Glad we flew to Nice as it gave us a chance to see the countryside from overhead – the patchwork fields, the gorges where time and weather had clawed and sculpted the earth. Then we saw what I thought were huge white clouds in the distance. But these clouds had peaks – they were in fact the Alps! Enoooormous. The plane then swung east and followed the coast past Cannes, Antibes then finally down into Nice.
It’s here where we hit the ground running, so to speak, with our French. Our cab driver thought he was in the Grand Prix I think. While I appreciate his haste to get us to our apartment we didn’t need to go through so many red lights or threaten the lives of so many pedestrians. And it would’ve been good to stay on 4 wheels for most of the way. But what the heck, we made it here alive and in about 20 mins (about $55AU).
We were greeted by Anne-Marie Cauvin, the ‘proprietaire’ of our apartment, phone stuck to ear speaking in very fast French with beaucoup d’anger and frustration at someone. It turns out the internet for our apartment was on the blink. A bit disappointing but of greater concern were the 68 steps up to our apartment. (Memories of the trek to Kevin’s came flooding back). I knew this place was on the third floor from this entrance but I didn’t know how long the flights of stairs would be. There was also a pungent odour in the stairwell – stale drain water or something.
So with Anne-Marie still parlez’ing in fast and frantic French with phone still stuck to her ear we all headed up the smelly stairwell and what turned out to be six flights of stairs with what felt more and more grossly over-weight luggage – Anne-Marie trying to help with her free hand.
Finally we arrived at our little apartment. Basic but bright and clean and with a million dollar view straight onto the harbour and all those giant cruisers that here they quaintly call ‘yachts’. A little noisy during the day when the windows are open due to traffic and the wharf over the road being re-constructed, but the double-glazing cuts it all out when they’re closed.
Finally Anne-Marie hung up from the internet company. I was glad. I really thought she’d end up with a brain tumour. She’s lovely. She proceeded to throw maps and suggestions and directions and instructions for the flat – at us. She said the internet man couldn’t come till the following Tuesday which she was trying to change to Monday. Luckily it wasn’t crucial at that time. Off she went down into the smelly stairwell, promising to return next week.
It was now dinner time – we thought anyway – still jet-lagged. Down through the smelly stairwell we went gasping and coughing and ended up at one of the several restaurants along the street underneath. A very handsome young waiter greeted us and tolerated our fledgling French, helping occasionally with his English. Dinner was OK but then bed was even better. We woke at 3.00am next morning before dozing back to sleep for a while longer. Hence the night shots which were really 3am.
We found the local boulangerie the next morning (Saturday 2nd). Tiny but very busy – always a good sign, and had a cappuccino and pain chocolat each and thought life was pretty amazing as we continued along the streets with the intention of getting connected on our phones and computer.
Frustration started to build after a while of trying to simply establish our mobile accounts. I just wanted a straightforward mobile phone number – pre-paid thingy but Heather had bought her jazzy Samsung Galaxy whizz-bang—I-can-do-anything phone and wanted access to internet and GPS on it. Apart from wandering around the streets still tired, we didn’t know where we were going. We managed to find a few Internet/phone shops and with our franglais got our message across but the shop we seemed to need was the Orange internet-phone supplier. We finally found one.
The girl in the Orange internet-phone shop deserves a medal for her patience as we ‘franglais’d our way through what we needed. Mine turned out to be straightforward (well I thought, anyway) but the girl said Heather’s would require a bank account to be set up from which they’d take the fee monthly. None of this pre-paid up front stuff for this facility. We still don’t understand why. Not even allowed to Skype .
We bought the SIM card for my phone and headed home – exhausted. For the first time in ages I actually felt like crying. My French is OK but far from that needed to talk technical. I stopped briefly at a ‘tabac’ (little shop that is a bar, sells phone cards, lottery tickets and an assortment of other odd things). Here I bought an International Phone card to ring my mother as I knew she’d be wondering where we were.
(One little mishap with my phone: I thought I understood all that the girl had told me. But I didn’t understand that I had about 10 mins of usage before the account would have to be re-charged’ by pressing * # and several other numbers. One phone call to my friend Sue Grady, then it cut out. Back I went with tail between my legs, trudged the 9 blocks back to the Orange store and the bewildered stare of the Orange girl. She babbled something in French at me and I franglais’d something back which didn’t answer her question obviously. She took my phone and punched a few things into the keypad then showed me the screen. I now had another 2½ hours of time. Sheepishly I skulked out the door vowing never to go back into that shop again. How embarrassing. We’ve actually been back past that shop since and I haven’t seen that girl there – I suspect she’s been given stress leave).
Enough for one day. We went home worn out, a bit deflated, and consoled ourselves with the view.