Friday, August 2, 2013

Bonjour de France

On Tuesday July 30, I flew out of Baltimore to Philadelphia, which was supposed to be flight one of three. On the plane to Brussels, I was seated next to a pair of American siblings, Andrew and Emily, who were on their way to Belgium for a week, and decided that they wouldn't be such bad companions for the long trip over (though on my way to Dublin last year I had the privilege of sitting next to an Irish man who had some fantastic stories). But, we never made it to Brussels; in fact, we never made it out of Philadelphia. After two false starts (where we were literally taxiing down the runway for take-off both times before the pilot hit the brakes and took us back to the gate) and 1.5 hours of sitting on the plane in between, we de-boarded the plane and our flight was cancelled.

Thus began a pretty torturous 36 hours, which involved waiting almost three hours for a shuttle to a hotel (until about 130am); having to change my connecting flight three different times (due to the cancelled flight and U.S. Airways error), getting no chance to sleep for almost 30 hours, and having to buy 3 different train tickets to Carcassonne because Rail Europe, the company I bought them through online/by phone, was absolutely no help (a word to the wise: don't bother buying train tickets to anywhere in Europe until you're already there. In my limited experience, both train and bus tickets can be had easily even minutes before departure, and for much cheaper than U.S. travel on, say, the Amtrak). It was literally like one of those nightmares in which you're trying really hard to get somewhere you have to be and can't seem to make it. I dread to think what my next Verizon phone bill is going to look like, at $1.29 per minute for calls made from Europe (though I should be, and really am, glad that I made the choice and had the ability to bring it with me).

Ultimately, I ended up flying from Philadelphia to Frankfurt, from there to Munich, and finally from there to Toulouse (where I had to take a shuttle to the train station and board the train to Carcassonne). I had a few minutes to kind of collect myself there before John from La Muse came to pick me up, and Carcassonne seems like quite a lively place (I'm sorry I missed my first night there, though we're going to take a couple of day trips as part of our "ride package"). I got the chance to shop at a French supermarket for the first time; between that and the train station I got to see both how much French I've actually learned ("Je voudrais un billet a Carcassonne pour dix-sept heures, s'il vous plait") and how painfully far I still have to go. (I brought study materials).

The others staying at La Muse currently all speak English, though for a few it's not their first language (we have one Dutch woman who lives with her family in Dublin, a Frenchman, and a Korean woman who's lived in America for most of her life). The Inn provided dinner for us and while we ate, we got better acquainted; most of the others have amazing histories of living or travelling throughout America, Europe, and Africa. Most were fluent in at least two languages (though the Dutch woman speaks five, because, as she said, "no one speaks Dutch") though I'm not the only one who doesn't speak (much) French.

This morning we had a crepe breakfast and a bit more formal of an introduction, and then John gave us a tour of the little village we're in. It's been so soothing already, being here. There are fruit trees (cherries and figs) and walnut trees, and a little spring with delicious cold water. Various paths and roads wind up the mountains, and you can hear birds, crickets and locusts almost non-stop (in addition to the church bell, which has a lovely, unobtrusive ring). In other words, not even 24 hours here have relieved much of the stress of my ridiculous journey.

I plan to take a walk later this afternoon/evening to get some photos of the village, but in the meantime, here are a few shots I took out my room's window this morning.

The view straight out my window, into the valley.

To the right, the very edge of the La Muse building and a continuation of the village (and someone else's table)

And the view to the left -- La Muse's terrace (and the table where we had dinner)

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