Sunday, August 17, 2014

Limoges hated us, Andorra sucked, and Ville Franche was the best ever!

After exploring Oradour-sur-Glane, we took off and headed to our next destination: Limoges. The drive wasn't too far so we ended up making a few detours on the way there. Our first stop was at Sarlat. A good friend had mentioned how beautiful it was, and the whole Dordogne Valley, so when I saw the sign I yelled at Nathan to "TURN THERE!" The trip up to Sarlat was stunning! Once we got to the town, though, we didn't get to do much, okay, any exploring. We realized it was getting late and really needed to get to Limoges. We found us a McDonalds, woot woot, hopped on the free WiFi, and figured out where to go from there. That was our adventure in Sarlat, so pretty much our drive was a complete waste except for the fact that now I can say I have been to Sarlat! I actually would love to go back and check it out one time. It seemed like a really neat place.
To entertain ourselves while continuing to drive, Nathan and I decided to have a music "battle". We HATE, and I mean HATE, each other's taste in music. His crazy heavy metal rock and roll makes me want to commit Harry Carry and my music makes him want to punch a baby! It's not good! So, we took turns tormenting each other by finding the longest songs on our playlist that we knew would drive the other person absolutely mad! I have to say that he was the clear winner of the competition; although I busted out some MmmBop, he managed to find an 11 minute song that drove me bat crap crazy! Well played, husband!
The next few days were somewhat of a blur! We made it to Limoges and immediately things began to go south. Right away I realized my printed off google map directions to our hotel were wrong and not even in the correct city. There were plenty of signs telling us that McDonalds was nearby, so we were relieved, until we couldn't actually find any! Eventually we did find our way to one, but it was a big fat disappointment. The darn WiFi wouldn't work. We sat there for what seemed like ages trying to connect to it. I even went over to the free iPads, which did have internet, but would not open any maps or directions or form of navigation for the life of us! We were pretty frustrated. Somehow we did find that there were more McDonalds in town, but we just weren't sure how to get to them. All of the events are a big blur now, but once again, we somehow managed to find another McDonalds! We go inside and guess what! No DANG WIFI AGAIN! It was advertised on the door and everything, "Free Wifi," but we could not get it to work. Both of use were insanely mean and grumpy by now. It had been hours since we had left Oradour!
I have this weird knack for directions; it's a gift, really! ;) I can just "feel" where I need to go...sometimes. In Limoges, this was not the case. I just thought that I could kind of figure out, in this city of about 150,000, where our hotel would be! I was incredibly wrong and we ended up so far out in the middle of nowhere it was almost comical. 
Anyway, longggg story short, somehow we managed to find our dang hotel and move on with our lives, or not!
We get to the hotel, which is not really a hotel at all, but a giant dorm complex thing that they rent out to tourists in the summer months. I walk up to the double doors to check-in, and note that it's well into the evening now, pull on the doors and the place is LOCKED! I see the sign, and thanks to my amazing French skills, not, I read that they were closed and that I had to call to check in since it was after hours. Holy crap! Do you know how much money it costs to make a phone call on Verizon to an international number? I was really starting to think this town was cursed!
I finally got a hold of this guy who spoke HORRID broken English! I would say his english was comparable to my french, so, no hope for either of us! I could barely understand a word he said. Once he FINALLY understood my name, after I spelled it like 35 times, and seriously, we are like 20 minutes into our convo by now, he tells me that he can't find the reservation anywhere. He offered to transfer me to someone at the hotel to see if they could help. So I go through the whole process again, try to spell my name like 30 times, the lady finally gets it and what do you know....she can't find the reservation either! I was fuming mad by this point! Like steam coming out of my ears angry. So now I have to make another dang phone call to Chase to tell them that our reservation we made with our Ultimate Rewards points can't be found even though I have the confirmation right in front of my face. Talked to Chase for ages, they put me on hold for ages, then came back and said that everything should be taken care! So I call my "friend" back and, what do you know, they STILL COULDN'T FIND MY RESERVATION! We are talking over an hour into international phone calls now! It probably would have been cheaper by now to find another hotel and just pay for it. I think I handed the phone over to Nathan at some point because I just couldn't deal with the situation anymore. We call Chase back, something about someone having different confirmation numbers was mentioned, bla bla bla, got put on hold for ages, same situation all over. This time Chase called the hotel. Anyway, we FINALLY get it figured out, 2 dang hours later, they actually send a sweet young lady to the hotel to help us, we get checked in and life continues as normal...kind of! We get to our room and our bed is seriously a hide-away sofa! I'm pretty sure Nathan wanted to go postal by then! Then, to top it off, our room was so far out we couldn't connect to the WiFi to find somewhere to go eat or get directions or tell me family we were alive!
