We woke up this morning and everything went according to plan. Our train from Aix en Provence arrived precisely on time in Marseilles. We checked the big blackboard to see which platform our next train was on, only to realize that our next train was delayed by an hour and a half. This meant that we were going to miss all of our connections, including our overnight train into Portugal. Yikes!
We spent 3 hours being semi-ignored/semi-helped by the "help desk." The final result? We would have to come back tonight at 11pm to "see" if they could find us a seat on the outbound train. That would only get us to the border between France and Spain. From there, we'd have to fend for ourselves. It sounded outrageous!
As a result, we decided to call our travel agent and our travel insurance to see if they could lend a hand. After an hour on the phone between them, our prospects weren't looking any better.
Finally, we spent another hour and a half at the international ticket office. That's where we finally got helped by the wonderful, amazing Lise. While she was helping us, her boss walked over and we realized that we recognized each other. He had sat right next to us on the train two days earlier. What a coincidence!! Between Phillipe and Lise--and a lot of strategic maneuvers--we were finally given an exit strategy. Up until we met them, it had been pretty much impossible for us to find a way to leave France. It seemed we were stuck. But now, these two wonderful people had the perfect combination of patience and knowledge. They saved us!
Now, we have a new plan, but it will take a whole extra day of traveling. Unfortunately, that means we're going to miss our stop in Porto and instead we're heading straight to Lisbon. Considering all the difficulties we've had to deal with in this train station, it doesn't seem so bad. Anything to leave!!
Wish us luck!