Getting to Montpellier

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Thursday 18 October, 2007
We left a call at our Barcelona hotel for 6:30 to have breakfast and get to the station for our 8:45 train to Montpellier. I was really looking forward to that train — Haven”t been on a train since, who knows? — Carol said we”ll have a story for Paula. A train story.

As it turned out, our train story was very short. We got to the station and carried our bags to the gate. “Montpellier,”

A large woman was standing in the archway leading to the platforms. “There is no train to Montpellier today,” is all the woman said, except, “Go to Information.” She pointed left.

Information said there was a strike in France. He would stamp our ticket not used, and we could get a refund at the Montpellier station. [That turned out not to be true. We eventually got our refund by mail from White Plains NY.]

As I turned away, I overheard a big guy with six huge bags talking in English about Montpellier. He was pissing and moaning and being ugly-American- like, but had information. He said he hadn”t checked flying, but to rent a car, he found there was a $1000 drop charge. A young woman named Cheryl seemed to have information on buses and knew what station to go to. She said it was a 15 to 20 minute walk.

I quickly realized that she was not with the big guy, and said, “Ride with us in a taxi and help us with the Spanish.” She said she knew no Spanish, but knew the right words to use to get what she wanted.

She’s thirtysomething and traveling with only a plastic shopping bag of whatever. She does personal service, help rich people with travel, hostess on a yacht, that sort of thing. She had flown from New Zealand to Vancouver, then to North Africa and took a ferry to Barcelona, she’s going on to Cannes for a yacht gig.

At the bus station, I went to the only open ticket window and said, “Montpellier.”

The woman said, “Thirty euros, leaves 9:30 and gets there at 3:30.”

I said, “Two, please.” It was 8:30; we sat.

Cheryl got her ticket to Cannes and her bus didn”t leave until late afternoon, so she went off to explore Barcelona. We were very lucky to make such a seamless connection. Or was our bus put on because of the strike?

A little later, the big guy, Roy, and his skinny wife came in. They had to call a big taxi to fit all their luggage. We learned while waiting that they”re from Vancouver — oh, and they also have a home in La Costa, California. They had been on a six-week’s cruise to the “North Countries” and would spend the next six months in Europe. They said they had to dress formally most nights on the ship, explaining all the luggage. I noted that I did not have that problem.

Some of his bags had the CFL (Canadian Football League) logo and he was wearing a huge championship-type ring, so I guessed he’s a retired CFL something-or-other. Didn”t really want to spend time with him to find out.

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The bus left on time and wasn”t crowded.

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Now I believe we”re in the Casta Brava or somewhere nearing the foothills of the Pyrenees. We”re on an Autoroute. I guess we”ll know when we cross the border.

11:00 — We stopped at the Girona bus Station, about half way to the border. People got on and off. Guess it’s not a ‘special bus.”

12:20 — We stopped at the French border.

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It seems as though a drug sniffing dog, doing its business in the luggage bays of the bus, nosed — as it were — the bags of two of our passengers, young women.

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Grrrrr

They were obliged to go to a security hut where one was seen making a phone call, and later, laughing.

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Much later, the perps returned to the bus. There’s no end of excitement.

1:00. —We were off.

2:30 — We stopped at a Cafeteria for lunch. I had a ham sandwich and a beer; Carol had a chicken salad sandwich and a fruit thang. There’s no end of excitement.

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4:00 — We were welcomed to Montpellier to the sounds of Steve Earle on the iPod, Transcendental Blues

5:30 — At Brian’s house.

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It was stupid simple. The bus left us at a tram station, which happened to be Line 2 (the cars decorated with flowers), which happened to be Brian’s line.

Brian had given us directions from the train station, but they worked just as well from our Tram stop, in fact, we would pass by the train station on the way.

“Buy a ticket at the machine and get on a Line 2 tram (with flowers all over it, Line 1 is blue with seagulls). When you get on the tram you frank your ticket in the machines in the tram car. Go toward Jacou or Sabassou — you’ll be with your backs to the train station, with the tram going left to right past the door where you came out. Go to the Aiguelongue stop and then follow the map.”

So we got on the next tram, got off at Brian’s stop and walked to his house.

The walking wasn”t easy, well, easy enough, but not short. Lucky us, Brian’s neighbor spotted us at the 3/4 point and took bags and Carol in her tiny car on to #24 rue de l’Aiglon. I followed on foot with a spring in my step, relieved to be rid of the bags.

Hooray!

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  Hooray!

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