Do you believe me yet that this town had it out for us? Just wait, it gets worse! We decided to go grab some grub because we were starving. We start driving around and finally find some places downtown to choose from! Unfortunately, we chose the grossest choice possible! Seriously, the food was not good. Their whole theme was centered around Hippos and they even had a "Hippo Burger!" The name was suppose to refer to the size of the burgers, but I had to wonder if maybe their meet was a little "special" as well! Anyway, nasty food, but at least we weren't hungry! We figured out how to get back to our hotel, Yay, and got really excited when we had a little stroke of luck finally hit us! Right in front of the hotel there was one teeny tiny parking space left just the perfect size for our little car! If it wasn't for that spot, I honestly don't know where we would have parked! Nathan pulls in, we hop out, go to our room, and dream about getting out of that town bright and early! 
We wake up the next morning and we just happened to miss breakfast by like 5 minutes: Us 0 Limoges 10,000! Whatever, we will go eat at McDonalds since we actually know where it is now! We check out and walk outside, I started walking down the hill not remembering where we parked when I hear Nathan shout, "Toni! Where's our car?" I start saying, "It's down there where we...Ugh, wait, we didn't park down there!"  Nathan was standing where our car should have been but it was currently empty! OH MY GOSH! We both looked at each other and our hearts dropped. Was it stolen? What do we do? Do we call the police? Do we....right then a sign caught our eye. It was the same sign we saw the night before. It merely said "Parking," which we thought referred to the area all the other cars were nestled into, but in the morning, it was quite obvious that the sign was actually an entrance to a parking garage! That's right! We had parked in front of the entrance to the parking garage! Completely befuddled and slightly mind blown, we walked back in to the hotel to talk the receptionist! She was super sweet and helpful! The manager came out as well and basically looked as shocked as we were but for different reasons! He couldn't believe we were dumb enough to park in front of the entrance to a parking garage!
The receptionist was able to call a taxi for us and walked us through the steps we needed to take to get our car back. We had left our rental agreement in the car, which if the manager had any doubts of how dumb we were, he was now 100% convinced of our idiocy now! "Why you leave zee papers in zee car? You always have zee rental papers with you!" Thanks, fella! Little too late for that now, though!
The taxi picked us up and took us to the impound lot. We get there, oh, and the taxi driver spoke zero english, so I was finally forced to bust out my french skills! Poor man! Okay, impound lot, we arrive, we go to pay the owner, who also spoke no english, and he says "Cash Only!" I guess he spoke a little english! Yes! Taxi driver, turn that meter on again and drive us to an ATM! First we grabbed "zee rental papers" from the car though! The driver then takes us over to an ATM, which by the way, is freaking hard to describe when you have no idea what it's called in French! I finally came up with something along the lines of "The machine that distributes gold, please!' The message was conveyed and we got the cash!
After the ATM, we went to the police station. I'm telling you, from our hotel, to the impound lot, to the ATM, to the police station, well, I think some smarty person set this town up very strategically. They were each located at the most opposite corners at the edges of the city! Ching ching, went the meter!
The police station was fun! Everyone was super nice and I started to become friends with our taxi driver! He probably thought I was high with some of the phrases I came up with! "Crazeeee Americannn!" Okay, so we get the car released from the police station, started heading back to the impound lot, and the taxi driver tells us his credit card machine isn't working and he can only take cash! Of course it's not working! What is Limoges score now? 80,000 to 0? Sounds about right! I told him I understood like 6 times, but apparently he really really doubted my french because he called another cab driver who spoke english, pulled over, and had the other man explain that we had to pay in cash! 
We get back to the impound lot, pay our drive 50 Euro, which isn't awful if you make Euro, but we make USD, so times that by 1.4 and it starts to hurt a little! We then pay the impound guy another 120 Euro x 1.4 again, ouch! And FINALLY we have our car back! We hopped inside and you better believe we headed out of that town as fast as we could!
Next stop, Toulouse!
So we didn't do a dang thing in Toulouse! Like literally, we didn't even leave the hotel except for like 5 minutes, when we realized it was rush hour, so then we turned the car around and headed back to the hotel!
