So, there I was all excited for my Euro trip. Afterall, this was the first time I was travelling to that part of the world. I was all bubbly and excited inside, but each time my mind wandered off or started planning too much about the upcoming trip, I would mentally slap myself and remind my wandering mind that many Visa applications gets rejected. And to top it all I just quit a cushy, decently well paying job with the added benefits of travel to start out on my own. So paperwork for the application process were kind of messy in my case. But, surprise!! surprise !! it went on very smooth and the Visa came in hardly at any time. Infact my Chinese Visa had taken much longer than this.
But, yeah it's me, so anything can happen between the Visa and travel dates. Since, the husband was already in Delhi and well, its going to be decently cool in Paris, so I need to get his Jacket along, and mine too, along with other things. Damn, do domestic carriers allow only 15 kgs weight ? Where am I going to fit in my stuff, and his of course? Come on, I am travelling for 18 days, and there was beach, vineyards and other cities planned, can you imagine the range of packingincluded. "What, train, why do you want to travel by train. Relax and take the flight, book extra luggage," he said. But I was adamant, "I have been travelling in Rajdhani since my college days, I love trains," I asserted.
So yes, I did book my tickets. It was not easy getting a confirmed booking to Delhi less than a week before I was travelling. But then thankfully, I did know somebody who could help me confirm the booking through VIP quota. So, I booked my ticket online, and of course to do that I first had to create an id, but isn't it better than standing in the queue at the station. I received an SMS mentioning the details of the same and I forwarded it to the uncle who was supposed to confirm my booking. He called me back immediately asking if I had booked my ticket online. When I responded in positive, he said, at times the system does not accept the online PNR for quotas, so he said I should go ahead and book the same from the window at the station. Hell, after struggling for 3 hours with the online thing now I had to go ahead and cancel the same.
I then asked Ma, if she can just get the ticket done through someone else. And of course the peon messed up, so finally I had to go by myself and get the ticket done. Now it is really interesting, because, uncle told me that in-case I do not get a reservation from Guwahati to Delhi, "just ask the person to reserve your ticket from an earlier station, while keeping the boarding at Guwahati". I wanted the ticket for 13 th June 2016. I filled up the reservation form, and just like uncle had warned me, the person at the reservation counter said, "we have reached the limit for waiting list on the date of your journey, I am sorry," to which I replied "But the train starts from Dibrugarh, can you book it from there while keeping my boarding at Guwahati?" He replied in affirmative, but at the same time warned me that the train starts from Dibrugarh on the 12 th to which I responded that as long as it reaches Guwahati on 13 th I am good. He then said, "There are availabilities from Lumding, should I do it from there?" and I nodded. I forwarded the details to my uncle, and of course he made sure my ticket was confirmed.
On the 13 th morning I got up on the train, bag and baggage. The person sitting near me said, that the seat in which I am sitting was his and I responded saying that we should let the TT check where is the misunderstanding. He went out and checked the chart, and of course it had his name. But why do I care, my ticket is confirmed, I had the SMS with the new PNR, so I was sure it was a technical glitch. The train started and soon enough, the pantry guy came to ask if I would like to have veg or non-veg breakfast. I said I am not sure about my seat number, and asked him to confirm. He asked for my ticket, and when I showed him, he said " Ma'am, but this ticket is for yesterday's train." I refused to believe him, of course there was some misunderstanding; and then braved all 9 coaches before finally reaching the pantry car which also houses all the staff of the train. The TT looked at my ticket and listened to my part of the story. "Lumding, but madam, Lumding comes at 3'o clock in the morning. At 12:00 midnight the dates in the system changes." No! No! No! this is not happening to me. " So what can we do?" I asked. "You have to pay penalty." Well, doesn't sound scary. " Okay, I have fifteen hundred with me." "Oh, No ! Penalty amount is twice the maximum fare. So you have to pay Rs.6300." I looked at him incredulous. I have already spent almost Rs.3000 on the train ticket. Now the jokers are telling me I have to pay an additional fare of Rs.6300. I played it cool, "But I don't have any money." "Do you have someone who will come to the next station with the money. You can stay in the train." Quick!! Call the husband. " Are you seriously nuts, you want to pay additional Rs. 6300 and still make the journey of more than 24 hours. Get down at Bongaingaon, and come home. Come by flight tomorrow. I am getting your tickets booked." Oh GOD !! What do I do now. Okay, Panic !! No No don't panic-call my friend Shona from Bongaingaon, but she lives in Delhi. No, call her friend first. "Pritom, I did something stupid and I have to get down at Bongaingaon, can you please come to the railway station." "Priya, I am just half an hour away from Guwahati, wait I will ask ma to send our driver." Finally, some amount of luck. I won't be running around the station with luggage like a headless chicken. Shona sent their driver to help me out at the station. He helped me with the luggage and also booked a ticket for me in a local train. So after waking up at 5 in the morning and rushing to the station, to start my Euro trip, I was coming back to Guwahati in Gorakhpur Express. Apparently, the drama doesn't end there because I got up in the sleeper section, but my ticket was for the unreserved class. "Hide the ticket madam, you are lucky it is me, anyone else would demand money" said the conductor who came in to check tickets.
