We wake, on our last day here in Nice, to the sound of road drills right outside our apartment! The French are finally back at work after all their various ‘bank holiday’ days off!? We feel sorry for the people who will be coming to stay in this lovely apartment tomorrow, if they are to have all this noise for days on end. We feel even more sorry when we see the weather forecast for Nice – it is bright and sunny right now but the forecast promises cloud and rain for the next week or so, beginning later today. We don’t have to be out of the apartment by 10.30 a.m. – our flight home is not until 3.15 p.m. – and Swellin says we can stay as long as we like. So a leisurely last breakfast on our lovely sunny balcony it is, then!
We pack our cases, clean the apartment, take a last look at the view across the roof tops, and say a final ‘Goodbye’ to this great little studio apartment. We are a bit early – it is about 12 noon – but we are going to catch the special airport bus rather than take another taxi and we want to be sure to find our way. The taxi cost us about 35€ from the airport to the apartment when we arrived, and the airport bus is only 6€ each. The bus stop is about 15 minutes walk away from our apartment … although we are not exactly sure where? We are hoping that we will see other people with cases and just follow them. We get to where we think the bus stop is, and a bus comes along with ‘Airport’ on the front. It slows down and I think it is going to stop and let us on. Instead the bus driver points back along the road, makes a funny ‘bendy arm’ movement with his hand, and drives off again? He obviously knows we are Brits – only Brits would be wearing all the clothes we are wearing (the clothes we couldn’t get in our cases) on a beautifully hot, sunny day in Nice! He knows we are on the way to the airport – we have our suitcases with us and are also furiously trying to ‘flag him down’ so that he will let us on his bus! Is this pointing backwards with the funny bendy arm movement a new form of French insult aimed at Brits?
We walk back along the busy street in the direction the bus driver pointed and eventually find a bus stop. We ask a girl waiting for a bus if this is where we get a bus to the airport? She doesn’t know! Perhaps if she stopped long enough to bother to take her headphones off she might hear better? Fortunately a nice man arrives at the bus stop and Julia asks him the same question. ‘I am sorry, I don’t speak French’ he says, ‘You don’t happen to speak English do you?’ He is an American … and he knows exactly where the bus stop for the special bus that goes directly to the airport non-stop is. It is just down the road we are on, and round the corner. Now we understand the French bus driver’s pointing and funny bendy arm movement – it wasn’t an insult – it meant back down the road and round the corner!
When we get to the special bus stop there are people with cases waiting – not too many, but enough to let us know we are on the right track. Inspector Montalbano (from the wonderful BBC 4 TV Italian Detective Series) is also there – well someone who looks just like him – and he tells us that he going to the same part of the airport that we are going to. All we have to do is to follow him then! The bus arrives and we get on and sit near the front. This is a mistake. The driver is obvious bored with his job and is incessantly on his mobile phone throughout the whole 20 minute journey. I am mesmerised watching him talk non-stop, dial other numbers on his phone between calls, and drive the bus through busy traffic – all at the same time. We arrive somehow without having an accident, and check in. Our cases are within the weight limit, we are not carrying anything dangerous, our passport photographs are not deemed suspicious … so we leave our cases at the drop off point and go and find somewhere to eat our picnic lunch … and have a coffee. As we sit drinking our coffee, looking out over Nice, the weather changes. The sun disappears, and wet, misty weather sweeps in from the sea!
About half an hour before our flight is called we walk across to the designated gate. We stop on the way to get some bottles of water for the flight. A group of young French people walk by. One of the boys is giving his girlfriend a piggy back. He obviously wants to impress her with his strength. I smile at them as they go by. The boy gives me his macho look … the girl smiles back at me with amusement … and then his trousers fall down! We all roar with laughter! So much for being a ‘macho man’ then?! We sit down by the designated gate – we are flying back by Easy Jet – and wait to be let on to our plane. As we sit there with all the others waiting for our flight there is a message over the tannoy concerning our flight. It is in French … and we struggle to make out what it is about? It is then repeated in English … and we still struggle to make it out? The gist of it is that Easy Jet are short of staff, and since there is so much luggage to go on to our plane, Easy Jet are looking for passengers who will volunteer to help load all the luggage on to the plane!? We all look at each other in amazement? ‘Did they really say what we thought they said?’ we all ask one another? Someone goes to check at the gate. It turns out they were talking about hand luggage! There is too much of it … and they want volunteers to stow their hand luggage in the belly of the plane as well as their cases! Volunteers will be rewarded with free ‘Speedy Boarding’ passes … which is no reward at all because we all have allocated seat numbers on Easy Jet these days! Anyway, problem solved … we don’t have to load our own luggage on the plane after all … much to everyone’s relief!
The flight is pleasant enough, and soon we are back over the UK, and landing at Gatwick Airport. We set off from the North Terminal 11 days ago, having left our car in the North Terminal Long Stay Car Park. All we have to do is to disembark from the plane, go through passport control, collect our luggage, catch the free bus to the North Terminal Long Stay Car Park, collect our car, and drive home to Rodden. What could be easier? As our plane taxies to a halt the pilot blandly announces that we have in fact landed at the South Terminal instead of the North Terminal! Whoops?
We get through passport control o.k. – the nice guy on passport control even wishes Julia a happy birthday! We retrieve our luggage and eventually find our way back to the North Terminal, via the inter-connecting very posh Gatwick railway system (obviously landing at the wrong Terminal is par for the course here). We find the way to our little Corsa and load all our stuff into the boot and on to the back seat (Julia’s case won’t fit in our boot). The car starts first time and we enjoy a very pleasant drive home through the lovely English countryside. It is a gorgeous evening – warm and sunny – probably better in the UK than in Nice we guess?! When we arrive back at Chipps Barton, Reggie Doggie is first out to meet us. He is so excited to see us, running round and round us, and jumping up to greet us! It has been a great holiday … Nice was nice … but it is also nice to be home again!