Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday ... Day Two

Wednesday, September 7th
      Early indeed!....a few minutes after 11:00 pm the background roar of the turbines slides down to a whisper, and I can feel the subtle change as we sink down into the inky atmosphere.
      The clouds break for a few minutes, and glowing tendrils of town lights and shining arteries of highways create a random web of yellow on the ground far below before the clouds close in again and the window fades to black except for the pulsing red and strobe-flash white of the plane's own lights.
      The flughaven Frankfurt Main is huge, and the plane taxis for almost ten minutes before reaching the gate as the sky begins to turn light about 6 am. The electric cart that has been arranged for Bill seems to be full of other passengers, so he sits in a wheel chair and I stride along behind the cart pushing him, leaving Jane and Miriam to trail behind us, finding their own way down the long labyrinth of intersecting concourses to Gate A-5.
There is just enough time to take advantage of a free double-shot of espresso laced with plenty of cream and sugar before we are called to board the bus that will take us to the smaller plane that will provide our last hop today. By 7:00 am we are bouncing along through the clear sunny air on the 90 minute flight to Toulouse, France.
      It was still early morning when we completed the paperwork to get our four-door Peugeot for the drive from Tolouse to the city of Pau where we are planning to stay until Saturday. I was given the keys, and walked out ot the parking lot to get the car. It had two doors! Back to the check out counter, where I was told that I had to go all the way back to the car rental counter in the airport terminal to get the error corrected. they had no four door cars in the class we had reserved so we go an upgrade that wold have cost a couple of hundred dollars more. It was worth the trouble.
      Robert, the tour agent suggested that we follow him out of the airport to the main highway. It soon became apparent that we were heading north on A62 toward Montauban instead of west toward Pau. I sped up, came alongside him and rolled down the window to call out, "Where are we going?"
      His shouted reply was, "I have no idea where I'm going!"
      I called back that we were bailing out. We got off at the small town of Grenade, and instead of turning around and going back to the start point, Bill and I agreed to use the maps we had and find country roads that led us in the general direction we wanted to go. We spent a delightful morning wandering across the French countryside to Cadour, Cologne, and other very small villages. 
     We crossed the Garonne River on an old arched stone bridge and made our way down to L'isle de Jourdaine, where we took theN214 to the city of Auch, and then the N21 to Tarbes, where we got our first distant views of the jagged peaks of the Pyrenees. The A64 is a smooth four lane divided highway toll road where the speed limit is a bit over 80 mph. Like Interstate highways in the U.S. though, many drivers go faster than the speed limit. We picked up a ticket at an automated tool booth and sailed on west toward Pau. 
     When it came time to exit just beyond Pau we couldn't find the toll ticket! We pulled into the automated tollbooth, and hailed an attendant. We were afraid that we would have to pay the maximum fee for traveling from the beginning to the end of the toll road, but the courteous, trusting lady that we talked to believed our story, and only charged us for the section of the road that we had traveled. In spite of printed instructions, se had to stop and ask for directions to the Novotel just beyond Pau in Lescar. After unpacking, several of our group met for an elegant twilight dinner on the terrace at at the hotel.

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