Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 52: Easyjet Should Change Their Name

Biking around the southern coast of Lac Léman was a physical and mental challenge. I never considered how much more difficult biking with a pack would be. Consider biking 100 km with a 3rd grader on your back (an American third grader).

Thankfully I had a CS host to look forward to in Geneva. When I got to Alain's apartment I was dead tired but I needed to find a bike lock for Ioan's bike before the bike shops closed. The bike lock must have fallen out of the basket during my branch induced spill. Thankfully Alain knew a place nearby. The store's steel gates were not welcoming. Bummer. Although Migros, the Swiss mega-corp sells everything under the sun, bike locks must be a shady item. I suppose I will be sending Ioan money VIA PayPal to set things right. Staying with Alain was a much needed moment of calm amongst the maelstrom of my life.

Alain is the first person over the age of 30 that I have stayed with. In fact, he's about twice that. CouchSurfing allows me to communicate with many types of people and I embrace that by intentionally seeking out new types. Staying with him was the closest that I've felt to home while traveling. He made my life very easy for my brief stay. It was unfortunate that I had a flight at 6:35 AM, which meant I had to be up at 3:45 AM. We didn't have long to talk but we made the best of our brief time together. Our conversations ran the gambit – his experiences being a CS host, his current job situation, and stories about hitchhiking across America in the 60's. Every topic was delivered in a unique and genuine warmth that I rarely encounter but thoroughly enjoyed.

Given the quality of the conversation, food, and sleep, I cannot decide what part of staying at Alain's I enjoyed most. He treated me to a classic raclette dinner. Melted raclette cheese with small potatoes and pickles. Mmmm! Seeing his old school cheese melter was cool but I enjoyed eating the 'cheeses of its labor' more! By some luck, he had a bottle of rather expensive wine open and was kind enough to share it with me. It certainly completed the meal.

Eat raclette every chance you get.

After dinner I treated myself to a much needed shower. 100 km of biking and trekking with a full pack makes for a smelly Ross. Emerging from the shower, I felt a few pounds lighter. It was the perfect segue before bed after a long day. Time to explore dreamland; thankfully less intensive than biking 100 km.

Getting up this morning was rough. Camping in the snow last night made sleeping inside a treat. Because of my early flight I only slept for four hours but my body made the most of every minute. I was up at 3:50. As I was saying goodbye to Alain my body was saying "I wish I wasn't leaving, go back to sleep." Having a bike to return and a plane to catch – grudgingly I schlepped my pack onto my back and headed out the door.

Time and I are usually chill; this morning was an exception. Before I got on the train to go to the airport I needed to swing by Ioan's apartment to drop off his bike. My whole body protested and knees felt like they were going to explode as I pedaled. After stashing his bike in his building's basement I walked twenty five minutes to the train station. On my way it was apparent that I was going to miss the train but I wasn't worried because I thought I left enough time. Every step towards the train station burned as my boots rubbed on my blisters. Nonetheless, I arrived, bought a ticket, and hopped on the next train for a brief ride to the airport.

Due to lack of sleep, the four minute train ride was surreal. Getting off the train, I had a bad feeling. I was pretty sure I was at the right place but there was no airport in sight, only a small snowy platform. It didn't look like the train stop for an airport. I still had a bunch of time before my flight so I wasn't too worried so I headed towards some large buildings. After asking, I learned that I was at the airport but at the wrong terminal. I needed to go to the main terminal, about a 20 minute walk. I set off in a hurry – my window for check in closing. Finally I began seeing signs for flight check in. What a relief! The automatic doors parted and I entered into the Geneva Airport. Immediately I headed towards the EasyJet signs with about 10 minutes to spare.

At the check-in kiosk there were no flights to Nice. Uh oh. Stressed and confused I inquired to an employee, who told me that I was still in the wrong place. I needed to go to the other side of the airport for France-bound flights. Off I ran. Running. Rubbing. Running. Rubbing. My pack bounced up and down as I booked it towards the correct check-in.

Upon finding the correct kiosks I promptly tapped the language button for English, "No flights currently available for check-in." Frantic, I asked the employees who were checking in luggage. "Sorry," she said "check-in for the flight ended three minutes ago." My irate "What the hell does that mean? I need to get on this plane," was countered by her "Sorry, sir. You can change your ticket for 80 francs over there."

