Sunday, September 22, 2013

Place de La Paix

As you have surely guessed by now,  leaving was not easy.  Lunch was rushed (apostasy in France), so we could load the car and serpentine back down the mountain for another death-defying trajectory along the narrow two-lane, with Gilbert's missing sideview mirror.  Round and round the mountains we went, cars routinely passed us on curves, into oncoming trucks. 

We still had not figured out exactly which of the three Aubenas bus stops was the best bet to ensure tickets would be sold, buses would be running, and information would approximate reality.  In spite of Gilbert's misgivings, Place de La Paix was our best hope.  

He steeled himself for this most distasteful option, and I soon realized why.  We drilled our way into the labyrinthine city center, in the heat and traffic, foiled by one-way streets everywhere.  There was no parking anywhere near the ticket office, and it was probably 150 degrees.  That might be a tiny exaggeration, but the cigales were in complete cacophony, if that gives you any indication. 

While Josy harassed Gilbert with directions that would have broken laws in several countries, Gilbert sighed in exasperation that she had never learned how to drive, or she would know why he couldn't.  

"I grew up in this city!  I know this street takes us to Place de La Paix!" she shrieked as he drove by street after street she insisted he turn down. 

"You can't drive somewhere just because you can walk there!"  

Finally we worked our way to the small parking in front of the bus station, which was of course closed. 

Gilbert pulled over into the taxi lane to ponder next steps.  Josy hopped out with me to investigate matters at the cafe.  When we returned, a bus was pulling in, bound for Grenoble!  Could it be this easy?  We hurried over to ask if tickets were available on the bus--yes!  We couldn't buy or board for another hour; but we weren't going to budge.  For the next hour, we 'squatted' in the taxi lane, while Gilbert struck up a conversation with the bus driver.  

"He can talk to anyone," Josy fretted, sure that sunstroke was about to fell him any moment. "He shouldn't be out in this!"  I was having enough trouble in the shade of the car.

In another public transportation miracle, no taxis appeared in that entire hour.  We were able to sweat in peace, watch the little public dramas unfold around us in other waiting passengers, and wonder what Gilbert and the bus driver were talking about. 

But then the hour was up, my ticket purchased, my luggage loaded.  With hugs and bises we took our leave of one another, the doors closed, and off I went to Grenoble--3 hours away. 

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