TB and I arrived in Nice, France yesterday around 9:45AM after leaving Seattle on a 8:40AM flight. Nice is 9 hours ahead of Seattle so our total travel time was roughly 14 hours from airport to airport including a one-hour layover in Chicago and a two-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany.
We are staying at Palais de la Mediterranee which is right on the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel is very well appointed with courteous and friendly staff which is great because mon Français est mauvais (my French is bad). Thankfully, after allowing me to fumble around their language for a few moments (“Uhh, je veux allez…uhh…a…uhh…l’hotel…Umm…La Palais de…uhh…Mediterranee…s’il vous plait.”) everyone we have encountered has been willing and able to speak enough English to help us out.
We did have one incident at Cote d’Azur airport as we couldn’t figure out where to catch a cab and the traffic cop we decided to consult either couldn’t (unlikely) or wouldn’t speak English even as I was failing horribly in my attempts to communicate in French. TB tried to come to the rescue with the “English for dummies” translation of what we wanted: “Taxi to hotel?” I knew enough French to know he was directing us to Terminal 2 instead of answering her question. I finally tapped into all my Intro to French training from 16 years prior and we were able to get where we needed to be. Madame Duffy would be proud.
Our taxi driver was really cool. When we told him where we needed to go, in French I might add, he told us traffic would be bad since we arrived in the middle of a competitive half-marathon race. I asked him, “Combien?” (How much?) and he said 25-30 euro ($30-$36) which was the same price the woman at the information desk inside the airport told us. I could tell he was humored by my feeble attempts at speaking French and he cut me some slack and switched to English. While his English wasn’t very good it was much better than my French.
On our way out of the airport he called one of his traffic cop buddies to see what roads where still blocked for the race. He then turned to us and, very apologetically, said he wouldn’t be able to get us to the hotel since all the nearby roads were closed. He would have to drop us off a few blocks away and we would need to walk about 10 minutes. The weather was beautiful and, as master packers, TB and I each only had a roll-aboard suitcase and laptop backpack, so the walk wasn’t an issue for us. We communicated as much and he seemed relieved. Perhaps he had encountered some cantankerous Americans before and was bracing himself for a litany of complaints.
We sat back and enjoyed the sunny weather and interesting scenery. This being our first time to France, seeing the Nice architecture made the French influence in New Orleans obvious. The driver made casual conversation asking what brought us to town and whether I spoke French (I hope he was joking). I replied, “Une peu mais mal.” (A little but badly) which seemed to make his day. He dropped us off about a quarter mile from the hotel and pointed out where we needed to go which was a straight shot down a single street. I asked, “Combien, mon ami?” (How much, my friend?) which gave him a chuckle. He said, “For you, 25 euro.” so perhaps my Intro to French saved me 5 euro ($6). He cussed out a motorist on a scooter who berated him for stopping in the middle of the road to let us out. (A Frenchman cussing someone out is quite comical.) I was able to pick out one of my all-time favorite French phrases, “Fermez votre bouche.” (Close your mouth.)
It was just before 11AM when we arrived at the hotel and check-in was at 2PM. Of course our room wasn’t ready so they took our bags and we walked along the Mediterranean. The race ended just down the street from the hotel so the entire area was packed with spectators, runners and locals. We were both exhausted so the fresh air and sunshine were both great. We stopped at one of the cafes to have lunch then returned to the hotel around 1PM to see if we would be able to check-in early to no avail.
Right at 2PM we checked again and the room was ready but needed to be inspected. I played the impatient American and got the guest manager to expedite the process. We got to the room, got settled and caught up on some sleep.