The day before we left it snowed like crazy all over France and since many parts of France are ill-equipped for this, all forms of transportation were affected. I had no idea the roads would be as backed up as they were. In order to get to the port of embarkment we had quite a journey ahead of us. The first leg was to drive from Cherbourg to Vénéjan to leave our car at our friend's house (the Faldowskis) and this would prove to be the most challenging portion. We wanted to drive to here because we planned to stay a few days with the Faldowskis before driving back home.
We left at around 4:45 expecting about a 10-11 hr drive (normally its just over 9 hrs but I planned for a few more). Things flowed pretty well until after Paris where we were in stop-and-go traffic for about two hours (and I mean literally 130 to 0 kph in an instant). Needless to say I was stressed because we had to catch a train in Avignon at a bit after 18:00 which was creeping closer and closer. I kept searching for some logical cause for this complete stop-and-go traffic and I never found any. I suppose it was just because of the 5 cm of snow on the road. All of the sudden a bit before Lyon the traffic completely opened up and stayed at 130 kph.
The second leg was to catch a taxi from Vénéjan to Avignon which was about an hour drive. Things worked out and we made it to the train station in Avignon with time to spare for dinner (thank you God). The taxi ride was fun because although I speak a tiny bit of French (and Nicole and the kids much less) the lady talked our ears off. Of course I kept asking her questions probably giving her the impression that we could understand more than we can even though I told her I didn't speak very good French. Nevertheless it was fun because she had a relatively strong southern France accent and we learned a bit about her and the area.
The third leg of our journey was by train from Avignon to Nice to stay the night in a fabulous 1 star hotel. We somehow got on a train that left about an hour before ours because when looking for the trains for Nice the attendant told us it was leaving in 10 minutes or so and we made our way to it. I tried to ask why it was leaving early and they just looked at my ticket and told us to get on...and so we did. This was nice because then we got into Nice around 21:00 rather than 22:00.
So when we got to Nice we checked into our 1 star hotel (which was quite inexpensive but the reviews I read said it was clean and conveniently located near the train station). For some reason none of the other hotels near the station that I called had rooms for more than 2 people. Needless to say the hotel worked out just fine even though there was no bells and whistles. The guy working that night spoke to me in French (imagine that in France!) but had a very obvious and strong American accent. I asked him in French if he was American and he said that he was (still talking in French) and that he came 30 years ago and was still there. I said I was American as well and we both continued to speak in French. For some reason it was quite humorous to me.
After getting there we saw some chinese restaurants and everyone was still hungry. So Micah and I found a chinese take-out restaurant and got stuff for everyone. I didn't feel like chinese so I stopped at a kebab shop and got myself my favorite French food (i.e., a kebab sandwich) ;-)
The next leg of our journey was a bus from the Nice train station to Savona, Italy. So we got up and went to a café near the train station and hung out for around an hour. Then we caught the bus and that's where the following pictures are taken from with the iPhone. The bus ride was around 2 hours and was pretty fun. These first pictures are of the kids on the bus.
This is a picture of massive amount of greenhouses which we assumed perhaps housed olive groves though we're not entirely sure. According to this link they grow all sorts of stuff in them. What was bizarre about it was that there were hundreds of them in every town.
This is Nicole in the kids waiting for about 3 hours to get on the ship after getting to Savona. Thankfully we had a DVD player and they provided some entertainment (i.e., some dancers).