Sometimes no plan is the best plan.
A day in the life on the road is never typical. I suppose that’s the beauty of traveling. If you enjoy the predictable, might as well get a mortgage, a 9 to 5 job, a pet.
On the road, a day in the life for Travel Loafers is rarely planned. Sure we make a rough sketch of where we are planning on going before leaving home. But other than mileposts along the way – landmarks, cities or countries we want to experience – our trips remain by and large blank canvases to be filled in “on the fly” by people and experiences we have yet to encounter. That’s the way we like it. The devil fools with the best laid plans anyway.
We have a habit of arriving late without having given much thought of where we might sleep that night. This is because when we wake up in the morning, we aren’t always sure which direction we’re heading. So far, we have been lucky and haven’t had to spend the night on a park bench anywhere. But there have been some close calls.
We rented a car in Marseille once. The idea of meandering through Provence and perhaps finding a B&B or a farm where we could put our feet up and unwind for a day or two was appealing. Eating French cheese and drinking wine as a method of relaxation is a nice idea. Aix-En-Provence is about an hour away from Marseille so we were anticipating a short travel day. We headed there around midday or so to see what we could find.
Roughly 500 km later, the Jet d’Eau – a huge water fountain – indicated we were indeed in Geneva, Switzerland. It was about 9 or 10 pm. This was at the end of June or early July, so the city was bustling with tourists. We searched but there were no rooms to be found. We checked everywhere from hostels to swanky hotels, to no avail. We checked the airport (twice!), downtown, the outskirts of town. No luck. Everything seemed booked for the night. No room at the Inns! Now it’s near midnight. A nice hotel concierge called around for us. A good concierge has a network of contacts. The only availability he could find was in Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, over an hour away when driving conditions are perfect. We were tired. We didn’t particularly want to tackle driving the Alps at night.
Without much choice, we decided to double back to where we came from Annecy, in France, hoping for better luck. It was a shorter drive anyway. We had an interest in visiting Turin, Italy. From Geneva, Annecy is on the way. So we contemplated that idea. We figured if we don’t find a room, we’ll sleep in the car on the side of the road on the way to Turin. That might be fun.
Speeding along the main highway through Annecy we came upon a major interchange. There, like a mirage in the night as we grew increasingly desperate, an Ibis Hotel sign. I pulled off the road and took a chance. This was our Hail-Mary if we were to sleep indoors with running water tonight. Unsurprisingly, the hotel was full. But the lady at the front desk called another Ibis in the city, and sure enough, there was one last room. She wrote down literally two pages of directions for us. I read them back out loud to her to confirm, and she said: “Oui, c’est ca”. This was daunting. In the early morning hours driving in a city, we’re unfamiliar with, with two pages of directions to follow.
We followed her directions anticipating the worst. Maybe a street or a landmark wouldn’t be where it should be. But sure enough, the woman’s directions were spot on. It was a relief to finally open the door to our room. I had a couple of airline sized bottles of whiskey in my backpack and we gladly toasted our good fortune.
As I laid down I wondered what tomorrow might bring. There’s a statue of Freddie Mercury we’d love to see…is that in Geneva or Montreux at the other end of the lake? Or maybe we’ll go to Turin. At over 11 km, the Mont Blanc Tunnel between here and Italy would certainly be an experience to drive.
I slept like a baby.
(PS – the featured image at the top of this blog is the border looking towards Switzerland, and it will cost you to drive across).
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Mike & Dianne