Lost in Orientation

February 1, 2018

I once fell asleep on a Munich bus late at night (probably Oktoberfest had something to do with it). When I woke up, I was the only one on the bus and had no idea where I was. I started walking, and about two hours later, I was turning down my street and heading for home. I don’t know how I found my way, especially with the effects of Oktoberfest still snarling my navigational coordinates. So it is more than a little annoying that on this trip, armed with GPS, Google maps and my own documented capacity for finding my way in the middle of the night, I could not find my way from the train station to the hotel without a lot of gesturing and pointing on the part of the locals, and in one case, humiliatingly forced to take a taxi about eight blocks.

In Paris, the hotel was no more than three blocks from the train station, but every time I headed off in the direction GPS sent me, I’d get a Rerouting notice back, and then it froze. Restart after restart produced the same result, and I was reduced to asking passersby for directions. They eyed my phone, and no doubt wondered why I needed their help. There was no time to go into the whole Munich bus story, and how once upon a time I didn’t even need GPS. So I just shrugged and let them think me a clueless Americaine.

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In Bordeaux, I couldn’t locate a single street that GPS was directing me to. For a half-hour I walked in circles. I walked past this one cafe so many times that one of the waiters and I became friends. Finally, without an Uber network available, I threw in the towel and stood in line back at the train station and waited for a taxi. The taxi driver looked at the address I showed him, and he said something like, “Tout alor, it ees right around zee corner.”

 “Yes, but which corner.” I watched closely as he drove me for the minute and a half it took to arrive at my hotel, and that problem was at last resolved. I walked unerringly to the train station in the morning.

 Coming into Arles, I had altered my planning, and painstakingly wrote down every twist and turn GPS provided me. When I was finally done, it was clear that this hotel was not just around “zee corner,” so I did take a taxi there. Glad I did, because the hotel was a good three miles or more from the station, and me and Claude would never have made it.

 Finally, in Toulouse, it appeared I’d finally gotten my act together. I had written down the directions (“Walk out the station, turn right and keep walking until you see the hotel.”) The problem this time was not the location of the hotel, but the location of the door to the hotel. The hotel was completely encircled by a collar of small shops. I walked the circumference twice, muttering epithets, but could not find the dang entrance to save my life. There was a correspondence that seemingly would take me to the inner sanctum of the hotel, but it was locked. Finally, (and I mean really finally; seriously have you ever heard of such an individual?) I asked for help. The gentleman pointed to a door we were both standing directly in front of. “Tout alors, it is right here” (I later looked up “tout alor” and it’s loosely translated as “Hey, dumbass.”)

 The real piece de resistance occurred in Avignon. Armed with GPS, maps and detailed written directions, which were remarkably similar to those in Toulouse: “turn right and keep walking until you reach the hotel.” But the street that was supposed to be Rue des Sources, was actually named Boulevard St. Roch. With a sense of familiar hopelessness, I continued to march forward. With each corner that yielded nothing even close to Rue de Sources, my despair grew more inconsolable.

 Then, at last, hope, I happened upon a tourist office that was both open and staffed by cheerful people who also spoke better English than I did. Turns out I was no more than five minutes or so from my hotel. “Walk outside, turn right and just keep walking,” he said with words that now carried an ominous portent.

 But he was right, and quite soon I was happily ensconced in an apartment hotel, complete with kitchenette, a common terrace and laundry room. It felt like home. As I would discover, there are two train stations in Avignon, and the one I wrote my directions from would have left me miles instead of yards from the hotel.

 I revised my travel scheme accordingly. I would extend my stay to five days in Avignon, travel back and forth to destinations east, west, north and south, and leave Claude on his own in the apartment, at least until Sunday.

 It proved to be a good move logistically and chiropractically as well. 

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