July 5, 2016

Summertime in the Côte d'Azure - yeah, we're here again!

It should come as no surprise to those who know me well that I just can't seem to STOP traveling to France. So here are we are again, after months of planning, enjoying the summertime weather in the French Riviera.

We had a mostly uneventful trip over the pond on a nonstop flight from Seattle to CDG on Thursday, July 1, 2016. Unfortunately, I was unable to use miles to upgrade to business class seats again this year, so we "suffered" in coach. We were able to purchase seat updates to Delta's economy comfort seats and lucky to get bulkhead seats again. Honestly, this really wasn't so bad; it certainly wasn't like the luxurious experience of business class, but we liked the extra room in front of our seats. It was nice to be able to get up and stretch or use the restroom without having to disturb anyone as there was plenty of room to walk in front of anyone seated in this 4-chair row.

We arrived in Paris with 2-1/2 hours to spare before our short flight on Air France to Nice. Never before have I encountered long immigration lines at this airport and there were hundreds of people in front of us in line. Given the recent terrorism activities in Europe, it's not surprising and a little comforting that extra precautions are being taken. However, after an hour had passed and we were still in line, we started to panic that we would miss our connecting flight.

It took almost an hour and a half to clear immigration. Thankfully our Air France flight was still in Terminal 2, however, it's a big terminal and we had to first sprint to collect our luggage from the Delta flight and then fly like the wind to the Air France gate so we could check in. We made the flight with 10 minutes to spare and were the last two people to board the flight. Whew!

I didn't sleep much at all on the flight from Seattle, and I barely had my seatbelt buckled before I fell into an exhausted sleep. It was a short flight though, and barely an hour later, we were landing in Nice. Given our late boarding in Paris, it wasn't a complete shock when one of our bags did not arrive in Nice. After waiting until every bag and passenger collected their luggage from the flight, we wearily found the baggage office to report Sean's missing bag. There were a couple of other passengers with us as well. We have been SO lucky with luggage in the past, so I suppose it was "due" that we would have delayed baggage.

Air France wasn't overly helpful with information and other than providing us with a claim number for the baggage, there wasn't much else to do but wait. In fact, according to the customer service rep on the other end of the telephone, she claimed she couldn't even find Sean's bag in the system using the barcode I provided from his luggage tag they affixed to his bag in CDG. Ugh.

Sean was distressed about his bag and the possibility that it might actually be lost forever (along with some recent new clothing and she purchases for the trip), but I was optimistic that this was simply a delayed bag and with frequent flights from Paris to Nice, its arrival was imminent.

We headed over to the rental car center where being a Hertz Gold club member had its perks; there were literally hundreds of people waiting in lines behind all the rental car counters and we simply just had to go upstairs and walk to the car; no paperwork, no waiting! Voila! and off we went.

Our destination was Plan-de-la-Tour, right outside St. Maxime. We stayed in this village two years ago and we were looking forward to returning; we loved this location and it's close proximity to St. Tropez. We brought along our Garmin GPS with a recent France map installed, but lucky for us, our rental had a navigation system that we did not have to pay extra for.

We plugged in our destination and hit the freeway. We weren't but a few kilometers from Nice when British Bob announced that we were taking the next exit onto a regional road. Not wanting to question British Bob, I complied, although my experience and gut told me this wasn't feeling right. I should have listened to my gut! Although British Bob got us to Plan-de-la-Tour, I suspect he took us almost an hour out of our way and took us on the "touristic" route instead of the fast-freeway route.

Driving hairpin turns while dodging oncoming traffic (especially the motorcyclists) when sleep deprived isn't a fun thing to do. I'm pretty sure we drove to Barcelona and back before we actually arrived in Plan-de-la-Tour. I really hate British Bob and want to smash him into a million pieces.