 It rained and rained all evening there. We went and ate at the restaurant in the hotel, which was pretty okay, headed up to our room, did some more research on driving to Andorra and the road conditions, and went to bed. The next morning we decided to forgo Andorra because it was still raining and it was early April, and since Pas de la Casa, the city in Andorra we would stop in is at like 8000-9000ft! Quite the difference from Toulouse, which is practically at sea level. After checking out of the hotel, I changed my mind again at the last second! I knew that I would regret not going. I told Nathan that we should just start driving and if the weather was awful, we would just turn around and head to Perpignan!

90% of the drive was basically dry! The climb up to Andorra was probably the most beautiful part of France. It was absolutely amazing!  We started to see a little bit of snow here and there after quite a while, and then all of a sudden things changed. There were only like 12 miles left to Andorra, but the snow was thick, our vision was limited, and it was just kind of nasty. We saw plenty of cars coming down, so we knew it wasn't necessarily unsafe to continue on. We finally made it to Pas de la Casa after taking it pretty slow for those last few miles! It was cold, snowy, and all wintery there. We drove up, found a McDonalds, used the WiFi to get directions that would take us to the Perpignan airport, found a place to eat, chowed down, and then headed on our way. I think an hour in Andorra is MORE than enough! It's just a boring resort town that is kind of dirty and full of cigarettes, booze, and perfume!
We had just come from much warmer Toulouse, thinking that the weather couldn't be THAT different! Boy were we wrong!
The drive down was much more mellow than the drive up! I had read that on several websites that this would be the case. It wasn't quite as beautiful as the drive up, but it was still stunning!
Our next destination was for Perpignan where we would go straight to the train station, hop on the train, and then head to Barcelona, Spain! The drive from Andorra was only around 2 hours, and we made sure to schedule plenty of time for the drive since we have a history of bad luck with catching our trains! About 1.5 hours into the drive, we went around a turn and right in front of our faces with this amazing walled fortress city town thingy with part right along the road and part on top of a hill! I told Nathan we had to stop! He was a little hesitant because he didn't want to risk missing the train, but eventually caved. I am so glad we stopped! This place was amazing and possibly one of my most favorite places ever! The bottom portion walled and lining the road was the old area of the town of Ville Franche. The city was in great condition and surprisingly large. We walked through that part, I do have to warn that is smelled like cat poo pretty strongly in some sections! There was also a group of really young school kids, I'm talking like kindergarten aged, touring the inside. They were so cute and made me miss my boys. Besides the kids and cats, the place was virtually empty. Just the way I like it! Once we finished with the inside, we talked to the desk lady and asked her about climbing the hill to see the fortress. She explained that is was about a 20 minute hike and that it would cost more money, surprise, to see it! I just had to see it! We crossed over to where the hike started. An old man was sitting in front of a door that looked like it went into the hill. We some how communicated with each other and found out that he only took cash but once we made it to the top we could pay there.
The hike was pretty vigorous and I broke a nice little sweet. Nathan was not thrilled about hiking at all! When I got to the gates I was so confused because there wasn't anyone there. After wandering around for a minute, a random young girl came out and talked to me. I followed her inside a building where she gave me lots of water to drink and then let me pay! She showed us a map and explained how to get around the fortress. We parted ways and started on our self guided tour.
This is the sign pointing to the entrance of the Fortress on the hill. 
View from the top! It was so insanely beautiful! I had a hard time taking my eyes away from it! I didn't want to leave. Once we finished the tour, we headed back down to the building where the girl was and talked to her for a minute. She told us that the doorway at the bottom of the hill was actually a huge staircase of almost 900 steps leading to and from the fortress! She also told me that this was how she got to work everyday, climbing ALL those stairs and then descending them in the evening! I decided to take the staircase down and Nathan went with the hike! What an awesome experience to be in that massive staircase all by myself! It was insane how all I could see for ages was stairs! I tried to get a picture showing the massiveness but it just doesn't quite do it justice!
Stairs for as long as your eye can see. I tried counting the steps but kept losing count. I know that by around 500 my legs were starting to feel pretty rubbery! I finally made it to the bottom and came out the door where my little old man friend was waiting. I "chit chatted" with him for a few minutes while I waited "mon mari" to finish his descent! Nathan finally popped out and then we headed over to the car and took off! Next stop, Perpignan!