Published: July 3rd 2012July 1st 2012
Wow! What a long day of traveling! It took us 25 hours, door-to-door, to reach our apartment rental in Aix-en-Provence.
Thankfully, every part of the trip was smooth or we may have melted-down! We were also thankful that we splurged on the Upper Class tickets on Virgin Atlantic so that we could get into pj's, turn our seats into beds, snuggle in with a duvet and pillow and try to get some sleep.
It is another world flying in Upper Class, especially on a British airline. It made me smile when I was called "luv" and Madeleine said she was offered "crisps" (chips) as a snack. Larry couldn't figure out what "brown sauce" was and was too embarassed to ask.
We connected at London Heathrow to our flight to Nice. Heathrow Airportis enormous! We walked for what seemed like 2 miles to get to a bus that took us to the British Airways terminal. We were required to take all liquids and gels out of our luggage and put them into sandwich-sized ziploc bags at security but everything was very organized and much quicker than at US security points.
Once through security in Terminal 5, you walk into something like a gigantic mall. It was crowded and busy; tons of Americans, several large groups of US teens traveling wearing coordinated t-shirts. The shopping in the T5 terminal is amazing and a bit overwhelming. It feels a lot like walking through a casino, super bright lights and very peppy sales people all over the duty-free stores. Harrods has store after store on the upper and lower levels of the mall. There's also an enormous duty-free store that goes on and on and is organized by type of product: perfume, cosmetics, whisky, chocolates, etc. There are also many regular-sized stores (like the average store in an American mall) selling books (WH Smith), clothing, accessories, jewelry, electronics, everything you might be looking for. I found the Boots store which is the British version of CVS or Walgreens, but in my opinion, a little nicer. On our last trip to the UK (way back in 1996) Boots was my favorite place to pick up lunch. I found sandwiches, bags of crisps, drinks and British candy bars for a cheap and quick lunch.
The flight to Nice was smooth and just like a flight in the US. We were served drinks and a "savory" or "sweet" snack. Genevieve and Madeleine said that the bag of savory snacks tasted like crispy crackers covered in ramen noodle seasoning. They liked them since they love ramen noodles!
Once we arrived in Nice, we got money from the ATM, picked up our luggage and headed to get our car rental. The weather was extremely humid so after the shuttle bus ride and the trek to the car rental facility we were extremely sweaty and tired. The guy, Benjamin, at the Avis car rental counter was very helpful and friendly and spoke excellent English.
We had to drive about 2 hours to Aix (pronounced "ex") and go through 2 tolls. The toll booths in France are completely unmanned and automated. The first toll booth required a 2.90 euro toll which you were supposed to throw (in coins) into the toll basket. We didn't have any coins so the machine also had a place to pay with a credit card. Even though the machine showed a Visa and Mastercard sign, both our Visa and MC cards wouldn't work. A toll booth employee appeared and helped us to pay the toll. Right before we left the US, my dad had given me a 5 euros bill, so we gave the toll booth guy the 5 euros bill which he changed into 5 - 1 euro coins and we were able to pay the toll. At the second toll booth we were able to use a 20 euro bill and the machine gave us back euro coins.
God has definitely been with us on our trip! Once we arrived in Aix, we got lost on the way to the apartment. The streets in this very old Medieval town are not easy to navigate, especially on 3-4 hours of sleeps in the last 25 hours! We truly believe that God put a GPS system in our car rental since we did not request one or pay extra for one. The navigation system saved us! We would never have been able to get to our apartment without it! Thank you God!!
The apartment is great, 2-bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, 2 showers, 1 WC (water closet) and air conditioning. I can't tell you how wonderful the AC has been since it is quick humid here in Provence. There is a corner store at the end of the block and a boulangerie (bakery) a couple of blocks away. Everything in the old town is within 15 minutes walking distance. It has been a great start to our trip!