Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Adventure Time

So the ~48 hours between 3pm Saturday, December 22 and 1:30pm Monday, December 24 were honestly some of the most stressful hours/days of my life.

 I was originally supposed to leave and head to England at 5:30am on December 23. I got a text message and email on the afternoon of December 22 telling me my ferry had been canceled... I of course had just finished packing and started freaking out. I tried to call the company for almost 2 hours, and never got through on any of the 3 numbers I tried, which were the France hotline, the Dieppe Ferry Port office, and the UK hotline. I, still freaking out, go onto their website and they have said there should be crossings on the morning and afternoon of December 24. So, I bought a second ferry ticket for December 24 afternoon.

 A serious pain in the ass, but what else could I do?

 I eventually get a call from the company around 9pm Saturday night telling me that I can take a ferry at 5:00pm Dec 23 from Le Havre (another port city in Normandy, about 2 hours away by train from Dieppe) instead. I ask about the booking I made for December 24, and the woman tells me they are most likely going to be canceled as well but she can't confirm it. I take the chance and say I will just do the ferry from Le Havre. The company claims they will reimburse the two tickets, and they also gave me a free ticket for the Le Havre crossing.

 I look up train times to Le Havre, and even though the boat doesn't leave until 5:00pm, the only train that will take me to Le Havre before then leaves at 10:00am Sunday morning! I also can't find any trains from Portsmouth to Hastings for Sunday evening so I had to search for a book a hotel in Portsmouth as well. I managed to find a place for £19 so it wasn't so bad.

 So, I leave my place and take the train at 10:00am Sunday morning to Le Havre via Rouen, and arrive with about 4 hours to spare. On the way, I also got a call saying the crossing Monday afternoon had definitely been canceled, so it was a good thing I took the chance with the Le Havre trip! In Le Havre, while I waited, a fellow assistant friend of mine was still around and we were able to have lunch together so that was nice.

 I finally get on the ferry at half past four, and the boat leaves on time. The problem is, there's hardly anywhere for people who haven't booked a cabin or reclining chair, to sit. I ended up in a hard plastic deck chair in a hallway in the way of everything. Fortunately for me, a really lovely English woman happened by me, and (in the least creepy way possible, I promise) invited me to use her cabin as well. She had also been rescheduled to leave from Le Havre instead of Dieppe and the ferry company had given her a four-bed cabin to herself (side note: why the hell didn't they give ME a free cabin?!). I guess she felt bad for me crammed in my tiny hard deck chair. I also found out that her son apparently won Big Brother UK a couple years ago. The people you meet, huh?

 In the end, it worked out well, because the crossing was really rough and I started to feel ill. I actually managed to get some sleep in the cabin and not be sick, whereas I probably would've had a problem with that down in that hallway. I got to Portsmouth OK, and made it to my hotel in a taxi. I ended up watching the film In Bruges on the hotel TV til the wee hours. (PS Excellent film, you should check it out.)

 I got up the next morning and walked to the nearest train station (only 10 minutes away) and got a ticket to Hastings via Brighton. Well, about a quarter of the way through my journey, we get a message over the train's loud-speaker saying that a person has been hit by a train at a station on the way to Brighton, so the train has to be diverted. We went to a small station and are told we can get on a bus to Brighton instead... what they don't tell us is the bus is going to take 3.5 hours!! (The train journey was supposed to be 2.5 hours total.) So I don't get on the bus, and instead try to change my train ticket. The woman tells me to go back in the direction that I came, and at Barnham, I should change and go up to Gatwick, then come back down to Hastings that way (thereby avoiding the mess on the way to Brighton). This route will take 3 hours as well, but will be 3 hours to my final destination instead of only half-way, so I say OK. I call my friend on a payphone and tell him the new plan, which puts me in Hastings approximately 2.5 hours later than normal.

 Then, I get to Barnham, and actually there are still trains running to Brighton!! I get on the next train to Brighton, which had been delayed about half an hour but was otherwise running normally. Apparently they managed to scrape the train-jumper off the tracks quicker than anticipated. When I get to Brighton, I manage to call my friend again on a payphone and explain the 2nd new plan, which puts me only 1.5 hours behind schedule. I FINALLY get to Hastings, roughly 25 hours later than I should have originally (if the first ferry had gone on as it should have). My friend and his dad came to picked me up, and we got to their house about 2pm Christmas Eve.

 I had an absolutely lovely Christmas with my friend and his family, which was very British and involved Christmas crackers and crowns, watching the Queen's speech, and the new Doctor Who Christmas special. I also dance-battled both his parents at Just Dance 4 (of which there is video evidence floating around facebook somewhere), and at SO MUCH FOOD. Right now, I'm just chilling and relaxing at my friend's flat and we are about to go eat Mexican food.

 Stay tuned, amigos, I am headed to London for New Year's Eve to see my friend Kate and it is sure to be a raucous shit show at the very least.


Friday, December 14, 2012

365 Days of Blogging.... coming soon!

I was inspired to do this because I came across some posts on one of my favorite travel blogs, Brooke vs. the World. She did a 365-day blogging challenge in 2011. Therefore, I am going to do the same. I really want to start blogging more seriously. So, starting January 1, 2013, I will post something every day of 2013. Whether it be a full-on blog post, or just a picture and a description, I am going to post every day. It might be about my current town in Normandy, France; my current school life teaching ESL to middle schoolers; my travels I have planned in February, April, and May; or anything else I deem sufficiently travel related and appropriate. I have been blogging on tumblr, but I felt I should repurpose this old blog I had on blogspot for this challenge instead. I am going to transition my tumblr to be for more general things it was meant for, like GIFs of cats and Doctor Who. I will update this in the coming weeks, occasionally, but starting in January it will be daily. I promise. PS You may have also noticed there is an old post from 2010 on here. I deleted the rest of them I wrote back then (they were badly written, and not that interesting) but I kept this one because I felt it was still relevant and useful.