Friday, 10 July 2015

June 24, 2015- Marseille Disembarkment and TGV to Paris

Another Terrible Breakfast- Rounding Up is Normal on All Costa Bills- Disembarkation in Marseille and Back on Solid Land for Good - Taxi to Gare Saint Charles- TGV Marseille to Paris- Checking into our first Airbnb Accommodation in the 9th Arrondissement- Montmartre

This morning we had a skip in our step knowing that we were getting off of this nightmarish cruise. We were not allowed to order in room service, so we went to the "International Breakfast" restaurant again instead of eating doughnuts and cake with the main occupants of the ship in the buffet. The service was as usual a nightmare, but nothing could bring us down knowing that we were never again to be on the Costa Magica!

April was done her course of antibiotics for the severe food poisoning that she contracted on the Costa Magica, but her intestines were still very unhappy and would clearly take some time to settle out after the trauma they had endured.

As usual we had to fight for a table for two in the largely empty restaurant. We were seated, April ordered tea, and then we were ignored while other people seated after us had their orders taken and were brought food while we looked hungrily on. We finally ordered our breakfast. Our breakfast arrived before April’s tea water arrived. April had to ask for tea more than 3 times and they seemed surprised each time. The tea water was warm this time, but the tea selection was poorer. They didn’t bother to ask if we needed more bags. No milk was provided for tea, we had to ask many times, and then a waiter started pouring hot milk into April's empty tea cup until it was full. Apparently they could not provide a little pot of cold milk as normal restaurants are able. It's as if the waiters have never heard of the concept of tea. We were asked if we wanted “more coffee” several times when it was clear we didn’t have any (having previously indicated that we did not want any). Syrup was dumped on our pancakes AND eggs this time (last time there was no syrup). Again, there was no butter for our pancakes. Half of the eggs were overcooked for April this time. As a result of the extreme difficulty obtaining water the day before, we brought our own tap water with us to the table in a bottle. Where was Amit when you needed him? Dinner runs so much more smoothly than breakfast under his watchful eye.

A note on tap water. You would not believe the lengths we went to to get tap water on this ship (despite coming on board with the North American offer of unlimited free tap water, juice, tea, and coffee). We were not allowed to order tap water through room service and therefore were only allowed to drink it at restaurants or the buffet at meal times. The only other places where one could get tap water were fountains in the gym and change room or if you took water from the bathroom tap in your room and left it in an open bottle for a day or two to dechlorinate so it would not make you sick (according to staff on the cruise ship, drinking it right out of the tap would make you feel sick because there was so much chlorine in it). So, over the cruise we amassed a collection of empty water bottles that we rotated through the dechlorination process or took up to the gym to fill with the filtered tap water. It was a real pain in the ass and really makes you appreciate living in Canada, especially Victoria, where the tap water is safe, good tasting, and available for free at any time.

We were given the earliest disembarkation time of 9:15 A.M. after the ship arrived in Marseille at about 9:00 A.M.. Bill was not allowed to pick up his passport the night before and was only allowed to during a fifteen minute window of time in the casino that morning. We assumed it was there because they had higher security procedures to protect the valuable passports. It was not. We had to rush through our breakfast to be there in time to pick up the passport (because we could not go for breakfast afterwards because the "International Restaurant" closed early and only the Italian one was open later, not that this uneven treatment surprised us anymore). In the casino, the lone employee took a person's name, opened their passport and asked the person if that was their passport. What kind of Mickey Mouse security is this? You have to surrender any non-EU passport and then they treat it as if it's a loyalty card for a store? Anyone could have waltzed up there and taken anyone else's passport. We are disgusted that Costa takes the security of international passports so lightly when it forces people to surrender them for the length of the cruise without any prior notice.

The fun was not over, we had not been given our itemized bill until early that morning (it was printed past 3 AM and delivered while we were sleeping). We did have a problem with that bill. The total was rounded up by 3 cents even though we were paying on a credit card. Why did they do this? Bill stood in line at customer service to ask about this. We thought it was a typo, but no, they explained they did it to everyone. What? That's theft and since they're doing it to thousands of people, grand theft. Is this how Costa is paying for its court costs and settlements?

