Monday, July 15, 2013

South of France--Marseilles & Aix En Provence

We left Spain on Easter Sunday (March 31st) and headed to Marseilles, France. It was a straight long day of traveling.. with crutches. Every train ride all I do is sleep or write. Too bad i'm not motivated enough to finish my Medieval History paper yet. Maybe later.. 
Things haven't been too smooth in Spain. Maybe France will be a new start! Our connecting trains and reservations for them need work.  A lot to learn for us 20, 21 year olds! 

Train station above and dinner below. I found Lays!

After 20-30 minutes of walking/trying to find the hostel in the dark... we finally made it.  So happy i'm alive.  I get really sketched out in cities at night when i don't know where i'm going and European guys (not all, but some in every country) like to look and make a lot of comments.  Not my cup of tea.  But we made it. We had a hard time figuring out how to open the door to get inside..and once we did I just wanted to sit. My foot hurts. I look up and there it is.... 
Stairs and stairs and stairs.... yay...... not exactly what I was hoping for in crutches. We hiked the stairs and checked in. We opted to share a bed rather than sleep in two different rooms.  It was my first experience with mixed gender rooms. Not that I don't trust guy, I just don't trust anyone and I have weird feelings about this place.  That's when I did what my dad would want me to do. Get my mummy bag out and shove my purse and valuables in the bottom and sleep peacefully in my sleeping bag.  I did sleep. I am not so sure about peacefully. This might have been the first night that I shed a few tears before I fell asleep because I was just.. honestly scared. I didn't feel safe. After a night of sleep we got up and had breakfast and headed into town (on bikes!) crutch in basket like any French person would do with a baguette haha. 

We had train business to figure out. While Sophie was in the train station i'm outside guarding our bikes (150 euros if stolen) so i'm sitting there..........forever. Freezing, hoping she comes back with good news. When she comes back........BAD news. Just so happens that a bird poops on my leg at the same time. Great. My luck. Instead of freaking out...I took a picture for my viewers. Here ya go. 

Grand staircase to the station. 

Bird poop on my leg! 

Sophie had to go back inside to finish our business. She goes back in and comes out with good news about how we can get to Italy! Finally some good news. We needed that! (Our trains are definitely not going how we planned) So we finish looking at the city of Marseilles (in the rain) and go to the hostel to relay a message to Jessica, because we aren't going to be able to get to Paris to meet her like originally planned. Oops. We had to go back to the hotel because we needed WiFi. While we are on this trip we can't just text whoever whenever.... something we had to get used too. Cells phones were just part of our lives before we left. Don't worry... i'm learning :) 

Time to move on to Aix En Provence. Crutches in hand. Backpack on back. And hood up. Let's do this. We make it to the train station in time... always a good thing. It is a short 40 minute train from Marseilles to Aix En Provence.  

A few pictures of Marseilles

Is is a short 40 minute train ride from Marseilles o Aix En Provence.   Sophie and I were just sitting there laughing about our luck thinking things have to look up soon. I'm about to write in my journal when our train stops (normal) but at this particular stop 4 kids run on our train, reach behind Sophie and grab her phone out of her hands and bolt out the door. Sophie chases them. I'm left on the train thinking (OH MY GOSH what if they leave and i am on this train?!?! In all the mess of this I still haven't totally comprehended what is going on) .......

Out of panic and everything else I manage to grab our purses (Sophie's purse was sitting there and they could have taken that 10x easier than grabbing her phone out of her hands) anyways, I grab our purses, two backpacks, bag of food, and crutches. How? I cannot tell you.  I am on the platform and Sophie is nowhere to be found.....

SOHPIE!!! SOPHIE!!! (Did they take her? Are they kidnapping her?? Why isn't she here? Why can't I see her? Why can't I hear her? WHERE IS SOPHIE?!?!?!?! What is the emergency number?! Someone please help!!! Anyone!!!! Help me!!!! She's gone, what do I do? Do I start running and just leave all of our stuff behind?? I don't know anyone, I don't know what to do... Please help! .......All of these thoughts are rushing through my mind, and I'm sure I was screaming them as well (I know I was screaming). 

