France, 2014, Part 1.

Twednesday – (Marcredi). Michael is calling the first part of our trip The Longest Day. Long it was! We started by flying out of Jacksonville at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Leaving Jacksonville


Our flight was scheduled to leave Washington Dulles at 5:30 p.m. but was delayed because of weather until 7:00 p.m. And so we settled into our little airborne cocoons for the 8-hour flight to Geneva. In Dulles we had purchased 2 bottles of wine. We were told that they don’t like you to BYOB and drink on the plane, but we kept it on the down low and two thirsty travelers successfully shared the bottle. Dual success in the area of sleep, however, was not to be shared. My diminutive body is much better suited to cramped space and I was able to actually get in a few solid hours of sleep. Michael, on the other hand, had to settle for precious, yet interrupted pockets of unconsciousness. We awoke to daylight over France, and in an hour or so were on the ground.

We were excited, nervous, and tired. We did discover that we have separate travelling styles when using public transportation. I NEED to make sure we are getting on the right train, and will ask anyone I can find, as many times as it takes, to ensure that I know where I am going. Michael, not so much. He would have just gotten on the train that was sitting there on the track, without verifying where it went; partly because he was so uncomfortable not knowing the language, partly because he is a guy. As it turned out, he was right, we were on our way, and I was relieved.

The train took us from the Geneva airport to the Geneva Central Station. The first part of our plan was to check out Bike Swiss, a bike shop we found on the interweb. At this point we are both extremely tired and spacy, and so it is understandable that Michael, usually the master of direction, took us to the wrong side of the tracks. Train tracks, that is.  We wandered there for a while until we determined that we needed to be on the other side. This would have been no problem to figure out had the information that my phone would have data been reliable. That was not so and as a result we were flying blind, as it were.

So we get to this shop, and it is not much bigger than our bedroom at home. Nevertheless, it had a couple of items of interest, (t-shirt for Michael, leg warmers for me) and better yet, the shopkeeper was a Brit (read – spoke English)! What a relief to be able to converse freely without having to search for words or phrases, and not understand the response, and feel awkward about it.

2014-08-13 05.25.28

Leaving there, we had given up trying to find the next stop, the Patek Phillipe Museum. We just wanted to get to our hotel!  First, lunch must be had, however.  We find a likely spot close to the train station and are successfully seated. I order use pizza, Salad Nicoise, and wine.  Success!  We are quite the international travelers now!

Lunch in Geneva

Next we go back to the Central Station and figure out (ask information) the train to Lausanne on the north bank of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman to the locals) then get on a ferry to take us across the lake to Thonon-Les-Bains, where our hotel is. We almost missed out train – the one that was sitting there for 20 minutes as we waited on the platform for something more likely to come along.

Just another weary traveler waiting on the Train

We realized that this was our train all along at the last minute and hopped on just in time.  This is your classic case of ISGLIATT – it seemed like a good idea at the time – we wanted to see Geneva, to have a lovely boat ride across the lake, and get to our hotel in time to check in, then have a lovely dinner. Train ride, FINE. Get to Lausanne, find the subway to Ouchy (lakeside) VICTORY! Approach the boat ramp with minutes to spare, or so our tickets said. We approached three young sailor-types hanging out at the dock. To my query as to the departure of the boat, their attitude could not have been more insouciant: “the boat is not taking off… maybe in an hour, maybe not.” They were clearly indifferent to our plight and desperation. We were clearly oblivious – at first- of the torrential weather conditions.  It was rainy, extremely windy, and the wave were crashing against the pier and onto the sidewalk.  We took all this in stride and found a place to rest. Almost an hour passed in zombie-like stupor when I noticed the time and thought we might need to see if we were a go. To our relief, there was a bigger boat at the dock and other beleaguered travelers were waiting to board. We were getting closer! All we wanted at this point was a place to rest, a private haven to call our own. The boat eventually embarked after what appeared to be great discussion and consultation amongst the crew, and a clamorous racket below that could have been anything from the gangplanks being pulled in to the hull being battered by the dock.

The Tumultuous Waves

The Tumultuous Waves

Finally we were off. The poor SS Minnow was tossed around by the waves but puttered determinedly to our destination. I was too exhausted to engage in any meaningful conversation and just tried to read the news report on the screen. I looked over at Michael, and in true Michael form, he was fast asleep sitting up and only disturbed when his head fell to one side or the other every few minutes.

I have no idea how long that trip took; I was just so glad to be on the other side in the little town that would be our home for the next few days. I sought out the local chamber of commerce to ask directions to our hotel, and we were off up the (very steep) hill next to the “Funiculare.” A few turns and viola, le’Hotel Ibis! Check in, up the lift, in the room, and in the bed in record time! We are professionals, after all.

We tried to go out to eat that night with no success . . . and we are still not sure why. Possibly a holiday, or just that no one serves dinner on certain days around here. Thank goodness for the Carrefour, bread, cheese, and potato chips! Oh, and of course the wine. We attempted to purchase bananas and apples, but it was not to be. We went to the checkout with our lunch including 2 bags of fruit to be informed that I needed to weigh them in the produce section. So I quickly run back with them, spot the scale, weigh the fruits, commit the numbers to memory, and run back. No, that was not it apparently they do not just take your word for it. So Michael, patient Michael, has paid for our other groceries and is sitting waiting as I run back and see the solution. One must get a label! Place the pommes on the scale, look up to the guide with pictures of fruits and vegetables on it. There were numbers next to each one. The apples were 5. I push 5 on the keypad, and out comes a label! Fraise. NO! I try again and again, for banane (12) – No! Over and over I push numbers and out comes Cerise, fraise, apricot, but no pommes, no banana. I give up and leave my fruit, defeated by the mysterious and cruel fruit scale. But, we have We will never starve. Neither will we fail to sleep. Eventually.

That was Tuesday and Wednesday – the longest day.

It was an exhausting journey not only physically because of the amount of time we were going, but mentally and emotionally as well. It is stressful to be in a part of the world where we do not speak the language – well I can say just enough to get myself in trouble.   It is work to figure out how to say things and communicate. I’m getting better!

P.S. We later figured out that we could have taken a cab to Thonon for about 20 euro more. But where is the adventure in that??!!

Thursday. I was a sleeping champion…until 3:00 a.m., then back to sleep until 8:00 a.m. The hotel customs are unfamiliar to us – no coffee in the room, so we descend to the lobby for coffee and breakfast. The morning repast consisted of bread, cheese, jambon (ham), a round form that looked like omelet, a round form that turned out to be a pineapple and cocoanut pastry, croissants (of course!) and a pound cake. The coffee was definitely the main attraction. Place the lovely white cup in the proper place, push the button for café au lait (for me) and then double espresso (for Michael). One of these machines to take home with me, please! After breakfast we still needed some recovery, so back up to our room and back in bed we climbed.

We emerged for the sake of our bellies. We decided to go to Culture Velo, then Carrefour to figure out the fruit weighing situation, then lunch back in our room. The bike shop was much bigger here, and we came away with arm warmers for me (mine forgotten at home) and 2 badons (we only brought one each with us).

We love bike shops!

We love bike shops!

At Carrefour we approached the mysterious machine with determination. We were going to figure this out! I showed Michael what I had done the day before, and after assessing the offending scale keypad and picture guide, quickly figured out the solution. Bananas placed on scale, he pushed the picture of the banana, and viola, the correct sticker appeared, of course.


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