France as it is meant to be.

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Monday, August 2, 2010

On our way out of Marseilles we got treated to one more act of French hospitality. I don't want to keep complaining in this blog, but the service level of the French hospitality business is just too hilarious. We packed our suitcases and checked out of our Hotel. The Hotel was good though, the girl behind the reception counter spoke some English, but more important she was willing to help out. Earlier today we had to print the reservations for our booking at Europcar. And as the computer was all French we could not figure out how to set their printer to print normal pages. The girl from the reception was lost too, but somehow she managed, as she called up to the room half an hour after we stopped trying, telling us she managed to fix it. So don't get me wrong, not all French are horrible, but the few that are, ruin it for the rest of them.

So as we got out of the Hotel we walked across the street to the taxi stand, why call for a cab if there is a stop just across the street we thought. We walked to the front of the queue of taxis and waited there with our suitcases. A taxi driver dressed as if he was going to the gym, shorts and Olympic Marseilles soccer shirt, came up to us. We showed him the address of Europcar from our freshly printed reservations form and told him that we had to go there. He started rambling in French and told us to get lost as according to the taxi driver it was only a 10 minutes' walk. Yeah right with suitcases, I don't think so! So this dude refused service. We thought, OK keep smiling, and remembered a phrase that a friend on Bermuda told us. Keep thinking : ' They are trying their best...' We moved down to the next cab, as this driver came to see what was going on. He seemed more willing to help, and was willing to take us. But then he told us that this ride (a 10 minute walk according to the first driver) would cost us 15 Euro as this is the minimum rate they would charge. We thought 'No Way' and figured that they indeed were trying their best, their best to screw over tourists.

We dragged our suitcases across the street back to the hotel. The friendly girl from reception helped us out by calling a cab, that did actually did take us to the car rental place, on a metered fare. But this dude drove just abut the same route as the tour bus did earlier, taking all sorts of detours. So the 10 minute walk taxi ride ended up costing 13 Euro instead of 15. And somehow he was offended that we did not thank him for driving us around needlessly.

Efin, as we say in France, we got to Europcar and got our car for the coming 13 days. A brand new Golf/6 diesel with only 4500KM on the counter. This is the only indication that the car is brand new as it has some serious scratches and a little bend in the porter. The outside was washed, but the inside was dusty and dirty. They tried to give it to us checked as 'no damage'. Maybe here this is 'No Damage' but to me it looked like a 3 year old car. So we got all damage reported on the forms and escaped the city of Marseilles. Off to the countryside.

We planned to stop by Niels, an old friend of mine, to say hi. He was staying at a campsite close to Beziers near the coast. It was on the way as we had to drive dow there to cut through to Toulouse. It was great to see Niels, his wife and two lovely girls, such a cute family. We enjoyed a glass together and chatted a bit about days long gone. As we lost a lot of time in the traffic jams on the route to Barcelona (A9/E15) we could not stay too long. We had quite a drive ahead of us, towards Grenade, just off Toulouse.

As we headed onwards we escaped the packed auto routes and cut through the lovely landscapes of the Languedoc and Rousselion regions. The drive was nice, and we started to enjoy France a bit more. Even the weather turning a bit bad did not change that. We stopped for a early dinner along a small town somewhere on the way. We had simple, yet delicious food served by friendly people in a sort of bar. We did notice though that the entire place was filled up with Dutch people, and there were almost more yellow Dutch license plates on the road than French. We arrived in the camping packed south of France.

Our drive took us further along the chaotic circular road of Toulouse into the little town of Grenade. Here we stayed at a very small boutique hotel called 'Villa Leopoldine'. The whole hotel had only 4 or 6 rooms, and luckily we called ahead telling them we would be arriving late. They left us the code to the door, and an envelope was waiting for us, with the key and the question if we wanted a breakfast the next morning. Here they were even friendly without being present.

The room was great and roomy, with nice high ceilings. The bed was comfortable and we were in need of it. Let's see what this town looks like in daylight, tomorrow..

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