Have you ever felt so helpless because you are in a foreign country, you can't speak the language, a lot of people don't speak your language, something just happened to the only person you are traveling with, you don't even know what the nearest town is, let alone which town you are in, you don't know the emergency number, and you just want to sit there and cry and your mom will be there when you open your eyes......... 
..... yeah..... Everything happened so quickly.. I have never been so scared in my life because all my worst fears of traveling were happening (possibly, I still haven't seen/heard Sophie) for a second I had myself convinced that Sophie was actually gone. What do I tell her parents? HOW do I tell her parents? How soon can my parents get to France??? 

Back to the story....... (I may or may not be crying writing this...... I felt helpless.) 

A woman from the train calms me down and is calling the police (not that they will come but just to notify them) and they held the train for us to get back on to continue to our destination. I don't know what we would have done if they wouldn't have waited for us. I see Sophie finally and I tell her to run back to the train... run back to me! She didn't have any tears (pretty proud). We get on the train and it starts back up again. 

Yeah, looking back it was just a phone but the information we needed to get to our next place and other uses of it was needed. So on the train this nice guy lends us his phonee to get Mamie's address in Aix. Mamie is Sophie's friend that we are going to go stay with in Aix En Provence. Ok, ok... so we made it. We ask the lady at the train station how to get to this address where Mamie is at. She doesn't know. Ok, well could you direct us to the place where the main square is at? I don't know.... 
Ok you are great help, thanks.. some people don't get two shits about you.... So when this teenage girl with her mom tells us she will put in her iphone for us we were grateful. They understood where it was at and then explained to us where to go. We listened and then were like... ok so we do what?? (We were a little cloudy minded after what had just happened. They could tell and asked us if we were ok, so we had to tell them the story) After we still couldn't figure out where we were going they told us if we waited 5 minutes that they would give us a ride. 

HA! After what just happened with me thinking Sophie was almost kidnapped and yes I've seen the movie Taken..... After all I have heard about getting in cars in foreign countries with strangers and all the bad things that could happen...Do you really think I would get in that car???

....So we took the ride.......

Something about them wanting to help us and the mom with her teenage daughter making me feel warm and cared about somehow. I wanted to cry. Ok, so maybe I did cry. Thank you. 

They seemed like honest, great people. After what just happened on the train and then getting in the station and the lady working not offering her help... this is what we needed. Not all people are bad. Although in situations like we had been in I wanted to think so. Bad thoughts! 
It was raining. I am on crutches with a huge backpack with no idea in hell where to go. So thank you thank you! They didn't just take us into town... they parked and walked us exactly to the door to make sure we were OK. Wow! So nice...... so grateful.... Thank you Juilette from France :)

We get to Mamie's. And breathe. 

We are safe and can just think clear for a moment. That night we chilled at her apartment and then went out for one of her friends birthday dinner. I don't know if I explained who Mamie is. Mamie is from Alabama and is a sorority sister to Sophie at the University of Alabama. She was also studying abroad (in Aix En Provence) and had a lot of other American friends who were also studying there a semester. 

Back to the French food...
I couldn't read a thing on the menu. I chose pasta to keep it safe and cheap. 10 euros was the cheapest thing on the menu. So the girl next to me ordered the most "French" thing... but I may have to get back to you on the name of it....... 
It was raw ground beef with a raw egg on top. They brought it to our table and then if she wanted mustard and spices he mixed it all together right there.  So it was basically like making meatloaf in front of us. After he was done mixing it all together he made it into a patty and it is served exactly like that-----raw. Then he took a look at us and our faces might have been in awe or just disbelief. For the sake of our bellies and maybe our minds he wanted to sear the top for a second. And when I say second I mean a few seconds, but not a minute. 
This girl ate this whole thing raw. I was so proud of her! Now, as you know I have been trying to try new things. I did try it, but have to admit I took more of the seared edge than the raw red meat. 

Our waiter mixing it up at our table. 

The finished product. I should have cut it in the middle to show you the inside. I hope you can kind of assume or just understand that it was raw. 

 Some other dishes at our table. What do you think??? We gave the seafood salad one the best dressed. 

We also had a nice beer that you can kind of see in the right of the picture above. It had a peachy flavor. It was really good but pricey with each glass being 7.40 euros. 10 dollars a beer. Yikes. You can see why it wasn't very often that I ordered them. Only when they were really needed. And trust me..... it was REALLY needed. 

After dinner we went back Mamie's for some sleep. I had a very odd dream about my grandma Marilyn that night. I'll share because most of you reading this knew her, and I always think dreams mean something..

