I am here at my AirBnB in Montpellier after traveling for what seemed like approximately 176 hours straight* and FINally connected to the internet too.
I did not get to my destination town til 5pm my time, so by the time I got settled into my place (after being met by my host’s brother with a car [woo!] at the station – thank heaven, because it was agonizing to go more than 10 feet at a time with all my luggage – I had about 80 pounds of stuff ranging from all my computer equipment for work to clothes to basic tools to a few office supplies to kitchen items, PLUS the poor cat in her soft carrier) and walked into the city center, it was just hitting closing time for all the shops.
So I was not able to get a working SIM for my phone, thus no ability to get online there, and I could NOT get connected to the internet at my place. The password is — and I say this with great consideration — the MOST confusing password I’ve yet encountered in this country. It’s four words, separated by dashes AND spaces. The ‘words’ bit is nice, though they are in French, but it’s better than a slew of random characters, but there are three different kinds of possible dashes, only two of which are readily accessible on a phone (the N dash is not, for those of you playing at home), and it turns out (now that I finally hacked successfully into my wifi this morning) that you use the dashes (regular small ones) but NOT the shown spaces. Arg.
Internet fails are always pretty terrible, because unless one also has a working phone, the host who would potentially be able to help troubleshoot is out of reach too. It briefly crossed my mind to walk back to the train station to use their wifi and send up the help flag, but that idea was quickly discarded as impractical: I had energy left for only one more grand effort of some kind, and ‘internet access’ is not on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At least, not on a non-work night, it’s not.
Anyway, I tried four different times to get connected, and then gave up in favor of trying to hustle off to the cellular store. And as previously noted, I did not make it whilst they were open. By 7pm, storefront security grates were being yanked crashingly to the ground as I passed by, it was raining and I was exhausted, so it was all I could manage to toddle to the grocery store for a few essentials for me and the cat, then collapse in bed after wolfing down a microwave meal.
I am in a ground floor apartment (sure, NOW that I’m sans bike and have nothing to wrestle acrobatically up narrow stone staircases, I’m assigned a ground floor apartment) and yesterday was Saturday night, so it was insanely loud until about 3am, and I was awakened this morning but what I think were loudspeaker speeches at a protest nearby (there are a lot of labor strikes going on right now) and seemingly 7 items at the grocery yesterday cost me 50 Euro, so I’m having a bit of a ‘what have I done?’ moment, but it’ll pass.
Despite my heavy luggage, I have made it here missing a significant number of clothing essentials — I am 99% certain the wished-for items (extra socks, my normal ‘hanging around the house’ kit of yoga pants and boxers and soft tees) are located in my storage unit, but that’s in Lyon, 3 hours away by car. I may move up my plans to go collect that stuff – my bike is there too, and I’d like to get my hands on that.
The cat was an absolute angel the entire trip – I could not in my wildest fantasies have imagined her being so good. She only had to wee once (poor lil’ mite), and no noise after the first ten minutes in the car leaving Asheville for the Charlotte airport. Everyone along the line was very interested in her — she had to come out of the carrier and be held each trip thru security, and any nearby guards wanted to meet and pet her, and she was SWAMPED with curious children the entire way… now we’re in a big and strange smelling place with mopeds that scream by, echoing off the tall narrow walls of this tiny street, so she has had a rather harrowing time of it, and is currently secreted in a tiny open space where the upstairs mattress doesn’t quite meet the wall. Recovering!
All in all, miserably burdensome luggage aside (thanks UPS, for being too expensive for me to ship anything!) travel went remarkably smoothly. Turbulence was minimal; in practically any place that luggage carts could be used for more than a few minutes they were found on offer for free (not in the Charlotte airport, of course, but after that); my long-haul seatmate was a personable, pretty German girl who was skinny and didn’t overflow into my area and didn’t emit any unpleasant aromas; planes arrived early (!), security lines were small (and it was good I went through them as early as I did at JFK, as they claim there’s no Pre-Check for international departures, but I’m quite certain I’ve been able to use it on prior trips to Mexico); and a random kindly Frenchwoman swooped in to grab the other end of my ‘body bag’ duffel to assist me up the train stairs to my departure platform after I was unable to immediately located the lift. (She wasn’t even goign to my train! How stinkin’ nice is that??)
True, the American agent at CLT claimed his computer was showing no pet was allowed on my connecting flights, but Iberia (the one who really counted for this purpose) had it correct in their system, as I had confirmed they did a few weeks prior. And they also made me pay the pet fee a second time, which they should not have and I will look into, and I don’t think my knees could have endured being folded up for a minute longer. But still! Not a bad time of getting 4,500 miles/7,100 km away. And I almost cried when AirBnB host Al, (who I was only able to contact intermittently via What’s App when I walked into a free wifi cloud) having recognized me by the cat slung over my shoulder, flagged me down before I could even struggle off the train arrival platform to lead me to his car. Taxis aren’t able to come into the area I’m staying, so I didn’t even think a car assist was possible.
Now, I’m off to drop some more euros at the supermarche for a fresh(ish – not sure they bake on Sundays) baguette and some additional beverages. And enjoy the early summery warmth!
* in reality, 30 hours