A funny thing happened on the way to relaxing in Montpellier. We spent four hours on a train from Genoa, changing trains in Marseille, and decided we would check in upon arrival (scheduled for 1:03) and have a leisurely lunch, since we had left early and only had coffee. It sounded so simple, way back then – yesterday morning. Our six-minute walk from the train station was, uh, a bit longer, as there is a fence across the street we needed to turn on. Instead, they made us walk UP 25 steps with all of our luggage, only to walk DOWN all those steps on the other side. We arrived at our hotel tired from traveling, eager to dump our stuff, get into the city, and eat something. The hotel had emailed us the day before, asking what time we would arrive at the hotel. How nice! Except that, upon entering and chatting with Simon, the owner, he said we did NOT have a reservation! We showed him our “guaranteed room,” and he said no, it wasn’t in his system. We said that this had happened to us 10 years ago or so, in Krakow. Our reservation went into a subdirectory that they never looked at, and they had no rooms available, so they called the nicest hotel in the city, got us a room for exactly the same price, and called a taxi to take us there! Simon looked at us, startled, and said that every hotel was sold out in this area of the city. He didn’t have much hope for finding us a room, and called several hotels in the area, with no luck.
Finally, he came back to us with a solution. His parents have a guest apartment two blocks from the hotel, and they were fine with us using it…he just needed to call a service to get it cleaned and freshened. If we could wait until 4:00 pm or so? Well, we really didn’t have a choice. He suggested a place where we could have lunch and hang out a while, and we had a fantastic lunch. Our apartment has a full kitchen, dining area, living room, two bedrooms, bathroom, and a washer/dryer. The Wi-Fi is fast! It is super-quiet, as only Simon’s parents live on our floor, next door. We went to the grocery store up the street and had fresh homemade omelets with veggies and salmon for breakfast! It was quite wonderful. So, a good moral to our story to remember – things work out for the better. We didn’t get what we wanted and planned while we were on the train, but we have some added advantages now, and actually got something better.
On to this beautiful city! It was fairly busy. Looking for a room for us, Simon remarked that it was especially busy for early May. People were out enjoying the warmth and sunshine. Our suspicion is that most places will be very busy this summer, as everyone is so happy that everything is open again after more than two years of staying home and being ultra-cautious. The city has many labyrinthian streets teeming with shops and cafes. The Botanical Gardens were quite busy, as well. It is free admission, but the glorious thing was, no car or tram sounds could be heard, even though it is located on a busy boulevard. It was pure bliss.
Montpellier has its own, older, Arc de Triomphe, along with beautiful public parks and plazas. We are still weaning ourselves from Italian phrases and trying to remember “please,” “hello,” and “thank you” in French, instead. Everyone has been very nice, trying to speak to us in English. We should be in Germany about the time we are used to using our meager French. After that we will be in Britain and we will probably be stuttering through several languages for a while before we get any English out. But we all understand each other, eventually.
Tomorrow, we pick up a car for a while, so we no longer will have to conform to train and bus schedules, early in the morning, wearing masks for hours. It will be very freeing!