Buses, rain & rush-hour traffic… a 15 minute sprint

Nice, France

I stood at the bus stop in the pouring rain, waiting for the 8:40am bus to the airport. I had a ticket, I had my rain-cover on my pack, and I felt good: I was getting up and moving on! I had to take two buses to Toulon (the second was from the airport) and buses were always less stressful than aeroplanes. I was glad I had booked it this way.

I did feel slightly sick from sculling my coffee an hour earlier and running across town to an ATM to withdraw cash to avoid paying the €3 card fee upon check-out. I smiled. The things you do to save €3. Bus number 70 pulled up and my heart did a little somersault of relief. I probably could have taken the earlier bus, but this still allowed plenty of time; it was here now. On the bus I got a seat, despite it being rush hour morning traffic. Apparently, everyone else was on the roads in their own cars instead of on this bus.

The travel-sick-proneness wasn’t helped by the shaken-up coffee in my tummy. There were lots of policemen on the road directing traffic. Was there a crash? Three big expensive black cars went past with lights on… through the streaky rain on the window I assumed it must be a police escort. We were going so slowly that I couldn’t help but wish I got the earlier bus.

Then someone drove into the back of us.

Everyone’s heads jolted forwards and my head immediately replayed it in slow-motion, with the sickening crunch of metal on metal echo-ing in my ears. I looked around; no-one seemed fussed. I looked up at the driver; he grunted and checked his mirrors but otherwise nothing. Is bumper-cars a mainstream thing here? The French never cease to surprise me.

We were almost there. I was closely watching my location on Google Maps (after the Villefranche episode a few days ago) and knew that we would be pulling into the airport soon. I squashed the thought that the bus might go to Terminal 1 instead of Terminal 2; that really would be cutting it fine. I looked down again at Google Maps… ohhh? We had taken a turn away from the airport on a main road? We must be looping back.

Except we weren’t. We were driving past.

Someone rang the buzzer and I hastily started to strap my pack back on; I knew I had to get off here and I was going to have to run back. Crap.

I stepped off the bus into a puddle (typical) and hit the ground running. The rain was heavy now and within minutes I couldn’t see anything through my glasses. My pack was heavy and my feet were wet. The road had three lanes going in each direction and I had to cross it. I was sprayed with water by every car. After five minutes I checked my location; still ages away, and now going uphill. Terminal 2 was on the other side of Terminal 1. I was going to have to leg it a bit faster. It was 9:22am; the Flixbus to Toulon left at 9:35am. My breath was rapid, and my calves burned. I crossed another couple of roads and then finally crossed into airport territory. I ran through carparks and undercover walkways seeing the world through little waterfalls on my glasses. I considered what I must look like; a squinting drowned rat with worldly belongings on its back running for its life. I distinctly ignored the possibility that I was going to miss the bus although it was 9:29am. I followed the road-work detour signs for ‘pietons’, stepped in more puddles and finally pulled my glasses off to give them a good wipe. I crossed through the last carpark and bam, there was a big green Flixbus.

I couldn’t believe it! The grin on my face nearly split the sides of my mouth. I was going to make it. I squealed with excitement. I imagined telling Mum this story and holding her in suspense. I ran up to the bus and vaguely noticed a gaggle of police with sniffer-dogs surrounding the luggage compartment. I pulled off my pack and gestured to the driver, babbling incoherently with a crowd of about 15 watching, amused. I pulled up my e-ticket and for the first time glanced up at the destination screen on the bus. Ge- Ge- Genova? No, that wasn’t right. I wasn’t going to Genova – I was going to Toulon!

My grin was snatched off my face and replaced with a confused ‘o’. The dogs sniffed around my bags and the voices in the background were reduced to a murmur as I could only hear my own confusion. But it was 9:34am! And this was a Flixbus! And… it wasn’t the right one? I gathered up my luggage and frantically ran up and down the other platforms, but alas, this was the only Flixbus here. I took my glasses off so that I couldn’t see the looks the other people were giving me. I had no time to be self-conscious right now.

I slowed down and checked my phone to see a message from FlixBus: my bus had been delayed by 15 minutes. It would now leave at 9:50am from Platform 7 (where I was standing).

I also had a message from a good friend Beth: How’s the travelling going?

I burst out laughing at the hilarity of the situation. I was soaked through to my t-shirt. I had run for 15 minutes with a 22 kilo pack. My bus was delayed. And I found it funny. If this wasn’t character building, I wouldn’t know what is.

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