Two weeks ago I was at the train station in Nice booking reservations for my two weeks in France. The guy in front of me in line spoke almost no English and even less French. The girl helping him in the Eurail line only spoke very good English to him. When it was my turn I booked several reservations with her. She almost completely refused to speak to me in English, using the bear minimum of words, and only answered in French. This was ok until it got to booking my train to Bruges.
Her: Departs 11
Me: I thought that there was one at 6
Me: This is Bruges Belgium, right
Me: (looking at the tickets) Are you sure that I need to go through Bordeaux to get there?
Me: Bruges Belgium
I figured that I must be changing to the high speed train at some little town. I used to live in Pasadena Maryland and there is a much more famous Pasadena California, so I figured that it could be right and didn’t think about it again.
Fast forward to today. When you make a reservation you get a ticket holder with a map of France and all of the train stops. I was headed to Bordeaux, the one and only Bordeaux in western France. The complete opposite direction from Belgium. Damn.
The biggest issue wasn’t getting to Bruges today, but rather my hostel booking. Hostels cancel bookings if you are too late and give you bed away. I would be out of a nights accomodation as well as a three night booking. I had to call my hostel or already be there.
At the train station a friendly woman who had heard my problem on the train offered to help me get back on track. She explained the situation to the reservation woman who said that this wasn’t the first time this had happened. I had about 10 minutes to get a phone card and try to get in touch with the hostel. I just didn’t know how to call Belgium. I tried to call everyone that I know at home but no one picked up. I had to get on the train.
I was pretty much freaking out the whole ride to Paris. It is very hard to find hostels during the summer. Most of them are completely booked every night. When I got to Paris I tried calling everyone again. This time I got through to my parents, but they were driving. My mom suggested calling her friend Jeanie and gave me the number.
Quickly I called Jeanie and she was able to get on the internet right away and get the phone number I needed out of my hostelworld account. She must have thought I was a nut for calling from Paris. I got the number and thanked her quickly. Finally I was able to call the hostel and tell them that I wouldn’t be getting there until midnight. I could just about breathe.
My next task was to get to the Paris Nord station. I had to take the metro and it was fortunately a direct ride and only took about 20 minutes. After calling my mom to let her know that everything was ok and that I was done panicking I actually had time to eat. This was the first meal I had all day. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything French and picked up some McDonald’s instead.
The thing that pisses me off so much about this is that the girl clearly did this on purpose. I am sure that travel karma will bite her in the ass, hard, at some point.
On the train I met a nice American girl named Jessica. I told her about my day and she gave me a hug. It was really just what I needed. She needed a place to stay for the night so I brought her to my hostel with me. Well, I tried anyway. We were not really paying close attention to where we were going, the town was just so pretty, and soon we were way off track. It was about midnight and an old woman asked us if we needed some help. She gave us directions and then told us never mind, that she would just drive us. We took her up on the offer and in no time we were at the hostel. It was full though so Jessica had to keep looking for a place to stay. I hope that she found something. I grabbed a well deserved Belgian beer before heading up to my bed.