Prior to disembarkation, we met in the theatre and then all went down together to the exit and into the port station where we chose our bags from the huge group of unattended suitcases. Fortunately no one had stolen all of our dirty clothes.

We procured a cab and were whipped into the chaotic rush hour traffic of Marseille on our way to the Gare Saint Charles where we were to catch the TGV back to Paris. As we listened to the blaring horns and sirens around us, we reflected on the cruise gone awry. We realized that no one ever got back to us about what brand of ravioli the executive chef uses on the Costa Magica. Perhaps it was Chef Boyardee after all.

We sat in the train station and had a snack and bought sandwiches for our trip. We took out our tickets and the printing on them was mired. We took them to an attendant when we were boarding and they didn't really look at them and sent us on our way, so we guessed what the coach number was and sat down on the seats in the coach that lined up with the seat numbers on our tickets. We had been there for a little bit until two people boarded in Avignon and showed us tickets with the same seat number as ours and it was determined that our seats could not possibly be there because we had bought economy tickets for the way back (unlike the premier tickets we had on the way down). We had to collect all of our suitcases and our carry-on luggage and traverse through five different cars until we reached the correct one and found our true seats. Oops!

We arrived at Gare de Lyon in Paris and used free Wi-Fi to tell our Airbnb host, Eric, that we were on our way to his apartment on the edge of Montmartre (18th arrondissement) in the Opera district (9th arrondissement). We took at taxi to Eric's apartment and then used the code provided to get into his building. We then tried ringing his apartment as previously instructed. We even tried going up to his floor, but could not find him. April reviewed her previous emails and finally found one from him earlier in the day where he said he'd be working from a friend's apartment on the floor below and to ring that name instead. We did that and Eric came to meet us. His apartment is an airy one bedroom with a kitchen, living room, toilet, and bathroom with a big tub. For Europe it had lots of space and has beautiful wood and tile floors and gorgeous moldings on the ceiling. The day was very hot, yet his place which had lots of windows opening to a courtyard, was very cool and comfortable. It was quiet too. He gave us his Wi-Fi password, his keys, and went on his way.

First, we connected to the Wi-Fi and then we went to the nearby grocery store (one block away) to pick up some supplies for breakfast the next day. We returned home by way of the bakery that was just half a block away and then had a snack. The baguette and croissants were amazing, particularly after our culinary deprivation on the Costa Magica. We walked into neighbouring Montmartre (the Moulin Rouge was about 1 minute walk from his place). We were unable to look in the Montmartre Cemetery as it was already closed, but we saw the Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, bought some macaroons, and climbed all the way up the cobblestone streets to Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. We sat on the steps on Sacre-Coeur and ate macaroons looking down over Paris. We walked through the cathedral marvelling at the light shining through the impressive stained glass windows. We walked down the steps of Sacre-Coeur taking in the view of Paris and avoiding many, many African hustlers and merchants trying to sell their wares.

We walked along Place de Clichy, deciding not to take in any strip shows or cabaret performances. Instead, homesick, we had Indian food for dinner at an Indian Restaurant along the street. The Chicken Tikka Masala and vegetarian curry we ordered along with Pilau rice and naan had us smiling as we walked back to our apartment just over the border of the 18th arrondissement into the 9th. We slept well that night off the ship and safe on land.

6.64 km walked today.
Our broken towel rack was never fixed though we left the broken part out more than once and told customer service
Our broken shower pole was never fixed though it was hanging off the wall on more than one occasion and we told customer service. Guess this kind of disrepair is normal on the Costa Magica.
A whole cup full of hot milk. Thanks. Where am I supposed to put my tea exactly?
We have never been more happy to be out of an accommodation in our travelling lives. Bill at the Marseille port.

Gare Saint Charles in Marseille where we caught the TGV to Paris.

No wonder the seats looked the same as the ones on the way down, these were first class seats and not our actual seats. Oops!

Eric's 9th Arr. Apartment was Beautiful

Place de Clichy on the border of the 18th Arr. just beside the 9th Arr where we stayed.

The View from Sacre-Coeur is Breathtaking

Sacre-Coeur is a Gorgeous Memorial to the Fraco-Prussian War

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