I’m actually embarrassed by these wrong turns, but I’d rather a lemon than a scam, and  if no one falls ill, is hurt or mugged, then for me there’s no real harm done.

POSTED BY JENNIE

THE ALMOND INCIDENT

Apparently the French word for almond is amande which rhymes with amende which means fine, as in fine for a violation. Now that’s a complicated way of putting it, even for someone who speaks French, more so for tourists like me who don’t.

Flyer
This flyer is distributed in the city, but who can even understand this? There should have been an English translation.

In Bordeaux, which is a beautiful, beautiful city (I can’t stress this enough) you sometimes need to take the tram to certain places. Naturally we got on a tram expecting to be able to pay on board, like you can in Amsterdam. So we get on the tram confused by the set up on board when we see there’s no machine that issues tickets, only a machine that validates tickets.

ticket booth
So now we know, this is where you purchase tickets, not on the tram.

Two stops later a battery of inspectors board the tram and start checking tickets. There are about 5 of them in full uniform, very intimidating. Of course we don’t have tickets and try to explain that we thought you could purchase tickets on board. The lady inspector is very adamant, speaks little English, has a stern voice and face and causes other passengers to look our way. It is a most embarrassing situation, especially when she asks for our passports which we did not have with us. She keeps repeating the word la infraction, it’s a nightmare. We try to talk our way out of it saying it was an honest mistake but she won’t let it go. And she’s right not to, it is after all la infraction.

So we are fined and we are asked to pay on the spot. How much did this oversight cost? E72 and loads of embarrassment.

Ticket
La Infraction that’s E72!

We now understand what the amende almond flyers mean!

How did this happen? The tram stop we boarded did not have a ticket machine, so when we saw people getting on the tram, we assumed tickets could be purchased on the tram. Apparently not hence – la infraction.

TTTram Inside
These machines inside the tram are for validating tickets, not for purchasing tickets.
TTTram
Will definitely return to Bordeaux, tram incident notwithstanding.

A DAY LATE FOR SAGRADA

Here’s another classic. You have a date in mind and you work your schedule around it only to find out you made a mistake.

I reserved entrance tickets to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona a few weeks before we left. I wanted to be sure we got the earliest slot, 9am so that there wouldn’t be too many people. The day arrives, May 19, we wake up early despite a late night of tapas and sangria. We decide to walk to Sagrada from Eixample, make a few wrong turns, then have to run a few hundred meters to make our 9am schedule. Out of breath, we make the line before the 9am – 9:15am group is closed. We’re lined up in the internet reservation line and we feel like we did our homework. When we present our tickets, the lady tells us the tickets were for yesterday! May 18. Really?? Who makes that mistake???

Sagrada 4
The next best thing is a photo outside!

So we go to the admin office, try to explain what happened. Obviously there’s no sympathy for us. We are told we can refund the tickets by buying another set online as long as we explain our reason for missing our slots. I rebook the tickets for the next day, there’s only the 6:15 – 6:30pm  slot left which I book anyway, send out an email to the address given to try to refund the previous tickets.

TT Sag Ticket
New ticket for May 20, May 18 ticket not refunded!

The long and short of it is that we get to see the Sagrada Familia at 6:15pm the next day with hordes of other tourists ( which is exactly what I didn’t want to happen) and I’m not refunded for the earlier tickets, for obvious reasons.

The Sagrada Familia is beautiful and every inch Gaudi but the experience is compromised by way too many people.

So, yes check and double check the dates, save the dates on your phone, especially if you booked them in advance as you tend to forget.

ART AFRIQUE

I blame Facebook for making me aware that there was an exhibit of modern art at the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris. In my friend’s recent FB post I saw paintings by all my favourites, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Sisley, Gauguin, Monet. I was focused on getting tickets to enter the museum thinking the lines would be really long. I did get the tickets, but it was an altogether different exhibit! Apparently the other one had just ended.

African 3

Instead of modern art, we got to see modern African Art, and although it wasn’t what we were primed to see, it was a wonderful exhibit and something you don’t see everyday. It deserves a separate story which I will work on in the next couple of weeks.

Also, the building itself  is stunning and a must see. The architect, Frank Gehry is a creator of dreams, and the building is a bold and modern structure of steel and glass made to look like sails.

So maybe we missed the exhibit we came to see so it was a fail… but not completely! Sometimes things fall through the cracks and it’s up to you to make lemonade out of lemons and more often than not, these are the experiences that tend to be told over and over again.