June 19, 2007

Botch-day! June 19

Traveling always brings with it the unexpected. So far the trip has gone really well in terms of planning, finding architecture sights, hotels, and good places to eat, etc. However, the winds can shift quickly in this climate..

Tuesday, June 19th:

For the past few days the Garmin GPS had been acting up... losing signal frequently... jumping around the screen... repeating "left turn ahead" over and over. Today it completely lost the ability to locate any satellites. "Tits up." Done. Oh no. At first we were in denial, thinking the Swiss Alps might be blocking the signal. At an internet cafe we even checked to see if there were any problems with the navigational satellites. Haha! Wrong.

We did plan for this and had a back-up physical map.. but navigating the unfamiliar streets became a whole new ballgame taking a lot more time.

2pm.. had a late start for the day after fumbling with the GPS, turning it on and off, etc. and getting sucked into 'free internet' time at the Paul Klee museum.

3:30pm on a side road on the way to Neuchatel a car had caught fire and completely blocked both directions of the road, while firefighters unsuccessfully tried to put it out. We waited for a while as traffic stacked-up, and finally turned-around after a police officer cleared some space in front of us.

5pm.. finally arrived at the Freiedrich Durrenmatt Center (Botta Museum) after many wrong turns.. only to find it closed. On top of that, the exterior really wasn't impressive (spare the amazing view).

5:30pm... to get to Lyon, where we had a hotel reservation, we determined it would take until about 9:30pm. Thinking this was too late, we instead went to Lausanne, hoping to find an affordable room in a quiet setting by the lake. In attempt to take it all in stride, we decided to wing it, do it "Rick Steves-style," impromptu and without hotel reservations.

7pm .. That was a mistake... Lausanne turned-out to be a big tourist town... we checked 3 hotels... but they were all full.

8pm.. We finally found one other hotel in Lausanne, it had one very sad-looking hotel room left for 120 CHF. While deciding on it down on the street, a group of twenty kids showed up in the lobby... we decided to drive-off.

9:30pm... We decided to drive along the lake to Geneva, through a series of small lake-side cities, rumored to have more available rooms. This was the wrong assumption... there were so few hotels (one we drove up to looked to be open... but was actually abandoned). At this point, unsure we were going to find anything, we decided to power through the 2-1/2 hours and get to Lyon where we had a reservation. We could have been there by this point if we stuck to our 'plan.' Hungry and grumpy now, we resorted to the McDonalds drive-through for some much needed 'nourishment.'

10pm... Right after getting on the freeway, ready to make the final push, we read the map incorrectly and ended-up exiting right into the downtown of Geneva. On the exit ramp there was a flash informing us we just got tagged for a speeding ticket.

Now its dark, we have no city map, and we're tired.

11pm.. We walked into a large, 20-story hotel, thinking they must have a room. They were completely booked, spare a suite they offered to us at the bargain rate of 720 CHF(!). After seeing the look of shock on our faces, they gave us a map, and sent us in the direction of the train station.

11:45pm... Tried two more hotels... both were booked, but the kind hotel manager made a phone call to his buddy, who had "one last room" for 205 CHF. We sensed that they knew they could charge what they wanted at this hour. Why didn't we go for the 120 CHF room at 8pm?! We decided to go for it, and he pointed-us around the block. On the way there, we came across a youth hostel sign... at this point a 30 CHF shared dorm room bed sounded great... so we decided to give it a try.

11:55pm... Right before midnight as they were closing reception, we asked if they had anything... and somehow our luck turned. They were fully-booked but there was one reservation that turned out to be a no-show... he offered it to us... a private double-room with a sink and toilet for 80 CHF! Salvation.


  1. Aha! Now *this* is the flipside of what travels really all about - from the ideal experience you had in Basel - to this. Now if you were truly winging it 'Rick Steves-style' a helicopter would have come and picked you up, car and all, and delivered you to the roof of a 5 Star Hotel. Sounds like things worked out ok in the end.

  2. nice save!

    at least it wasn't the middle of winter, driving along icy narrow mountain roads to davos... with the flu... sleeping in your car because you don't get paid but $700 a month, and the only source of liquid at 2 a.m. when you wake up in a cold sweat is a bad orange...

  3. nice to share the agonizing detail - too perfect a trip otherwise.


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