Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mauritius - Paris - Les 3 Vallees. What could go wrong?

I packed my bags (twice), quite cleverly packing so that my things for Seoul and Orientation were at the bottom and things for Skiing were on top. Lots of nice warm jerseys, long johns, and an infinite supply of deodorant and shoes, as advised by the internet.

One bag for Daegu, one for Seoul and Skiing. Packing like a boss.
I even used my ninja-like packing skills to fit all my dad's stuff into the smallest and most wieldy suitcase he's ever taken on a ski trip. Hooray!

Despite that, we still struggled to fit all our luggage into the car, and had to change to someone's bakkie (pick-up truck) instead. Finally we waved the house-sitter goodbye, and, sweating already in our warm clothes, headed off to the airport. Dad had said that I wouldn't need to dress very warmly (I was going to wear longjohns) as we'd only be exposed to the elements for about 10 minutes during our transit to the ski resort. I happily ignored this advice, mostly. At the airport I successfully claimed some VAT on some pretty jewellery I'd bought (via dad's credit card) for my mom, adding to my $ stockpile for Korea. Everthing was going very well. Short queues, etc.

But this isn't the Red Pen Of Everything Going Quite Well, Actually.

It's the Red Pen of Doom. And this time it started with a typically Mauritian send-off: as we checked in our luggage, there was a power cut at the airport. It failed for everyone checking in at the time. So the tags that went onto our luggage stopped matching the data on the computer system. We had a half-hour delay of take-off as the airport tried to sort out everyone's luggage.

While we were waiting for that to happen, I checked out our surrounding passengers. Particularly the one behind me. Because there is nothing worse on a red-eye flight than a toddler in the seat behind you. And... Yep, there was the curly-haired, big-eyed little cherub. Luckily there was a free seat next to me so I moved. Unluckily, the mother decided she'd move into that one too, and hold said Demon Child on her lap, giving him a bit of help to reach my chair, which he proceeded to kick for the whole flight. I watched a good Korean movie (All About My Wife), an okay US comedy, and a sweet 3 hour long Bollywood movie. And I think I slept for about 2 hours in total. On the bright side, the Air France food was delicious - cheese, baguette, gateaux, a bottle of Merlot, and so on.

We hopped off the plane and started making our way around Charles de Gaulle at a quick jog, as we had a connecting train to catch to Les Moutieres and about 20 minutes in which to clear customs, get our luggage, collect the tickets and hop on the train.


The luggage that made it to France: 1 suitcase, and 6 pieces of hand luggage. That is not my suitcase.
Apparently the missing 4 suitcases will arrive sometime this afternoon. We got into the 'wrong' line at customs (the one we were told to get into) and wasted 5 minutes by standing in a ridiculously long line. Cut into the other one by using chaos as a distraction and after a 25km trek through the airport via treadmill thing, airport train and sprinting, we got to the TGV area. Dad went to collect the tickets. But he didn't have the right credit card on him for the machine, so he joined the extremely long queue. He sent my mom and I to go wait for the train at the spot where our carriage would be on the platform. Moments before the train arrived, I saw him running down the escalator towards us, so I waved him over. He'd left his spare credit cards with us and needed them. He ran back up and disappeared. The train arrived, and my mom tried to ask them to hold it, but that wasn't going to happen. So it left without us, and we kept waiting for my dad.

And waiting.

And waiting.

I took some artsy photos.

We decided to try find my dad at the ticket office, but he was nowhere to be found, even with helpful Airport people helping us to look. Mom's phone was flat and we finally managed to find a place to charge it. In the meantime she'd borrowed a policeman's phone and called my dad. I had a cold smoothie while we waited. It was cold, but it was more warmly dressed than I was.

Apparently he'd decided to leap onto a train to Bordeaux. We were supposed to be going to Les Moutieres, near Lyon. Look! A diagram.

Dad didn't quite get to Bordeaux, but with some sprinting and leaping and train-catching he managed to get onto a train to Lyon, where we were to meet him. Mom and I were seated in the bar carriage, and we played 'count the castles'. Well, we tried to. Unfortunately it looked like our train was heading to Bratislava.

They'll sell your kidneys to buy spray paint.
On top of that, dad's super-fast TGV got stuck behind a guy on one of those things with the pump-action handles, so his train was half an hour late and we missed the convenient train to Les Moutieres. We found a pub and had some lunch. The specials, at Cafe Bratislava, were Wolf Soup and Rabbit Shanks. I had squished duck with lentils - surprisingly tasty.

We finally got onto a train to Les Moutieres, and messed around a bit with cameras before playing 'count the castles' again, this time more successfully.

Photo Inception

Mom and Dad reflecting on the day's tomfoolery.

The train was full of attractive French blokes. In fact, every train we'd been on had been full of them. Maybe Bratislava Lyon has some kind of male modelling college in it. I admired the view within and without and I spotted 13 castles. The poor taxi driver who'd been waiting for us for 2 hours was very friendly and he drove us up to the ski resort, which is the highest one in the alps. With 3 hours total of sleep in the past 24, I was beginning to look and feel like I was turning into a prawn.

On the bright side, my hand luggage is like Mary Poppins' handbag, containing all the toiletries and accessories necessary to make me look human. I had some soup, had a shower, and slept for 12 glorious hours. Human again, and I woke up to this view:

Dad's gone skiing, the smug bastard, and Mom and I are going to go buy me a warmer coat (which was planned anyway). Attractive snowboarders are doing some kind of aerobics below our balcony and I can't wait to hit the slopes. 

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