Pulsating, Exciting FranceAuthor: Gladys S. (More Trip Reviews by Gladys S.)
Date of Trip: July 2009
I'm still smiling as I recall my recent travels in France, however it was not without multiple obstacles, but the end result is what matters.
I took an epicurean journey across France delighting my tastebuds to new experiences, praying all the way that I could walk off any potential accumulation of damaging pounds. Enroute to France I started out flying US Air from Orlando, but mechanical problems caused us to miss our connecting flight, causing us to scramble to locate a computer to access the Internet to reschedule a connecting train in Paris.
Were it just these obstacles, no problem. Being rerouted to Paris via Atlanta, upon arrival in Paris, there was no luggage, which caused further delay, and a scramble to make the train connections. While we arrived in time for the train, the tickets had to be dispensed by a kiosk, which was not accepting our names nor reservation numbers, and the train station agents could not assist us as the "Anywhere Anytime France" tickets could only be issued from the kiosk. By this time, we had missed the train, having to access the nearest comuter and Internet which was the Sheraton at a cost of $30.00 for 30 minutes, to reschedule yet again. Finally making the train, it was a great and scenic ride to Montpellier and I did recieve my luggage, minus the handle, the next day.
I studied French in Montpellier, France requesting and expecting a beginners course but found myself in a course with people who had a basic grasp of the language and were there to polish and improve their language skills at Institut Linguistique Adenet (ILA) which I booked through Language Schools Worldwide (LSW). There were 2 of us thinking this was a beginners class, American and British, and were so lost that we barely knew what was going on. To our surprise, customer service was totally absent, no possibility to take the course over, no refunds, and I had signed up for 4 weeks. As students completed their 1,2, or 3 weeks, the school added students of all levels, none beginners, to maintain a class of 10. When life hands one lemons, I'm told, one must learn to make lemonade.
I found charming little alley restaurants with big tastes in Montpellier and nursed my frustrations on weekends with good food, wine, and festivities. Montpellier was a hubbub of street music, parades, and festivals in June. A charming, friendly, college town with lots of high energy. Montpellier as a home base allows many day trips to interesting cities and towns, e.g medevial Carcasonne, Provence, and many others. Since I would never catch up with the French class, because rightly so the instructor, needed to teach to the majority. I left 3 days early to experience the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon, again with the prepaid France Anywhere Anytime Pass. It sounded like a travel bargain. Not so. It is apparently so new that train conductor have not been appropriately apprised of the program and I had an embarrassing episode with a conductor checking my ticket, even though I had my paid receipt, he could not conceive of why the individual tickets had a $0 cost on the ticket and attempted to make us pay again. With voices rising, I adamantly refused to pay another penny and suggested he call the police when the train arrived. With that he went away to call somewhere with my tickets and paid receipt, coming back 15 minutes later, all eyes on us, and did apologize. Until this is a better known product save yourself the possible embarrassment of a showdown and avoid Anywhere Anytime France. We actually lost money with the pass as all reservations must be made on line, cancelled on line, and collected from a koisk. Tellers at stations usually don't know about it either so they say they can't assist you. Unless you are going to travel with your computer, travel at least 4 hours from your base, you won't save $. We stayed at Best Western which was located a couple of blocks from the metro, making it very easy and economical to get around.
Still making lemonade, I found restaurants in Lyon I will remember for some time. The Epicure Restaurant on Rue de Bouef with it's relaxing, attractive ambiance just tantilized my tastebuds as well as my mood. Suffice it to say my mouth is watering at the memory. Good stuff always overshadows bad.
After Lyon, on to Paris, staying at the ideally located Royal Opera House in Madeleine district. This area offered many photo opportunities as it is conveniently located to the Jardin de Tulleries, the Louvre, Place de Concorde, Champs Ellysses, Lafayette Dept. Store, many restaurants, and convenient walking areas. Since I try to get in at least 5 miles daily, I even walked to the Eiffel Tower. Taking one of the tourist boats up and down the Seine is your best bet for better views. You may pay at the window without making reservations. We experienced the light show at the Eiffel Tower July 14, and believe it or not, my camera batteries gave out at this very moment. Not to worry, I captued the experience in my memories, which is just as good. I travel with the motto, "EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED"! Despite all of the unexpected, unwelcome obstacles of this trip, I made lemonade, and had a great time. Can't wait to do it again.
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