Posted by: Zombi | June 23, 2010

Three strikes and I’m out

The trip home was supposed to be the easy one!

After cycling back from San Remo to the nearest station, reaching my campsite in Nice was very welcome.

The following two days have been spent doing very little other than eating. Probably as a result of the large calorie shortfall over the last two weeks I have spent the last three days hungry. Meal, rest, meal has been the formula I have worked towards.

After finishing on Sunday, I had, or thought I had, until 9pm on Thursday before my train overnight to Paris, eurostar to London then train home. The weather has been great and I love Nice so what could be better.

Tuesday saw me potter out on the bike and eventually locate a bike bag to transport the bike home in in a bike shop near the port. That was me finally all sorted.

This afternoon, following mincing round he promenade enjoying the rays (as in sun rays, not two people called Raymond) I meandered back up to the station with just enough time to get the train to the campsite and be in place for watching the England players put my mincing to shame.

“Please note” the station speaker boomed, “due to strike action, trains will be disrupted tomorrow. Please check notice boards for further information”. Darting round like a ferret in a hall of mirrors I scanned the hall for information. In typical French style there was nothing. Eventually I managed to find a small information desk with a rather stout lady who had little desire to give out any information. I guessed this by the fact she greate me, I started asking her if my train would be affected, then, halfway through her phone rang, she answered it and proceeded to chat away for 5 minutes before greeting me again asif she had never seen me before. Following eventually getting my question out she looked down and wrote on a peice of paper “tomorrow strike”. Excellent, have you ever thought of being a news presenter? With that thought of considered insightful response I’m sure it would be jus your thing. A little more questioning resulted in me finding out there was not disruption there were just no trains at all.

The queue for the ticket office was remarkably small. When I arrived I asked if there were any trains to Paris I could get tonight to avoid the strike. “Yes there is”, I was told. “In one hour and forty five minutes but you will have to pay”. Surprised I asked, “but it is not my fault the train isn’t running, your company is on strike”. “Ah yes, but we are not on strike yet so we have not stopped you getting your train”. “but you just told me again it wasn’t running?” “it’s not, we are on strike”. Seeing I wasn’t going to get very far with this I decided it would be best to get back to the camping as quick as possible and try to get back for the last train running to the capital. Miss that and I miss all my connections.

After eventually reaching the campsite it became clear I wouldn’t have time to pack, get back to he station, buy a new ticket and get on the train after dismantling the bike.

At least I can watch England I thought. French television was showing the USA game. Great!

After a couple of phone calls home for a couple of favours it became apparent that a flight home might be the best option. Either was was going to be expensive as I would have had to repurchase eurostar and train tickets anyway.

So, back on the bike and off the 6 miles to the airport. Jet2, shut. Bmi Baby, abhorantly expensive. As I was leaving the BMI desk she told me to try Easyjet over in the other terminal. “great thanks, oh and by the way, the flight tonight was expensive, what about tomorrow, is there anything cheaper?”. She looked surprised, “tomorrow there are no flights, there is a strike.” Oh for….

Now I was left in the position that if I didn’t get a flight today, and it was 5:45 now, I wasn’t getting one tomorrow and it would be Friday or Saturday before I was getting home. With work on Monday the thought of arriving home on Saturday wasn’t great, not to mention the extra cash I would be spending.

Arriving, by now sweating, at the Easyjet desk I asked again if there were any flights back to England today, knowing I needed 2 hours to get back to get my stuff, get back and check in, I wasn’t hopeful.

Yes sir, we have one more to Gatwick tonight, leaving at 9:45. I could have kissed her. Unfortunately she looked like Elton John so I didn’t. “Can I have one ticket please, how much is it…”

You may have heard stories about how airlines give tickets away at the last minute as they may as well get something as opposed to nothing. They don’t. They know, anyone buying a ticket on the day isn’t doing it on a whim, they are doing it because they (think) they need it. The airlines charge accordingly.

240€ later and I was peddaling back to the campsite to get my worldly belongings. 1 tent with a slight leak, 4 cycling magazines (used), 1 blue sleeping bag, half a packet of biscuits and a binbag full of unwashed cycling kit that a swarm of bluebottles would pass over in preferance to a cow pat (Gordon, if you think I am landing on ‘that’ you have got another thing coming).

Mess in tow I emerged back at the airport and preceeded to start dismantelling the bike to get it in it’s new bag. With that done and a few other bits and bobs popped in as well so I didn’t end up with more than the two other bags I was allowed I hotfooted it over to the spectacually good looking girl on the check out desk. She smiled, because that’s what she was paid to do. She would probably squirted me with mace if she had her way (in fairness she was very nice to me). Leavering my bike bag on the belt, aware that I had a 20kg limit I saw the scales tip 21.7kg. She looked at me like she wanted to help me out. “Do you have much other stuff?”. “No” I squeeked. “Just these two bags. They are only light” I winced as the straps cut in to my fingers due to the weight.

She smiled, “ok, that will be fine”. I could have kissed her. In fact I did try but she had one if those buttons which made a security screen shoot up in front of her. I nearly lost my nose it went up that quick.

My flight is due to leave any minute now (10pm ish). I have a bus booked for 6am tomorrow morning from gatwick arriving in to Leeds around 12:45 (I think it goes via Nice). Nonight won’t be the best nights sleep ever but I have slept in worse places and at least I wi be on my way home.

It has been a long trip all in all, the way home has been the most complex but it looks to be nearly over now.

Thanks, you’ve been a great audience. That was my last blog but the videos will be up in a couple of days.

Ben

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