Friday, July 13, 2012
We wake at 6:45am. It is cloudy with a light mist.
Today it will be all about the trains. Here is our schedule:
- 7:15am – Sarlat to Bordeaux (2 hours, 1 hour wait)
- 10:52am – Bordeaux to Toulouse (2 hours, 1 hour wait)
- 1:51pm – Toulouse to Carcassonne (2 hours, 2 hour wait)
- 4:58pm – Carcassonne to Lezingan-Corbieres (20 minutes)
We need to pick up the car before 7pm so everything needs to be on time. Will we get another purple car?
Trains can be both a relaxing and a nerve-racking experience. Relaxing in that once you have your seat, you just watch the countryside go by. Nerve-racking in that you need to fight for your seat. Here is how it goes:
- The train terminals are basically chaotic – hoards of people stare at large overhead signs to see what gate their train will be at.
- Once the gate is posted, everyone (adults, children, dogs, and luggage) make a dash for the stairs that lead to the gate.
- Next there is a dash from the gate to the train car.
- Followed by a desperate search for luggage space.
- Lastly there is the search for your seat. This would seem to be simple enough, except for the fact that not everyone has reserved seats. For those without reserved seat, you find a seat, sit in it, and hope that no one has reserved it. For those with reserved seats, you need to ask whoever is sitting in your seat to move. This is not always a polite conversation.
Of course, everyone wants a window seat – the scenery is really lovely! As we moved further and further into the south of France, the skies turn bluer and the fields more golden with wheat and sunflowers. For me, the time on the train is when I write my blog.
We got lucky – all of our trains were on time! We spent a couple of hours in Carcassonne between trains. We dropped off all our luggage at a local hotel and walked up and down the main street of the new part of the city; the old castle was too far away for a two-hour stop. The weather was sunny and hot – it felt good to shed our rain coats. This part of Carcassonne is all commerce – stores and shops where the locals go. We found the town square and sat down at a table in the shade. We split a crepe of banana and nutella and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
At 5pm we were back on the train for the 20-minute ride to Lezignan-Corbieres. We were lucky again – we got a taxi at the train station! In 10 minutes we were delivered to a gas station. In the store, there is a small Avis car rental counter. The only person there was a young French woman who was taking care of people buying gas. When my DH showed her the car rental agreement, she became agitated. She shoke her head and made the motion of driving a car – not only did she not speak English, she was telling us that there was no car. She motioned that we should go away.
All day, luck was with us just to let us down at the time we needed it the most! My DH insisted she call the number at the bottom of the car rental contract. She did. A frantic French conversion took place. The phone was handled to my DH who explained, “Yes, we confirmed the car reservation last night.” The phone went back to the young lady with blond hair. Another frantic conversation in French. In the end, we had our car — an hour later. You see, our young French lady not only handles the car rental, but the gas pumps, the store, and something similar to FedEx. Between customers, she handled our transaction. It took awhile. Our car is a Renault Twingo again — this one is silver.
We arrived at our new home for the next seven night without too much of a problem. To get here we drove through vineyards on a single lane road line with Plane Trees (tall and straight with white bark and puffs of dusty green leaves) . When we entered the French house we rented in a quaint French villiage of Castelnau d’Aude, we were a bit surprised. No, we were shocked. We were not ready for French this rustic.
Within an hour of our arrival, our neighbor Barry paid us a visit. He is a tall British gentleman who watches over the house for the owner in Oakland, CA. He was a nice, friendly guy in his early sixties. He and his partner, Bridget, moved here 12 years ago. He gave us a run-through the house, made some suggestions regarding local restaurants for dinner, and offered his services during our stay. Very helpful!
We were tired, but hungry. We decided to go to one of the restaurants Barry suggested but could not find it. Worst than that, we could not find a parking space even if we did find the restaurant. In these villages, streets are narrow and parking just anywhere seemed….wrong! We decide to make due with the food provided by our host back at the house – bread, cheese, pate, and wine. We would explore the village tomorrow after a good night sleep.
The bed was comfortable and the street very quiet. My DH fell asleep immediately and I worked on the blog until midnight – the WiFi connection is very slow here. My DH earned his rest, today was probably the most stressful day so far on our European adventure. We have seven nights in the country, surrounded by vineyards, in a house that looks like it was decorated via a garage sale. But, I can’t help to think the once we learn our way around a bit, get into a schedule, it will become a welcome place at the end of the day.
Quote of the day: “Keep your fingers crossed.” – DH in regard to the fact that we needed to catch four trains today.