Friday, October 11 & Saturday, October 12
Thankfully, our bus wasn't leaving until 1145am, which meant we could get up at a reasonable hour. I woke up at 7am only to look in the mirror and realize that my problems I had had with my eye several months ago had returned!! *cue the horror movie music*.
Stupidly, I had not brought my extra contacts, nor my glasses, thinking that since I had not had any problems in several months, I would be okay. I didn't even have my contacts case/solution because it was too big to get past security at the airport on the way to Pisa. So, I hurried to get ready so I could pop by the Farmacia before catching the bus into town.
We went at 845, so that we would have time before catching the 9am bus. However, it was futile because even the stupid bus never came. We had to wait until 930am, which was cutting our travel time allowance down a lot. I wanted to go by a store to get a travel pillow (another luxury that I had wanted to take to Pisa but wouldn't fit in my backpack thanks to RyanAir's ridiculous carry-on policy.) I bought some disinfecting solution, a single case, and some false tears. I took out the single contact to store.
We caught the bus, then the metro. At the Termini station, I left Romeo to watch our bags as I ran through the station to the shops at the exit in order to look for the pillow as well as use the toilets. I finally found a pillow, but refused to pay 1Euro to use the toilet, on principal. We then took the metro to the bus terminal and arrived about 20 minutes after we were supposed to, 11am.
Another gripe about Eurolines: there is no information about check-in procedure, locations, etc. We stood around looking for about 10 minutes before I realized that, even though we had reservations, we had to go to the office and get a boarding card. We hadn't had to do that any other place, so it was quite confusing. I was anxiously standing in line with many hostile people trying to buy tickets on the bus, and at 1143, the woman behind the counter finally asked, before selling another ticket, was anyone in line to check-in for the 1145am bus? I pushed my way to the front, sticking my tongue out (in my mind) at the woman who pointedly reminded me several times that she was before me in line (the office was so small it couldn't accommodate a proper line, and we had to just stand around.)
Finally checked in, we loaded our bags under the coach and picked our seats. We got the good ones in the middle of the bus right after a break in the seating, so essentially no one was in front of us who could lean his seat back in my face. And, we were off!
The ride wasn't terribly eventful. In total, it was about 17.5 hours. Yes, abhorrent. But, we survived. At first, I conserved my iPad battery, but then I realized there was an outlet we could use, so at a break I got my charger out of my bag and Romeo and I played several rounds of Plants vs. Zombies. I also wrote blogs, read and finished my book (The Light Between Oceans - wasn't too into it until the very end which made me cry, stupid thing). My eye was feeling okay, but not too great. Romeo made a point of telling me how bad it looked. :P
After several stops, we crossed the French border at 2am. We were asleep but woke up as officials boarded the bus and checked our passports. Three different people checked our passports, 1 border control, 2 police. They didn't do it because we were suspicious, they were just thorough. However, at the end, they lead 3 guys from the back of the bus off. We saw out the window that they were put in a police van. It was horrible, but they had been causing a ruckus in the back the entire trip, and I was glad they had been taken off. I guess they had been taken into custody, because we left without them a minute later.
After that, I finally got some sleep. Romeo shook me awake at 530am when we arrived in Lyon. Sleepily, we collected our baggage and stumbled our way to the metro station not too far away. When we got to the ticket machine, we realized it only accepts coins and credit cards. Of course, we had about 50cents in coins; we needed almost 4 Euro. We at first searched for a machine that would change our bills into coins, but after we couldn't find one, and seeing all the shops still closed, we asked a cop. He suggested the train station nearby, so we walked over there. Finally, we found a shop open. When I asked the girl to change my 5Euro bill into coins, she said she couldn't. I was so shocked, I thought that she must not have understood the request. When I repeated, she again said no. I stood without moving, jaw slightly dropped in frustrated disbelief. I was actually attempting to collect myself before saying anything.
Just then, the manager walked over and changed the coins for us. I thanked in her French, and we left. I was still fuming about the situation, but at least we were now on our way (about 45 minutes after we had initially arrived). We saw so many drunk French people on the subway, and I was still a little sour when we arrived at the correct stop in order to head to our Couchsurfing host, and made our way to catch a bus. It was very cold outside, 5 degrees Celsius. We shivered at the bus stop for about 10 minutes before it arrived.
I suggested to Romeo that maybe the subway ticket we had purchased might work for the bus as well, but he scoffed and responded, "this isn't Korea!" (where we could use the same paid-for trip on buses and subways alike). When the bus did come, I asked the driver if I could use the subway ticket, and he nodded, "sure." I literally punched the air and let out a "Ya-hoo!" like an idiot.
We finally arrived at the correct stop from the bus, but then I realized that I didn't have any more information about where to go from there, only an address. We walked up and down the street, looking for a road sign that would point us in the right direction. After maybe 15 minutes of searching, I finally spotted a sign that indicated the road we were on had changed names and was now the street we needed. It was one of those Homer Simpson "Doh!" moments!!
We found the right house number, but we couldn't figure out which buzzer, so ended up pushing all of them. We stood outside the house attempting to get in by some means: knocking, buzzing, pushing the door, even yelling our host's name. We walked to another house nearby to see if they could help us, when I turned and saw someone standing outside the door we had just been attempting to knock down. I sighed with relief and called out his name. Sure enough, it was our host, Matthieu. He led us through the gate, down a path, and to a house set back several meters from the road. We literally fell onto the couch and passed out.
Finally we woke up around noon and I warmed my frozen toes on the furnace. We met our host's housemates, Nicolai and Gertrude ("Gigi"). Both were very kind and welcoming. We took much-needed showers and settled in a bit. We ate some pasta made by Gigi and met the other couchsurfers who would be leaving that day.
After lunch, we headed back to the coach station in order to book our ticket out of Lyon. However, we were informed that the information on the website about the timetables from Lyon to Zurich were incorrect. We finally picked another destination, but realized they could not make the reservation without Romeo's passport. Of course, guess who forgot his passport (for the first time of the entire trip, he did not have it in his pocket). Luckily, Nicholai had given us a phone to borrow, so I called Gigi and she grabbed the passport and came to meet us (she was already planning to meet us).
We waited quite a while, over an hour, before she came. We weighed our options of destinations, and settled on one finally. Gigi arrived, and we walked to the woman's desk who had been helping us figure out times of buses. I had barely gotten the words "Okay, we'd like to book a seat to..." out of my mouth when she cut me off, telling me that the printer was broken and she could not book any more seats.
I was once again shocked into silence with the absurdity of the situation. She said that there was nothing she could do. She didn't even seem to care that it was extremely inconvenient and rude to simply leave customers hanging. I had to turn around and compose myself, counting to 10 to keep from ripping this woman's head off her shoulders. We had waited so long!!! Now, we could do nothing. The woman told us to return tomorrow at noon when they opened. But, it did nothing to help our current situation.
Romeo calmed me down with promises of wine, and we left the station. We walked to the metro and went to an old part of Lyon with Gigi. We had hot chocolate, which was much needed in the freezing, rainy weather. We also shared a salted caramel crepe. It was very good!
We then headed back to the house with Gigi. Matthieu and his roommate, Nicholai, were both exhausted from back-to-back parties with their previous couchsurfers. We promised we only wanted a mellow, chill evening. We ordered in pizza and drank white wine. Aka: we had the perfect night!!
We finally went to bed exhausted and still unsure where we would be spending the next night, or even what country we would be in. It was stressful, but I've gotten pretty good at dealing with stress the past year. :) Thankfully!