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A gal alone and on the go from Provence to Rome: Trip Report

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Mar 11th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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A gal alone and on the go from Provence to Rome: Trip Report

O.K. So I've only be on the Fodor's site for a few months and this will be my first trip report. I think it will be pretty long since I'm bad at editing. I should also say that for some reason I'm a magnet for weird people and strange but funny happenings and this trip was no exception.

Pre-trip note: I HATE TO FLY!! I mean really hate it, a white knuckle flyer, terrified of flying and not a fan of airports. But I love to travel and travel alot so what's a gal to do- take drugs, that's what. Xanax to be exact. I start taking them about a week before I leave and even then freak out all the way to the airport always informing the taxi driver of my fears , taxi drivers are quite sympathetic.

Feb. 22 an evening flight from Newark to Paris, Continental Airlines (I only fly Continental because I always fly Continental). Until 3 years ago I'd fly coach but then on a trip to Switzerland I upgraded with miles and have never looked back. Now on international flights Business-First. Fantastic! Best part- ice cream sundeas with pick your own toppings.

The flight over was fine except turbulent and I didn't sleep a wink so when I arrived at CDG at 7 am I was exhausted. Because it was early I breezed thru customs and baggage and made my way to the TGV to get my train to Avignon which was to leave at 11:24. I had bought my ticket online before the trip. It was now 8 am. For 3+ hours I sat in that cold TGV waiting area downstairs, mainly because I was too tired to walk around.

Trains here- get myself situated, 3 hour ride to Avignon. I arrive at Avignon at about 2:30. Nice big train station, very modern. I ask a police officer where the car rental agencies are. He tells me in the little houses outside, so there I go.

Now I have only rented a car once in Europe for 2 days last year in Spain where they brought it to my hotel so I was a little nervous about the whole car rental, driving in France thing. I had reserved a car in the states for 338$ for a week including unlimited milage and insurances with Europe by Car. The agency where I had to get the car was National-Cite. They were very nice and helpful, they spoke very little english and my french-yeah not so good but I tried. The agent told me my car was in spot 178 and handed me the keys. Spot 178? Is this my ride? Sweet! Silver 4 door citreon, all leather interior, built in GPS and phone and mosty important emergency SOS button. I've got myself a Batmobile.

The agent gave me directions to my hotel Cloitre Saint Louis. He said it was not far and easy to get to. Alright. Get in the car, start it up, on the road out of the train station, a voice, a womans voice in french, coming out of the GPS system. Oh my God, I have a talking car-- in french!! What's it saying? why's it talking? I don't understand french that well- this is crazy. I'm on the outer road that follows the city walls of Avignon and a french talking Batmobile trying to look at the map and directions the guy gave me, needless to say I'm a little flustered so I make a turn into one of the entances of the walled city and immediately know that this was not the right turn.

The streets are tiny and windy and not big enough for my car that won't shut up. I need to turn around, get back out on the main road. Noones around,, no people, no cars. Three point turn becomes a thirty three point turn and this car had sensors on the bumpers so every time I moved it beeped. Beeped and talked, beeped and talked. My Batmobile had turned into Shitty Shitty Bang Bang. Wait, I see two ladies, very well dressed older ladies. I fumble for the window button and wave my map out the window. "Pardon, Pardon" they approach "Parlez vous Englais" one says a little, I say merci. I explain I'm lost, I can't find my hotel can they give me directions please. The one looks at her friend says something in french her friend says oui and they each open a door to the car and get in. So I've been in Avignon for under an hour and there are two 60 year old french women sitting in my car and I'm thinking how do these things always happen to me.

more later
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Mar 11th, 2006, 06:46 PM
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This is a great start!
I know the feeling about getting away from the car rental place at the Avignon TGV and not really knowing how the features on the car work.
Those ladies sound really helpful.
I'm sure things are going to improve.
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Mar 11th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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A cliff hanger trip report laartista, continue please...
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Mar 11th, 2006, 06:54 PM
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That is hilarious laartista (though I am sure less funny at the time...),

keep the trip report coming!

Cheers
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Mar 11th, 2006, 06:55 PM
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Hehehehe...keep it up!
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Mar 11th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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I love this!! More please!

Love the xanax part of the story LOL
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Mar 11th, 2006, 07:41 PM
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How funny! Can just see you in your talking car trying to look at your map and find your hotel! You certainly have more courage than I do. But I must say that the French must have a habit of getting in cars with strangers - we had the same thing happen in Vence - lost and looking for our hotel - stopped by side of road and asked two women for directions. One of them got in the car with us (two couples) and took us to our hotel! We were all shocked! Could not believe that anyone would get in a car with strangers! Would never happen in U.S. We were really thankful, however, and appreciated our good samaritan!



How funny! Can just see you in your talking car trying to look at your map and find your hotel! You certainly have more courage than I do. But I must say that the French must have a habit of getting in cars with strangers - we had the same thing happen in Vence - lost and looking for our hotel - stopped by side of road and asked two women for directions. One of them got in the car with us (two couples) and took us to our hotel! We were all shocked! Could not believe that anyone would get in a car with strangers! Would never happen in U.S. We were really thankful, however, and appreciated our good samaritan!



