Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bordeaux to Paris

Massive day today. Started yesterday really, when Al nervously drove the camping car back to Beausoleil Camping, in Gradignan, 10 k from Bordeaux centre. As they say in the guide book, it's a clean small ground with shaded blocks. We chose it for its proximity to McRent, Merignac, where our camping car was due back this morning at 9 sharp.

We did the big clean up last night; emptied cupboards; donated some food to our neighbours who reciprocated with a couple of delicious chocolate ice creams. Good trade. 

We were both on tenterhooks this morning though, knowing we had to get the damaged van back for its inspection. Could have done without the 'deviation' - detour - on the morning route. Had Sat Nav Jane confused. 'Turn around where possible,' she says. 'Take the next right and make a U turn where possible.' Al was swearing, but we followed the yellow 'deviation' signs several k out of the way it seemed while Jane continually 'replanned' and eventually found a way through to 'you have reached your destination'.

At McRent, after Al humbly proclaimed 'I have to report an accident' to the male receptionist - don't know what else to call him. The receptionist and some other guy - perhaps a mechanic - inspected the van and 'oh la la-ed' as if the van was their own personal property that we'd deliberately wrecked. I walked off. Needed to keep my comments to myself. 

For the next 40 minutes - I marked the time - we were ignored; given a silent treatment of sorts while a report was prepared. Very tense. Eventually I couldn't stand it any more and asked, in French, if it was possible for Monsieur le receptionist to communicate with us what was going on. After all, this was the same bloke who'd been effing and blinding back on June 18, regaling us with the story of how his friends called him 'fuck off' because he swears so much.

'I am preparing a report,' he told me curtly in English. 'And you are unlucky because my dad died last night so I don't want to talk.'


'I'm sorry,' I said.

'It is not your fault,' he replied.

After that we endured another 20 minutes of seriously abject silence before finding out that the excess we had to pay on the van was close to €1600. Farque alors. It's only €500 when one rents the same van in Germany.

And then a turnaround. 'Can you call us a cab?' I asked.

'Where do you want to go?'

'The airport?'

'It's okay. I will drive you otherwise it will cost you a fortune.'

Couldn't say fairer than that.

At Bordeaux airport we caught a shuttle bus to Gare St Jean, the railway station in Bordeaux and then bought tickets to Paris. The fast train travelling at 350k on some stretches between Bordeaux and Paris was quite amazing.

So here we are, in our hotel room at 11.13 on Tuesday night. Al has passed out after the strain of driving that camping car for three weeks. Me? I'm too excited to sleep. I wanted to skip and twirl when we stepped out of la Gare Montparnasse into a Paris evening. I've been to Paris twice before: once in 1980; again with Al in 1985. Now I'm wondering why I've deprived myself of coming here on our last two visits to France. Don't know why it feels so emotional to be here. Perhaps it's the stress we've endured since our bad day about ten days ago. Perhaps it's because, as I've said before, I'm the French pretender, and Paris is the place to do it.

As soon as we arrived this afternoon it felt right. We checked into our hotel - lovely - showered then hit the streets again. When we consulted our map, a woman stopped to help us, drew a map on a scrap of paper and worked out a good route for us to follow tomorrow to enjoy what she thought would be the best of Paris, given we only have a day to spend here. 

I'm thinking already that on my next French vacance I might simply rent an apartment in Paris for a time.

We certainly won't rent a van in Bordeaux, France again. The service, and the van, was definitely second rate compared to our experience renting in Munich. It also cost heaps more per day to rent in France. The van was a bit grubby, for example, some unwashed cutlery; a picnic table, for which we'd paid extra, with missing components, so it was as stable as spreading a Venetian blind across a couple of trestles, ie., useless. No kettle, so we had to boil water in a saucepan with a loose handle. amazing what you get used to. (Yeah, first world probs. But we paid €122 a day for that van.)

The driver's seat, which turns around to make a lounge chair, was missing a locking device so occasionally, as Al would be negotiating his way around mountains, the chair would come loose from its moorings and Al would be swinging around like Luke Skywalker riding shotgun in Starwars. Potentially catastrophic. And the chemical toilet. Let me just say blerk. I thought it was verboten to crap in those things, but clearly ... Well, enough said. 

Anyway, I'm in Paris now, at least for another night, so I'd better get to sleep so I can ride the velolibs or whatever they're called tomorrow.

Bon nuit.

BTW: found out from a couple of Brits yesterday that I can buy a new TomTom GPS/sat nav that factors in the size of one's vehicle. That would have saved us a bit of trauma. Next time.

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