another leg of this journey is underway, and it’s hopefully the last one, and even more hopefully uneventful. or at least, less eventful than it has been thus far…
“votre train a été supprimé à cause de la grève”. your train has been cancelled because of the strike.
let me backtrack. i booked my train from bern, switzerland, to aix-en-provence, france, a few days ago. i waited until i got to rebekka’s to make a decision on how long i wanted to/could stay and to see what was happening with the french rail strike. cautiously on sunday i booked the train, and checked the SNCF website each day obsessively to see if anything had changed with my reservation. i couldn’t print the ticket online, supposedly i had to get it printed at the train station. also, i would have to still book a ticket from thun to bern this morning.
all of that was fine, but in thun, as i was getting this ticket with rebekka (who had to take the same train as me to get to work anyhow), the lady told me she couldn’t print my ticket for bern to aix, i would have to try in bern.
in bern, i went to the international tickets booth, waited in line, and spoke with a gentleman who told me he also could not print my ticket as it was with SNCF (a french rail company), not SBB (the swiss rail company) – even though my reservation was from bern, reserved on an SNCF train, paid for in full. so he started to reserve me a ticket to get to geneva, where supposedly i could print the rest of my trip’s tickets out, except he wanted me to pay 49 swiss francs for the new ticket. 49CHF=49CAD. my entire trip only cost me 61€! i told him that was ridiculous, i didn’t need to pay for another ticket, i already HAD a ticket. he told me that was too bad, my ticket wasn’t valid. and then i got a little bit heated and said of course it’s valid, and why on earth i would pay for a ticket which i already had paid for, that was leaving from this very station? when he got rude and repeated that my ticket was not valid just because it was on my computer screen, i left. i got on the train anyways, just about in tears, and praying (again) that the conductor who checks tickets would be nice (or not show up at all). in fact, she was really nice, and told me that the reservation was enough for her. needless to say, for the first 20 minutes of that train trip i probably looked like a nervous wreck to the nice lady across from me. after that i relaxed and was able to enjoy the spectacular vista of the swiss alps and countryside. incidentally: lausanne. oh my goodness. vineyards on the hill leading down to the large lake which is bordered by snow-capped mountains? rebekka was right i think, most beautiful town in all of switzerland.
in geneva i went to the SNCF building and was presented with the french customer service again (welcome back robyn, we missed you! not!). naw they were friendly and helpful, but only once you sat down in front of them. four women working, a room full of customers, and only one of them was helping people on a consistent basis. the inefficiency is mind-boggling. she informed me the train i booked was cancelled due to the strike, but managed to get me on another train which would allow me to keep my connecting train to aix. phew. and that is where i am now. onward to lyon, with a ticket that doesn’t give me a seat, and i’m just hoping the train doesn’t fill up so that i am able to have a seat the entire hour and a half ride. sigh. this is already a long day.
anyway, wow switzerland is everything people say it is and more. and seeing rebekka was just wonderful (and she treated me SO well). another reunion that felt just entirely normal, even though it’d been over four years since we last saw each other… her apartment has a great view of the alps, but the view gets better the further in to thun you walk, the higher up thun castle you climb, and the further along the river towards lake thun you stroll. just, absolutely gorgeous. thun is right near the interlaken, a very popular tourist spot in the summer months, and an easy place to make day trips into the alps for spring skiing. i have, therefore, found yet another option for a retirement location! (or even to live, as it is close to the capital bern and all the international law/relations options that city offers….) 😀
we went to bern on saturday, it was just lovely. the sun was out, the bears were out (there is a bear pit in bern that they are famous for – mama, papa and two baby bears). we wandered the market and got some caramels, saw the famous bern clocktower, the beautiful parliament buildings, einstein’s apartment, and sat on the patio of the brewery/restaurant near the bear pit and had a pint in the afternoon sunshine. glorious. we even saw the crazy statue of the ogre eating babies!! (see flickr for more info). we went back to rebekka’s for dinner, and came back to bern that night to go out dancing, which was a tonne of fun.
sunday was a lazy day, and on monday rebekka had to work so i went out exploring on my own. another glorious day. i tend to get all poetic when i have days like that, and maybe it’s better for your sake i wasn’t keeping a record of my thoughts to put up on the blog. but i mean, come on. i had a picnic lunch in view of the alps by the castle, then i went up the castle towers and looked at the town and the mountains, then i walked for an hour along the river, stopping here and there to admire the swans, ducks, a pretty butterfly, a cute old couple holding hands on the path, another castle across the river, and i even sat for awhile on a bench by the pier to read and watch the boats go by. when i got back to rebekka’s, we had a cheese fondue dinner with her roommate and his girlfriend on the patio and watched a movie in the evening. it was, quite possibly, a perfect day.
thun castle from just under the ramparts
thun as seen from the towers of thun castle
along thun river
tuesday i didn’t do much, but we went to the lovely margaret and patrick’s (rebekka’s small group) for dinner, which was so nice. and now, provided all goes as planned from here, i will actually beat my poor friends to aix, as they have been delayed all over europe because of the volcano, and i may not even see them until friday, which is the day of the concert in lyon.
there you have it, another travelling excursion ends. and in fact there won’t be many more after this. but you know, that’s okay, i’m actually about ready to stay put for awhile. i’m exhausted!
post script: i am home now, at last. four trains and three buses later. it’s 22 degrees, sunny, and the breeze smells sweet. it is SO good to be back. and my friends are un-stranded and heading home soon!! wooo!!