adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

The Long, Sometimes Frustrating, But Definitely Exciting Journey to Montpellier

Like our Road Trip, our journey over to Montpellier was smooth sailing until the last leg of the trip…and a little bit beyond.  We started off at Cleveland International Airport.  My parents had to rent an SUV to hold the 4 of us, our 10 bags + a dog, but we arrived in record time and checked in with no problems.  The woman at the counter looked at us like we were crazy when we handed her 7 bags to check, but once we explained that we were actually moving to France, she relaxed.  Jokingly, I turned to Michael and said, “What are the odds all 7 bags actually get to Paris when we do?”  Surprisingly, this did not turn out to be one of our problems. We arrived in Toronto and boarded our overnight flight to Paris.  The plan was to pop an Ambien and sleep through this part of the trip, but Air Canada made it way too entertaining to want to sleep!  I had my own personal TV with loads of “Hollywood Movie” choices that included all the Oscar nominated films and a lot of girly chick flicks.  What did I choose?  Two girly chick flicks:  Going the Distance (cute) and Love and Other Drugs (dumb).  I figured if it’s going to be just me and Michael for the foreseeable future, I better get in my cheesy movies while I can. We landed in Charles de Gaulle at 9:30am local time and this is when our problems started.  First, we had to retrieve our 7 giant checked bags (thank god the luggage carts are free in Europe!) plus our 3 carry-ons and dog and trudge through a long line at customs.  No problems there.  Micholics: 1, France:  0. We raced to the Air France counter to check in for our final flight to Montpellier and discovered that it was going to cost over 1,000E to check all of our bags.  Ouch.  Due to Michael’s Super Special Status with United (of which Air Canada is a partner), we were able to check 3 bags each no matter how heavy during the first part of our trip.  We had been concerned that because we were transferring from Air Canada to Air France (where Michael does not have Super Special Status) that we might have problems with our baggage allowance.  We had expressed our concerns to our travel agent numerous times over the last week and asked if we should take a train instead, but she assured us this would not be a problem.  Wrong.  As we debated whether or not we should check the bags and whether or not Michael’s company would reimburse us, we looked at our watches.  We had about 45 minutes until our flight was going to take off.  We asked the ticket agent, “If we go through with this, are we even going to make our flight?”  He did some tippy-tapping on his computer and responded, “Ahhh….no.  But the next flight is at 6:30pm.”  Micholics: 1, France: 1. At least the decision was made for us.  We loaded all the bags back onto our two luggage carts and began the long journey across the airport to the train station.  Michael went to buy us tickets while I guarded our mountain of bags.  I felt like such an idiot, one girl with so many bags, and wanted to scream to every passerby, “I’m moving here!  That’s why I have so many bags!  It’s really not as bad at is looks!”  Totally embarrassing.  Michael came back about 20 minutes later.  “Well,” he said, “I have good news and I have bad news.  The good news is that I got us tickets.  The bad news is that the next available train leaves at 4:00pm.”  At that point it was about 11am, which meant 5 hours of hanging around a train station with a million bags and a dog who’d been sitting in a bag for 24 hours.  We schlepped our belongings to the waiting area and Michael got us settled in while I took Fig outside to relieve himself.  After a nonsleeping 7 hour flight with all the Hollywood movies I could ever imagine, sitting in that train station for 5 exhausting hours in a hard plastic chair was pretty brutal.  I fell asleep a few times, but instead of getting some rest, I just twisted my back into muscle spasms.  Micholics:  1, France:  2.

are we there yet?

Five long, boring hours later, it was time to board our train.  But we couldn’t actually bring our two luggage carts onto the train. We had to feverishly lug each heavy bag from the platform to the train, drag it upstairs, and find a spot for it, all in about 45 seconds before the doors closed.  Oh, and I had a dog in a bag.  And I had barely slept.  Piece of cake.

at the train station

The train ride was the bright spot in our day.  The reason we had to go upstairs is because Michael had splurged for first class seats that were spacious and comfortable.  There were no posted dog regulations, so I took Fig out of the bag and he sat in between us the whole ride as the three of us completely passed out and got some much needed rest.  Four hours later, we arrived in Montpellier – finally!  Micholics:  2, France:  2. We had to perform the horrific bag routine once again to get everything out of the train, but we managed to do so pretty quickly.  To get to the taxi stand, we had to get upstairs, so Michael went looking for a baggage cart.

get me upstairs!