Finally we arrive and quickly connect with our vacation rental landlord at the designated "waiting spot" so he could lead us to the house. We are literally less than a mile from our previous rental, so we are both thrilled with the location as we are very familiar with the area, so c'est bonne!

Our maisonette is lovely, with a beautiful pool and outdoor space, just as described in the VRBO listing. You can view the listing here.

We paid 2500 Euros for 2 weeks. The location is fantastic and the owners are very nice. It's also very private and quiet here.

It was almost 90 degrees when we arrived and although the pool looked inviting, a shower and nap was in order and we did exactly that. We slept for about 2 hours and as soon as we were up, we started making calls as to the status of Sean's bag. The good news is that Sean's bag was found and was actually on the next flight from Paris and already received in Nice. Unfortunately, there was no option to actually GET the bag. The bag was already picked up by their courier service for dispatch to us in Plan-de-la-Tour with estimated arrival 24-48 hours. What???? You are kidding me right now, right? "Oui, Madame Toly, zest iz zee estimate for bag delivery. C'est impossible to contact courier; you must wait."

So the plan was we were being held hostage at our villa until some unnamed courier called us to tell us they would bring the bag during the 2-hour window they would provide. There was no way we could have them just leave it at the airport for us to pick up, nor any way we could pick it up ourselves in Nice at the courier's office. NO WAY. As you can imagine, this really stressed Sean out.

So I left Sean at the villa while I went to the local Carrefour supermarché to shop for stuff like rosé and coffee - you know, the necessities! So for the next several hours, we were tied to our phones waiting for "the call." We forced ourselves to stay awake until the reasonable hour of 10:00 PM and off to bed we went.

Through some miracle I actually slept until 5:00 AM, which is a huge milestone for me; I'm usually up at 1:00 or 2:00 AM on the first night after a long-haul trip. I get online and through some sleuthing actually discover the name of the courier services that Air France has entrusted our bag to. Unfortunately, they only have a "contact us" form on their website so there's no way to actually call them the old-fashioned way. So we wait.

It was another hot day and this beautiful pool is staring at us, so I decide to go purchase some swim trunks and a t-shirt for Sean so we can at least lounge in the pool while we wait for that stupid phone call. Finally at 1:30 PM, my phone rings and through some combination of my bad French and his poor English, we confirm the address of our villa and he says he'll be there within an hour. Hoorah!

9 phone calls later from Mr. French, he admits that he can't find Plan-de-la-Tour (never mind the villa) and he asks if we can just meet him at "Mack Donalds" in St. Maxime. Um, OK. (so much for the promise of "we'll deliver the bag to you at your rental villa". Well, I don't know where McDonald's is, so I ask him if we can meet at the Carrefour. He agrees and I tell him I will be there in 5 minutes. He says "I vill be in zee vite van". OK!

Sean and I arrive at the Carrefour and see 6 white vans (none of them had any signage on them). We drive past all of them and some of them have nobody inside. Sean gets out of our car with his baggage claim slip in hand and starts knocking on van windows "do you have my bag" kind of like the nursery rhyme "are you my mother?". One guy actually told Sean "yes" and when Sean asked "is it in the back" he says "yes", but then when Sean started asking more questions, he kept nodding his head and saying "yes." Me thinks he no unnerstand what ze Americain says.

Then my phone starts ringing and Mr. French asks me "where are you? I am here. Right in front." I explain we are also "here, right in front." We get out of our car and start flapping our arms like crazy people and when Mr. French tells me he still can't see me, I ask "are you are the Carrefour by Aqualand, the location I told you to meet me at?" Siliencio. Then, "oh, I'm at a different one." I am literally pulling my hair out.

OK, please go back to the Mack Donald's and I will come to you. I google McDonald's and voilia!, it's literally down the road. Boy, I really love technology! It sure makes things so much easier!

Off to Mack Donald's and we connect with Mr. French and Sean is back to being happy and not in despair over his missing bag. Now we can finally get on with our vacation!

Au revoir!

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