. We lost our reservation. No… we forgot to get one. No… we didn’t know we were supposed to have a reservation. Joe promptly went to sleep, confident that his wife, with her shaky French, could sweet-talk the conductor. The conductor who never came. Yep, I waited nervously for three hours rehearsing my speech for a conductor who never checked our tickets. Sweet!
I figure that between this and the free Metro ride in Paris, we’re up 14 or 15 Euros. That'll get us another good bottle.