Day One – VACATION TO MENTON – – Afternoon – Apres Midi –
After passing Frejus, and becoming very animated about that Roman town on the water, we talked about the fun things we did there just in October when Sharon visited. It was a pretty magical time, with the lights over the boats and the still bay, the roman coliseum and the amazing culinary delights.
By almost 9am our train is passing the large golf course just this side of Cannes. Just north of here is where we really wanted to take a side trip to the small town of Plascassier,. Pitchoune was the name of Julia Child’s small dwelling next to the grand Mas where her friend and co-writer of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING also lived.
Arriving in Nice around 10 we got off to change trains for MENTON. For an instant I headed towards the outside – forgetting that we were not spending the night in Nice until tomorrow night. Lack of sleep was catching up. When we arrived in Menton, it was not a straight to the hotel – like it should have been, with unpacking and a teeny rest. NO, it was a 4 hour extravaganza of ooooh’s and ahhhhhh’s as the town was so pretty and we couldn’t take our eyes off all of the lemons that created a BIG BEN, STATUE OF LIBERTY, TRAINS, etc. Even the pharmacies were beautiful. I had to stop and buy some “LEMON COLOGNE” in one, as this was what we were here for – the LEMON FESTIVAL. We went to the Tourist Information and bought tickets for that nights Lumination Festival. We even stopped and ate some lunch. But, the truth was , by this time, we were lost. Our hotel was way over on the side closest to the Italian border. I did not research this very well. We needed to get off at MENTON-GARLAVAN, not MENTON- Ville. So the walk from the ville towards the town, to the bus stops (several) to get to the correct hotel, took it’s toll. David was unaffected. (Apparantly.)
ARRIVAL AT THE NIGHTMARE HOTEL
Thus, by the time we saw our coveted IBIS HOTEL, it was not what we had anticipated.
It was totally automated. This was confusing to me because 1) I was dead tired 2) I had never, in ALL my years of crazy travels, encountered such a place. When we could not get in to the hotel, because of numbers we needed to punch, and didn’t have, we piggybacked someone. Then, I braved the cold and rain and did what some other people who were standing outside were doing and that was trying to get a room by way of AUTOMATION. Leaving David inside to protect the bags I went out and put my card in the machine but it wouldn’t take it or any other card. Clearly exhausted I tried to cancel the entire transaction, but it just sat there staring me in the face with the words ANNULER. (CANCEL), but not letting me cancel. I pulled my card out. 2 other couples came and I went back into the enclosed “Lobby” – (lobby without a HOTEL CLERK-) and waited with David and the bags. We really needed to have a rest by this time.
The next thing I know is that the 2 couples are talking loud and motioning for me to come outside. They were speaking very fast French and my facial expressions on a slow French day are easily interpreted as “I AM LISTENING TO YOUR EVERY WORD BUT DON’T REALLY GET YOU” – so with these fast French words flying in my face, undoubtedly my eyes glazed over by now. When they started in on me, They were saying things that went like this:
Nous avons payé pour votre chambre! Vous avez une chambre! Regardez! elle est ici. Il est _____ chambre 401____. Vous avez eu une carte là-dedans, mais vous l’ai sorti et maintenant nous avons payé pour votre chambre. Et maintenant, vous avez besoin de payer US. Nous sommes dans la chambre 350.
(We just paid for your room! You have a room! Look! here it is . It is room _____401____. You had a card in there, but you took it out and now we have paid for your room. And now, you need to pay US. We are in room 350. )
David is back behind the glass guarding the bags and I am FREAKING out!!! I really need him to get out here and talk to these people.
They were speaking so fast. I got the gist of the conversation, but wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Stop and give them cash right there? I had not that much cash with me.
Neither did David. So, what to do? David comes out and talks to them – about this being a huge “Malentendu” – misunderstanding – and they agree, but just want to get their money back for OUR room!
It was a faulty machine in the first place for it to charge the next person coming up to check in – when it would not even cancel my transaction. I had stood there for more then 5 minutes waiting for it to “cancel”. Now, it charges strangers for our room . oooooh la la – what a mess.
Long story short, we ended up going to a bank – to withdraw money in which to pay these nice french people. David and this other French gentlemen discussed the big game on Saturday all the way down to the bank.
I suggest that in the future if you do book a hotel on line – read the fine print, and I do mean FINE, and all the way to the bottom because even though it didn ‘t say this hotel was “automated” it did say the hotel clerk was only available from 9-11A and 4P-6P.
Had I seen that – read that – it would have made this stay a teeny easier to reconcile plus I might have opted for another hotel where I could speak to someone. Being exhausted doesn’t help either.
The evening went not much better. Our LEMON FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS was cancelled due to rain.
But the turning point, was all in the beauty of the French people. We decided to hit the creperie/bar that we had visited on our arrival to Menton where we had an espresso and “noisette” and read the local news. The owner asked us to come back after the festival for his crepes – his specialty. So, when the festival was cancelled, we did walk back there in the rain. It was quiet, and there were no crepes in the case like before, so we almost turned around to leave. But the owner saw David and gave him the biggest smile and waved us back in – So, we did! We didn’t get our crepes but we did get a beer and a Pastis and talked to the locals for almost an hour. Very fun. Then we needed them to call us a taxi but one of the locals there was a taxi driver, and said he would take us. He was French/Italian. He was the most fun cab driver back to the AUTOMATED HELL HOTEL – as he SANG all the way back – so much so that the windows fogged up and no one could see out least of all him. Consequently, he went around and around the little turn – when we knew that he had passed our hotel about 3 times. It wasn’t to charge us more money. It was because he was so into his serenading us he didn’t want to stop. At one point in the song __ZUKERO ( I still have to find this song) there is a chorus of AMEN AMEN – and it’s really beautiful. We sang with him each time he came to the chorus. It was such hilarious fun. He also started speaking SPANISH to David and they were discussing the D.R. and the TRUJILLO days…….oooooh la la (again)……. By the time he finally did stop in front of the hotel, the cost of the taxi ride was a third less than the original taxi had been earlier. He hugged us both goodbye when we left him and invited us for a free drink at his little bar in Monaco, (SANGRIL) the next time we came there. What a beautiful person, so happy in his work , not taking advantage of us, and serenading us to the max in the taxi. It was an unexpected magical time when the afternoon had not gone so well. You win some. You lose some. This was a winner.