Excuse my French, but I feel boned. I missed the check in for my flight by 3 minutes. I was awestruck standing at the check in when they told me that there was no way that I could get on the plane. Upset, I showed them the boarding pass that I got online that clearly said that check-in closes at 6:05. When I realized it said that the gate closes at 6:05 I felt like an idiot. I should have left more time because I was so clueless about where to go. Not only do I rarely fly, but I was in an unfamiliar airport in an unfamiliar city.

After missing my flight, my only option was to pay 80 francs and change my ticket to a flight leaving at 8 pm. I made the best of the 17 hour wait by catching up on blog entries. I definitely have enough work to keep me busy until 8.

Small bird, big chirp – flitting around in the airport's cafe.

At least I can look really authentic waiting in the airport. Pack astray, hat slung over my eyes, asleep on a bench in a hodgepodge of my belongings.

A little tired, can you tell?

Fast forward a few hours and it was 7:25, time for my flight. I joined the writing mass waiting to board the plane. As 7:30 rolled around a voice crackled over the loud speaker, "The 7:25 flight to Nice is delayed and will be leaving at 9:20." Ugh. Two more hours – just what I needed.

Boarding insanity.
At 9:25 we finally boarded a bus that took us to the plane.
I've never boarded a plane from the tarmac before.
The plane was small and didn't offer free food.

Arriving safely in Nice was a relief. After three long days, I was nearly where I needed to be. All I had to do now was find my host's house. I thought his directions were excellent. He told me which busses to take and even included maps of where I needed to go. Oddly, he didn't include an address or phone number. I figured he was a private sort of dude. As long as I could get to his house everything would be ok!

As I started following his directions, I realized that there was some key information missing. I caught the bus from the airport no problem. I asked some folks on the bus about the stop I was looking for, Gare Routere. They said it was the last stop. Needless to say, the bus stopped three stops from Gare Routere and I had no idea how to get there. Welcome to the tip of the iceberg.

Thankfully, a nice man I bought a kebab from pointed me in the right direction. I took the tram and I was soon at Gare Routere. I asked around s'more and found the correct bus stop. I waited with a handful of other folks. Around 1:00 AM the bus came. I knew I was on the right bus but I didn't know if it was headed in the right direction or where to get off. Luckily I took pictures of the maps Yves sent me and I asked the bus driver if it was headed to the monastery. He replied in French. Ugh.

So I sat, not knowing where I was going. Eventually the bus stopped and he said that it was the end of the line and the monastery was just up a nearby street. Sweet! I donned my pack and headed in the direction he indicated. Up a series of stone steps. Lots of stone steps. I reached a street which I thought was the one my host lived off of. After walking down the hill and back up, it proved otherwise.

It was 2 AM and there was no one around to ask for help. By some miracle a motorcycle dropped someone off a few feet away from where I was. "Pardon, can you help me?" I showed him the map and he seemed confident of where I needed to go. As he was giving me directions he would say, go right at the Monoprix, while pointing with his left hand. Hardly confident, I thanked him and set off. Sure enough, his directions were good and I found my host's house. Now I know what desert nomads felt like when they found an oasis. Salvation! Sleep!

Finally where I could get some rest, I looked at the building's intercom. There were two panels and I found my host's name on the right hand one. A sheet of plexiglass had been bolted over the names, keeping me from pressing the buttons. It said something in French at the top but I was clueless. Ugh! So close and I couldn't even get inside. I didn't have his phone number so this was my only way to contact him. I felt like I was in Myst.

Imagine this is at night. The panel on the right has the plexi.
Imagine this is at night. Down the steps to get some sleep.

Eventually I succumbed to the notion that I would be spending another night in my tent. It didn't seem so bad; at least Nice was warmer. Defeated, I walked down a flight of steps to the left of his building, looking for a spot to sleep. When I saw another intercom panel I was elated. Sure enough there wasn't any plexi on this one and I triumphantly pushed the button next to his name. It was 2:30 AM and I expected him to be asleep. A voice came over the speaker, "Could it be?" The gate made the sweetest sound as it buzzed open.

It had been a long day.

Au revoir!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails