Day 4 :: Plan Fail in Aix En Provence

in Toulon waiting for the next train

Our first cruise port city was Toulon, France.  There isn't much to see there so we went to Aix En Provence.  It was the shortest port stop from 8am-6pm and we had a 1 hr train ride there and back so we got up early to get going.  We ate a quick breakfast at the Windjammer and then went down to the gangway to get off the ship.  My meticulous plans were immediately foiled.  It turns out we were not within walking distance of the Toulon Train station even though the port info guide and the lady in the tourist office right there said so.  According to Mj's GPS it was about 5 miles.  We turned around, headed back to port and ended up having to take a pretty expensive cab ride.  In all the confusion we missed the 9:20 am train so had to wait until 10:20am.  We took the train from Toulon to Aix En Provence TGV station and then took a bus into town to the central Aix En Provence train station.  From there we walked to the town center.  We took the high speed TGV train even though it didn't go direct to Aix En Provence because otherwise we would have had to take the slower trains to Marseille, switch trains and then continue on to Aix En Provence and it would have taken us close to 2 hours to get there.  Once we got to town we saw that we missed the last Petite Train tour around the city that we would have had time for.  Another failed plan.  Instead of doing that we just walked around on our own. 
Bread in France is so good.  It's not called French bread for nothin'
I realize that rain is necessary for the survival of our planet but I pretty much hate it unless I'm at home in my pajamas.  I was bummed out when the rain started but hate it or not, I wasn't going to let it ruin our day.  It was a light rain so at least we could work with it.  Provence is such a charming little town.  Most of the shops were closed because it was Sunday but some of them were still open and there was a street fair going on. Some areas are like a maze.  There are rows of tiny narrow alley ways going every which direction.  I just loved wandering around this little town despite the rain.  There are these amazing little shops filled with bread and pastries so we bought some warm bread along the way.
Cathedral Saint Sauveur is soooo beautiful
Cathedral Saint-Sauveur was closed so we had to wait about 40 minutes to go in but it was well worth the wait.  I seriously almost started crying when I walked in.   My eyes got all teary.  Cameras were not allowed but it was absolutely breathtaking.  I had anticipated seeing these cathedrals for so long and once I got inside the beauty of it far exceeded my expectations.  It was so beautiful and I was just so happy to finally be there and seeing it with my own eyes that I got a little emotional.  I had never seen a building so big and so beautiful in my entire life.  I had never seen an actual confessional outside of television and there was a row of them inside.  It was quiet, cool and dark and there was a live organist playing beautiful music.  You could almost smell the stones that were used to build it and the realization of just how old and how long this building had been standing here was mind boggling. 
On the way back to the train station.  Rain, rain go away.
Waiting for our train back to Toulon
Around 2:30pm  that it was time to make our way back to the train station so we could catch our bus and train and cab back to the ship.  It was funny because I had to go the bathroom really bad even before we started walking to the train station so once we got there I ran into the first bathroom I saw.  Some lady is there telling me "0,50 € "  I was confused so I just turned around and walked out.  It took me a minute to realize that I had to pay to pee!  Another note about European bathrooms.  A lot of them in Europe are either unisex or without much separation between men and women.  For this one it was men to the left, women to the right and shared sinks for hand washing.  I also noticed that not once even in our hotel rooms did I ever encounter a traditional hand toilet flusher.  It was always a button and usually two to be used depending on if it's #1 or #2.  Also, a lot of the public restrooms had a foot control for the faucet.
She's balancing on top of his feet!!
We took the 3:47pm train back to Toulon.  When we got there we ran outside to find a cab.  We cut it a little close but we made it back by 5pm and then went straight to dinner at the Windjammer.  Mj had the bright idea of going to the gym afterwards but I was absolutely exhausted.  I could barely keep my eyes open so I took a nap and he worked out.  Later that night went to our 9pm show Air.  It was a really cool aerial act.  I cannot believe the crazy tricks they were doing with no net. We were back in our rooms by 10pm and then it was time to get ready for bed.

So why didn't I just book a ship shore excursion and call it a day?  First of all, if you can't get around in a foreign country you really have no choice and you need to book one.  I knew that Mj could get us around so I kept going back and forth on it.  My research told me that I should consider a tour for Aix En Provence and Rome.  Aix En Provence because of higher train ticket prices, distance and shorter port day and Rome because of distance and just how big it is.  I was just all decisioned and researched out.  Mj wasn't home to talk it over with and I knew the weather was gonna be iffy.  I just didn't know what to do so I did nothing.  In retrospect, I should have went with my instinct.  At $55 each Aix En Provence was one of the cheapest tours and because we were ported in a different place and couldn't walk to the train station we spent more on our own.   The train tickets were 33 € which translates to $42.50 USD each but with the unexpected cab rides it ended up being more expensive because it was 25 € each way on top of that.  It's my job to save us money and I was mad at myself for dropping the ball on this one, but as a whole we did save a ton of money by NOT doing the tours.

Mj told me a saying that he picked up in the Army, "Your plans are only as good as the day you make them."  Unfortunately, this day was a perfect example of that in so many ways.  That being said, we still had a great day there.  It was a fun adventure getting there and back and I'm glad we went even with all the effort and expense it took to get there.

Next Stop:  Canne and Nice, France


Faith said...

Rain on vacation is always annoying. Glad you still were able to enjoy the day.

Now I really want French bread, yum!

I think I would have had the same reactions in the cathedral. To actually see it in person would be an out of person experience.

And the bathroom thing, wow, pay to pee?! And I would hate having unisex bathrooms!

Love the pictures!!

Anonymous said...

These photos are absolutely beautiful! How I would love to visit Europe one day! I think I would have the same reaction as you in the Cathedral. The architecture is amazing! I'm not Catholic, but I think it would be really cool to the inside and see the confessionals (I've only seen them in movies, as well). And that is crazy about the bathrooms...awkward! So glad you enjoyed your time, even with the rain! :)


Whitney@Keeping Up with the Cyperts said...

Gorgeous pictures! I'm with ya on French bread! YUM! I'm sorry it rained but I am glad you still had fun. I love the rain, whether I am in it or watching it in my pajamas!

Mrs. Pancakes said...

Lol at the paying to's like that in London too!! Looks like you made the most of it even with the rain! MJ looks totally relaxed in that one picture! Or is he tired?! Traveling can be tiring especially in much walking!!

Jacqueline Hough said...

I have really enjoyed reading about your travels. The aerial photo was awesome. Thanks so much for sharing.

CeCe said...

Yes, I remember a post you wrote about it raining in Florida was it; while you were on vaca-you just have to get on with it so that's what we did. The bread and croissants are to die for!!

CeCe said...

So glad I'm not boring you to death because there are plenty more on the way! It was kind of a long vacation.

CeCe said...

Probably a little bit of both for Mj. Tired and relaxed because we finally got to sit down and chill. It is exhausting. We were always on the move but it was fun.

CeCe said...

I don't get it. Why?? I really WISH I liked the rain because it's part of life...although not sooo much where I live.

CeCe said...

Europe is on your Vaca list-Yeah! I think everybody should go at least once in their life.

Travel_The_World said...

Fun time and beautiful pictures. I also had to "pay to pee" in Rome. We take free public facilities for granted here but it made me appreciate the US more.
Oftentimes though, if you go to a restaurant, they'll let you use their restroom for free or if you order a drink or something OR your hubby can ask for a menu while you use the facilities and he can pretend to be looking it over. Just something to think of next time.

Janna Renee said...

We very rarely take tours either! Hindsight is 20/20, though. Either way, I'd trust you to plan my vacay ;)