Grant McWilliams

Days 1-3

Today we flew to London. Contrary to past trips we didn’t fly to NY then to London Heathrow but rather flew to Dallas and then on to London Gatwick. This was our first time to Gatwick but it wasn’t a problem. I bought tickets on the Internet for the Gatwick Express to the Victoria station in central London From there we took the underground to Liverpool station and the Stanstead Express to Stanstead airport where we caught a Ryanair flight to La Rochelle France. It’s a bit of a pain transferring between airports in London but saved me $1200. That $1200 paid for 5 days of vacation in France so I think the trouble was worth it. We left Seattle at 7:00am on Tuesday and got to La Rochelle at 6:00pm on Wednesday. That made for a very long travel day but like I said it paid for 5 days of vacation in France. Anyway I chose to not book accommodations in La Rochelle because the Let’s Go guide for France is excellent so we just landed at the airport, took a taxi and started going through the list of hotels in the guide. Only problem with this approach is that France was having its yearly music festival and the entire city was booked. It would help if I spoke French but even though it’s my best second language it’s only slightly better than my Swahili. If it wasn’t for the friendliness of the French people we may not have found a place.  One hotel owner said he only had one chambre (room) and referred me across the street. The hotel across the street had a “hotel complet” sign in the window just like all the rest so I returned and asked if he had two rooms, he said no but then started to call for me. He found a quad at a hotel called Henry IV. In french you pronounce this Awnry Cat which was very humorous to Jade and Piper. The hotel was expensive ($165) but it was a room so we took it. The next day I found an apartment from the Let’s Go guide that was $130. We had planned to just stay in La Rochelle one night but ran into the first of our money problems. I tried to withdraw money and it said I had the wrong PIN number. I was tired and hungry so that may have been true. After trying it a few more times it rejected my card completely. Just to give a little back story a week earlier when I reserved my tickets for the Gatwick express my bank called me with an urgent message to contact them. Seems they thought my card had been stolen. I was at work so I couldn’t call them. I later tried to use my card at Albertsons and they denied it. I used my backup card and it worked. I figured it had been turned off for security reasons. They later said the system was down and it hadn’t been turned off. My question would be why did my backup card from the same bank work??? Anyway maybe it was just a a coincidence. So after that I told my bank that I was going to be gone and they notified accounting. I thought all my card troubles were over. Fast forward back to La Rochelle. I’m standing at the ATM and it has denied my card and I only have $600 in my other account. I start to use the backup account to get us by. Luckily we find and Internet cafe that has Skype and I make a call to my bank. The lady there look at my account and says I’m out of money in my main account. Apparently I had put the large chunk of money in my backup account and the small chunk of money in my main account. She re enabled my card that was locked and set up my online banking for me so I could see my balance. I had tried to get the online banking set up before I left but the password they had given me wasn’t accepted by the system and it locked that account too! So now I have my online banking set up, she transferred money to get me back in the black on my account that I had overdrawn and turned my card back on. Thank God for Skype ( or whoever programmed it). So we spend two more nights in La Rochelle because we like it. We had some really good seafood and took a lot of pictures. The music day was really neat because everywhere in the city people were playing music. This wasn’t just a regional thing but was happening all over France. La Rochelle doesn’t have any beaches itself but has an island called Ill de Re which is lined with 60 miles of sandy beaches. Since we had no money or access to money we tried taking a city bus to the bridge and walking across. Piper was showing signs of dehydration and it was in the mid 90s out. We made it to the base of the bridge but decide to turn back which made Piper mad. She kept trying to make deals and promise she was ok but I didn’t want to risk it. The bridge itself was 3 miles long and had to protection from the sun. We rode a bus back into town and spent the rest of the day wandering through the city. The next day we got tickets from the train station to Tours (pronounced Tour with a bit of extra long u sound).
The ticket lady was nice enough to book our tickets to Tours and our tickets the following day to Paris.