Alas, none existed so we had to clip as many bags together as possible and slowly roll our mountain to the elevator.  As we approached the taxi stand, I could practically feel all the drivers’ eyes popping out of their heads.  We approached a driver with a large van and asked him if he could fit all our bags and take us to our hotel.  Yes he could.  For an additional fee, naturally. We arrived at our hotel at 8:30pm and the taxi dumped us on the side of the road with our mountain of bags.  One by one we dragged each one into the hotel.  Oh thank baby Jesus we had finally arrived!  Michael went to the front desk to check us in.  “What is your last name again?” the clerk asked us.  “It’s Micholic.”….”Hmm,” she said, “ah yes!  Here it is.  Your reservation is not until tomorrow.”  This is the point I burst into tears.  This was a joke.  It was a joke, right?  How could the travel agent have messed this up too?  Wasn’t she the same person who booked our flight?  While Michael calmly tried to figure things out, I started seething.  I couldn’t believe it.  This couldn’t be happening.  The hotel was able to offer us a different room for the night, albeit a much smaller room, but there was one little catch.  The toilet was broken.  Awesome.  We were faced with the choice of trying to find another hotel in the city at 8:30pm that would take us for the night, with our dog, calling a taxi, loading up our mountain of bags, driving to the hotel, unloading our bags, and repeating the whole thing over again the next day to come back, OR stay in a teeny, tiny room with 10 bags, a dog, and a toilet that didn’t work.  Micholics:  2, France:  3. We schlepped up to the teeny, tiny room with no toilet, showered, and decided to get out of the hotel and into the town.  Michael did the best he could to cheer me up and show me around our new hometown.  The main part of the city is about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, so we headed over there for some dinner.  It was a clear, brisk Saturday night.  People were out and about and the city was bustling.  We walked through the winding cobblestone streets to a little restaurant that Michael had been to back in January, Les Caves Jean Jaurés.  We had an absolutely fantastic meal of Camembert et Jambon Salade, Coq au Vin, and Joues de Porc served in a sauce so incredible, you'll just have to come visit and try it for yourself.  Micholics:  3, France:  3. We came home and I finally popped that Ambien.  We fell asleep weary, defeated, but full of delicious food, and all tied up 3 to 3.  We spent the next day walking all around the city, checking out the sights, doing a little shopping, and getting acclimated.  I decided to stop keeping score and try to just relax in my new home.  It’s been a challenge but I’m trying my best.

in front of the mini Arc de Triomphe

a beautiful day

botanical gardens

Sunday night we continued our 11-year San Francisco Easter Tradition by stuffing our faces at an Indian restaurant.  This is something Michael has done with friends for the last decade (I’ve taken part for the last 5 years) and we weren’t going to let a silly ocean stop us from carrying it on into France.  We actually researched and picked a spot last week; a place called Restaurant Puja.  We stopped by earlier in the day to make sure they would be open for dinner, and showed up around 8:30 last night.  We had another delicious meal of Vegetable Samosas, Cumin Naan, Chicken Korma, and Lamb Puja.  It was a great way to end our first weekend in France – with a little taste of home.

veggie samosas

sauces for the naan. clockwise from left: hot peppers, mint/coriander, fruit chutney, curry

d'agneau (lamb) puja

poulet shaikorma (chicken korma)

riz (rice) puja - cooked with saffron, spices, nuts and fruits

À bientôt!

6 Responses to “The Long, Sometimes Frustrating, But Definitely Exciting Journey to Montpellier”

  1. Michelle says:

    Natalie – if you are counting every good meal you’ll have as a point, then you guys are definitely going to kick France’s ass! Can’t wait to keep reading all about your adventures!

  2. Dawn says:

    You made it! Keep up the posting and sharing your photos. This is all very exciting.

  3. jess says:

    re: the mishaps of your journey: these are the things you’ll later on look back on and laugh at, no doubt. glad you made it there safe and sound and are starting to get a taste of the city! xo

  4. Marq says:

    Lots of Schlepping for you kids. You made it though, congrats…..resst up and ease on it.

  5. Laura says:

    The inability for travel agents to do their job never ceases to amaze me. It’s crazy that some people actually voluntarily hire travel agents to plan their vacations – I’m pretty sure I do a much better job on my own.

    Note to self: Take ambien asap on my flight to London next week. Do not let Hollywood chic flix suck me in :)

  6. Andy says:

    Glad you guys won (even though you stopped keeping score, you won!) Awesome that you kept the Easter tradition alive as well. Hope the new home search goes smoothly so you can really settle in!

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