I have arrived ! One plane, two buses, and an emotional breakdown later, and I have made it to Hotel Vacanciel, where I will be working for the next three months. My year abroad has officially begun, however I’m hoping that the rest of my adventures will be slightly less stressful than today’s experience…
The plane journey was very smooth, as was the first bus ride. When I arrived at the second bus station I had an hour and a half to wait for my next connection, so I made the most of it and relaxed on a bench in the sun. However, the excessive hydration I did on the plane soon kicked in and I found myself searching desperately for toilets. I found a café with the required facilities only to be told that I had to buy a drink in order to use them. Slightly counter-productive if you ask me but I was very grateful. It was really fun to be speaking French and to hear it around me, which is obviously the reason I am here.
When my bus finally arrived, I told the driver the name of the hotel, he SEEMED fairly sure of where it was and so I sat down happily and enjoyed the scenic drive from St Raphael, through the pretty town of Frejus, enjoying the many palm trees and pastel-coloured buildings.
When we reached Roquebrune Sur Argens, the driver stopped at the first bus stop and told me that this was my destination. Admittedly it didn’t look convincing (a dual carriage way by a large roundabout), but when I reminded him of the hotel name he nodded and said it was just up the road. I was a bit dubious but followed his directions for about 10 minutes, precariously walking along a busy road on a dusty, makeshift pavement, wheeling my two suitcases behind me. However, it became clear after a while that the hotel was nowhere in sight. The sun was scorching, I was completely exhausted, I couldn’t see any signs for the hotel and what I’d researched on Google street view was scarily unlike the road I was walking on. I had obviously got off the bus way too early.
I started to panic. It was really hot, there was absolutely no shade, I was on a busy road and it dawned on me that I didn’t even have the hotel’s phone number. When I eventually found a different bus stop, I read that the next bus wasn’t for and hour and a half. I roamed around hopelessly for a while and then began to cry.
In the hope of finding help and/or shade, I took a side road and found an old lady in her garden. I must have looked as traumatised as I felt because she asked me what was wrong. I burst into tears again and had to explain my ridiculous situation in tearful French. She made me drink some water, sit in the shade and try to calm down. She had never heard of the hotel but said she would ring her son. I then decided to ring home and get the hotel’s number from them.
Whilst her son was on his way I pulled myself together and managed to get hold of the phone number. He then arrived, kindly rang the hotel, found out their address (which turned out to be about a ten minute drive away) and drove me there himself. To me, the risk of stranger danger was preferable to collapsing in a heap of suitcases and sweat at the side of a major road (he also had a 5 year old little boy who was very cute).
When we pulled up outside the hotel I was so, so relieved. It is really pretty, surrounded by trees and has a swimming pool with incredible views. I am now sat in my new room, enjoying both the air-conditioning and the prospect of not having to carry a suitcase for another three months. I start work tomorrow, but my first shift is not until the evening.
The lady and her son who helped me were so kind. They told me the first day was always going to be hard, they complimented my French and wished me luck with the rest of my trip. They refused to accept money for rescuing me and simply said that they were glad I was ok.
So, amidst the trauma of today’s events, I learned two things:
– The kindness of strangers is truly remarkable
– I will be making the return journey, in September, by taxi.