It had taken me just about two hours to reach Bongaingaon by Rajdhani. Since, I would have gotten food at the train, I had not bothered eating anything either. By the time I was back home in the evening around 5 PM I was not just hungry but I was tired and felt stupid for atleast not checking the ticket once properly. I had been seeing the date as 12 th, but I was so sure it was because the train starts from Dibrugarh the previous day.
Fortunately, after that I reached Delhi, without incidents. And yes I did make silly mistakes while in Delhi but it wasn't anything compared to what I did after reaching Spain. Oh yes !! I made it to Spain. And now we were onto the next leg of journey from Barcelona to Paris via flight. The guy at the guest house said that airport is just half an hour away from where we were staying. My husband kept on telling me that we have to leave early and I was like "we can sleep some extra winks, what will we do so early in the airport?" We took the metro from our place, and got down at the line that connects to the airport. As soon as we were on the metro we realised we will miss the flight. The airport line itself takes more than half an hour, and we had not even bothered to do a web check-in. Nor did we bother checking the distance from the guest house to the airport. As luck would have it, we missed the flight, but fortunately we were booked into the flight that same evening. Trust me there is nothing comical about missing an international flight, and spending extra money on tickets. But yeah, we took it as something that comes with travel and decided not to let it dampen our spirits.
Paris, was a delight with beautiful museums, buzzing life and to experience the Euro live from the stadium was an experience that I would cherish forever. And yeah did I also get to visit Champagne and taste some of the finest Champagnes and tour the caves and vineyards. The experience was a dream. From Paris the next stop was Bordeaux. "I have already done Champagne, how different will be the wine making process? You go ahead and visit the Chateaus, I will roam the city by my own." So, yeah I was on my own, to travel and photograph on my own. During my research, I found that Bordeaux was littered with vineyards on all sides, but the best tour was to St. Emilion because the place itself is beautiful, and there were some underground churches dating back to 11 th century. This was the only guided tour I decided I would take, firstly because I wanted to know in details the process of wine-making, I wanted a bit of history on the underground churches, and finally because I was by myself. I decided it will be a good way to meet some other people. I did meet a nice girl from an island near Australia. She was also travelling alone and we hit it of at the first smile. We got talking, and we kept at it all through the tour at the underground.
After the tour we were given a bit of free time, while asking us to assemble at the car park at around 4 PM. The underground was fascinating, and me and Corrine went from there to the viewpoint, and from there to a lone tall tower. By the time, we reached the car park we realised the bus had left us and moved to the Chateaus. I almost could feel my heart breaking. Not only did I spend 38 euro for this tour but I was in Bordeaux and had missed the tour of the vineyard. How could I not get a chance to sample some of the best wines, and that too after paying for the same? And the scariest part was, the bus will not come back to take us, how do we go back to Bordeaux. We managed to find some other bus, and I had fortunately taken a picture of our bus in my mobile. The other bus called the driver of our bus he picked us up after the tour of the Chateau was done. But it means we have definitely missed the tour.
When the bus came, we were both sad. Corrine was also leaving for Paris the next day. As the bus approached Bordeaux, the guide announced that they are sorry that they missed us. She mentioned that she had made a mistake in counting the number of passengers. I had decided that I will book another tour for myself the next day. Once I reached the Tourism office and they heard our story, they agreed to give me a complimentary tour to Medoc the next day. But Corrine was leaving the next day, and I was kind of sad that she would miss out on tasting some really good wines. We left the office and were walking towards the market when we heard someone shout behind us, almost like calling out to us. We turned back and saw the man from the tourism office waving to us. We stopped, he came towards us and gave us both a coupon saying, "So sorry that you missed the tour today, we would like you to taste some souvenir wines. This is a complimentary coupon for both of you to taste two wines." What ? We looked at each other and then started jumping like mad people. I got not just a complimentary tour to the Chateaus the next day but I also got to sample some nice wines at one of the best bar in Bordeaux the same day. I guess that's why they say "every cloud has a silver lining."