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Mar 11th, 2006, 07:42 PM
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Sorry - when I copied my post from the US to Europe board, it posted twice!
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:07 PM
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laartista: This is priceless! Can't wait for the next installment.
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:13 PM
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I love this! It reminds me of an old episode of Magnum PI where Magnum is driving a car that keeps talking to him (back when cars first started doing that), mostly saying "Your door is ajar." He finally gets out, opens the hood and rips out the wires that hook up the speaker. Always one of my favorite episodes!
Looking forward to more.
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Mar 11th, 2006, 09:04 PM
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Wow. I LOVE that they got in the car with you! Can't wait to hear the rest.
Thanks for sharing!
dina
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Mar 11th, 2006, 09:34 PM
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Utterly amazing... the two french women of a certain age get into the Batmobile now turned SSBB car.

And all this with still no sleep.

I am dying, this is great, you are very brave.
More, merci, more!
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Mar 11th, 2006, 09:44 PM
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A definite candidate for the Best Trip Report- Chapter One...
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Mar 11th, 2006, 10:00 PM
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Great story! So, how do you say "I'm lost" in French?
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Mar 11th, 2006, 10:03 PM
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This is going to be good. Love driving around Avignon; hate driving in it.
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Mar 11th, 2006, 10:05 PM
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Je suis perdue...

I am lost....
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Mar 12th, 2006, 05:19 AM
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Hey, thanks all. One thing as I go on. AS long as there is no serious bodily injury involved, when mishaps or snags or weird things happen on vacation it's always really funny to me, plus these things always make for the best stories.

BLH-yeah, I'd be curious to know if it is a common practice in France to just get in a strangers car and without asking. Anyhoo, onward....

So there I am in some deserted back street of Avignon(which is not a scary place) with the 2 ladies in my car I literally chuckled outloud and looked at the one in the front seat and said Ca Va? She said good we take you, we'll go with you to your hotel. I'm like really? cool o.k.

One observation of which I have many. Ever notice when your travelling and you ask someone in their language if they speak english and they answer with a little, un peu or un po or whatever, it really means they are pretty much fluent. When I say a little it means I know 10 words.

So, we go. Right, right left, right she says pointing out the high schools of all things. She says there are 4 in Avignon. Good to know. We get to the gated parking lot behind the hotel which is open. She says in there you park- there is your hotel. So like any good new yorker I offer her and her friend cab fare to get back to where they were, it seemed far. she was quite amused by this and said no that's not necessary we like to walk. Au revoir.

As I unpack the car I realize that no good deed goes unpunished because the lady in the front had left her sunglasses. I run out to the street but they were gone. I gave them to the guy at the front desk in case she came looking for them.

O.K. first hotel review. The Cloitre Saint Louis. At 80 Euro a night and a great location acn't be beat. would I stay there for 150 Euro a night? No. Checkin was smooth I used venere to reserve, I swear by them. Fabrice at the front desk ( you know how in the Tuscan Sun when she asks what his name is and he says Marcello she says of course it is, Fabrice, of course it is) is very helpful, everyday with my direction questions. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful with an awesome courtyard. The rooms, well I stayed in the old side. It was very sparten, late 80's decor, bed was huge but maybe 3" thick with pillows the size of m & m's. Toilet in it's own little and I mean little closet on the other side of the room which was actually quite large.
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Mar 12th, 2006, 06:39 AM
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Hi laartista, I am loving your trip report and your sense of humor. And agree, it is the aggrevations that make us chuckle later. Also agree about Europeans, they always respond they speak very little English and than generally make us Americans sound like we need to study up on our own language, LOL.
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Mar 12th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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Now I never unpack when I first check in to a hotel plus I'm so tired that if I stay in the room long I'll never leave. I do however make my mandatoty arrival phone calls. I have this neurotic jewish mother ( who was actually baptised as a child I recently found out-but that's another story-which technically makes me half catholic I guess)who will imagine you lying in a ditch somewhere if you don't check in. Did I mention I just turned 40. Anyway with my trusty MCI calling card(shameless plug) I call and then head out.

First stop is a friendly game of charades with the local pharmacist. I forgot my eye makeup remover and cotton balls. 15 euro later I take a stroll down the Rue de la Republique to the square with the carousel. So first impression of Avignon is cute, nice, no great shakes. An opinion that really doesn't change much over the coming days. But, just my opinion. I will say I was suprised at how edgy the population seemed to be. Alot of young people, super funky, reminded me of being in the village in NYC.

I'm STARVING!! I haven't eaten since my 4 course dinner on the plane. I opted to skip breakfast because I was still full from the veal chop at dinner which was actually quite delicious. Where to eat? I'm not great with picking places to eat at when away, plus I wanted something not too heavy. I stop in a cafe on the way toward the hotel, they have bruchetta type pizza things. I have one with olives(hey, I'm in Provence) and 3 ,yes 3 cafes. I'm a triple shot Starbucks girl. Trying to stay awake here. Can't sleep yet, I'll be screwed with jet lag.

I leave the cafe, oooh an Irish bar, on the corner. Can't ever go wrong with an Irish bar. Guarenteed English speaking cute bartenders. I stop in for a few beers and a chat with the barman and then head back to my room. It's 7:30 pm. I need zzz's.

Back at casa Saint Louis I decide to unpack, that is until I open the closet to find a humoungi can of Raid. Why's that in there? Are there bugs? I hate bugs! Except spiders-they are good luck, I'm super superstitious (my mother's Hungarian). Yeah, No! No clothes in the bug closet, I will live out of the suitcase.

I settle in, take in 1/2 hour of French Deal or no Deal with the Spanish soap opera music they play in the background to tug at your heartstrings as the woman chooses her box. Oh, it's 250,000 euro, Ouch! Her eyes well up with tears as do mine and I doze off.
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Mar 12th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Hi,
This is a fun report. I can't wait to read the rest.
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