I was studying abroad and my parents called to tell me that she had died. My grandma Marilyn. I was so upset and couldn't remember the last time I had talked to her.. and why hadn't I been talking to her the whole time I had been gone?? I didn't know if I got to go back for the funeral or how that was going to all work out. I woke up and was feeling a "wow" feeling. I needed to get ahold of my parents to make sure that everything was alright and that my grandma was ok. Then I realized that my grandma had passed away 7 years ago. It wasn't that I had ignored her while being gone. She's just been gone awhile. Just thought it was her little sign to let me know that she is watching down on me and that she is keeping me safe. I liked that. 

So we slept pretty late that when we got up it was time to go get lunch. We had steak frites! They were soo good!! 

So what this is is a French baguette with onions, lettuce, hamburger, ketchup (a hamburger basically!) with french fries on top! You eat it like a giant sandwich. My goodness. 
Who is going to try this now???? :)) I think you all should! They were fun. 

We wondered around Aix and went to the police station to have the phone reported. They said that we most likely (or definitely) won't get the phone back, but that train has been having a lot of stolen phones lately and are wondering if it is the same group of kids every time. Maybe they have caught them now? ;)

This town is beautiful. Just walking around is great. 

Later that day we made pasta for dinner in Mamie's apartment and Jess finally arrived!!!! Now there are 3 of us! The power of numbers is making me feel better already! 

We went out for the same girl's birthday to a bar where Tuesday nights girls get free champagne.  Now why isn't this a thing in the US?!?!

This morning we got up and headed to the bus station. Our bus leaves in 15-20 minutes. So we have time to find the exact leaving spot. 

Jess takes another look at the ticket... OMG guys this is the train that we are supposed to get on.. NOT A BUS!!! 
Sophie!!! They lady told me that we were first getting on a bus and then on a train!! 
No!!! She probably meant the bus to get to the train station (because it was about 15-20 minutes away from the city center)


We are never going to get there in time... we need a taxi!!! All three of us running in separate directions frantically looking for anything that would get us to the train station ASAP. 
Ask someone where all the taxis are... Oh they are in the city center about a ten minute walk that way......

UMMMM... we don't have 10 minutes. Our train leaves in 15!!!!! 

When in all this rush God looks down and decides to have a little taxi man pass us. We fling our arms all over the air. I about just threw my crutch at the car like a dart. 
He stops and lets us in. We scream at him the train station... hurry!!! We have a train to catch in 15 minutes. 

Ladies.... don't worry. I am the best taxi driver (and then he steps on it). I didn't really have time for my fear of cars to kick in. Not only did he go quite fast to get us there he looked up on his smart phone which platform our train was leaving from. Definitely against our texting and driving laws!! I about died just from thinking about the car wreck that was going to kill me... surprisingly we didn't crash. 

He gets us there in time. And by in time I mean not passed the time that our train was supposed to leave. We get out of the taxi with 3 minutes until our train leaves... 

(so trains usually get there a bit early so people can board and then takes off... so this 3 minutes is literally 3 minutes or less. Our plan with me on crutches is just someone get there and ask if they can wait for their disabled friend who is moving as fast as she can!) 

Thank you God for sending not only us a taxi that we desperately needed, but a man who spoke the best English I had heard since I had left England. Wowzer......

We get to our platform.... and our train is delayed 5 minutes. We stand there panting and people looking at us like what???? 
Each running experience we have I keep telling myself that this must be the last one. We have to learn our lesson by now. We will be extra careful by giving ourselves extra time and checking the tickets twice...... Well, I will now say.. next time it will be different. We will do everything right. 

We are on our train to Italy now. And wow. The most amazing train ride of my life. It was the coast line. Sea and France the entire time. The most beautiful sight I have ever seen. 

I want to say--"hope Italy is better"--a new start, but I am not even going to go there. Now my money belt Christmas present isn't dorky. I will wear it the rest of the time. Everyday. Everywhere. Ahhh England, I do miss you. But not only am I starting to miss the security of England... It is my first actual missing of Logan/Iowa City and all my small town safety. 
Did I mention that right before Sophie's phone was stolen we were making a "backpackers tip list" HAHA! Oh, we have had issues that I will have the best advice to give. So far i'll put our rank as the WORST BACKPACKERS... stay tuned to find out if we turned our trip around! :) 

1 comment:

  1. This was a great post and very informative but scary too. I am glad you made it back in one piece. I will be waiting for your next posting!!!