So much to catch up on! My whole trip to Italy/England, for one. But let's delve into the more immediate past and cover the Metz move first, and then once I have a proper internet connection and can upload photos, hopefully my memories of the Italy trip won't be too hazy.
Talking of proper internet connections, I am still without home wifi. Which is ridiculous, since I am staying with the same operator (Alice, name and shame) and keeping the box etc., so I don't know what can possibly take so long. I probably should have taken the opportunity to switch (especially since they are charging me a reconnection fee and locking me into another year-long contract, grrr), but with everything that was going on, it was just simpler not to have one more thing to worry about changing providers. Tonight I paid 4,95€ for hotspot access via SFR. If you're ever tempted by this, don't bother. The site worked perfectly well when it came to registering an account and paying, and then ever since it's been the world's slowest and crappiest connection. I wasn't too surprised that I wasn't able to get on to stream coverage of today's F1 qualifying (would have been nice though), but I would have thought I'd at least be able to browse ordinary websites without the connection failing every two seconds. Not so. (Thus writing this in Open Office and hoping I can upload it successfully.)
Anyway, let's go back to the Tuesday before last, when I had to get up at 3.30 am to go to the airport for my flight back to Tours (mummy and daddy kindly both accompanying me). Everything went very smoothly – checked in, through security, on to a very sparsely-occupied plane and in to the very front row (ahhh leg room). A short time after that, the pilot came on to say there were air traffic control strikes in France, so we weren't going to make our slot. Ruh-roh. But we were going to keep sitting on the runway and go through the safety demonstration etc. because we could be taking off at any time. Shortly thereafter, it emerged that there was a problem with one of the windows in the cockpit and from my vantage point at the front of the plane, I could see a lot of coming and going of technicians changing the window (in fact, they left the plane door open the whole time and I was freezing my arse off). None of this was announced over the PA system for a long while until the captain eventually came on to say that they had been doing maintenance, but it would be finished before our slot opened up. Then the next thing we heard... "sorry, the flight has been cancelled because Tours airport is closing in an hour for the remainder of the week and our flight time would be 1 hour 5 minutes and they won't hold it open another 5 minutes for us". There definitely were strikes in France, but whether we could have gone if it hadn't been for the window problem who knows.
So we were offloaded and shepherded back through to pick up our baggage and go through security with very little direction on where to go. I managed to be one of the first in line for the Ryanair rebooking desk and promptly burst in to tears when I was told that the next flight to Tours wasn't until Saturday (from London Stansted, at that). Reminder : this was Tuesday, I was moving across France on Thursday and starting a new job on the following Monday. The options I was given were waiting for Saturday and going to London Stansted, travelling from Manchester to Liverpool and catching a plane from there to Limoges the next day, or rebooking with a different airline. And « of course », while they would pay for the flight from Liverpool to Limoges, getting from Manchester to Liverpool, paying for a hotel, and going from Limoges to Tours was my responsibility. The woman also declared that she couldn't tell me whether Ryanair would refund me if I bought a ticket with a different airline, since "she didn't work for Ryanair". I pointed out that this situation must have arisen before, so she must have some idea – and indeed, it was surely part of her job to know such information, but to no avail.
Still crying, I followed other passengers over to the FlyBe desk and forked over around 200€ for a ticket on the next plane to Nantes (including a £40 charge for my luggage, of course). By this time, the line for the Ryanair desk was a lot longer, so instead of queueing up again for the refund of my ticket (which, bought months ago, wouldn't have covered half of the 200€ anyway), I decided just to go through back through security for the second time this morning and try to sort out the money later (still haven't got on to that). It was still only about 9.45 in the morning by this stage, although I'd already been up a good 6 hours, but I decided I might as well kill half an hour before going to my gate with a cider at the bar. I ordered a half just to be sure, drank it pretty quick, so time for another half, then another... By the time I got to the gate at 10.20 or so, I'd downed a pint and a half of cider in around 20 minutes and was a teensy bit tipsy. Luckily enough though I had an exit row seat on a tiny little plane next to a grumpy old man, so I behaved myself on our flight to Nantes, which went off without a hitch.
I'm not sure what time I made it to the train station in Nantes, maybe about 2 pm, but I then discovered that the strikes in France weren't confined to the air traffic controllers – the trains were also striking. This meant there wasn't another train back to Tours until some time after 4 pm, and it was a slow TER train. It wasn't that expensive, on the upside, but it only got me to Tours just after 7 pm, instead of 10 am as originally planned. I lost the whole day, much-needed for moving purposes, and I had to push back my leaving drinks since I got home and had to get a load of laundry out of the way so it could dry before my move. I was so tired that I thought I'd only have the energy to stay out for an hour or so, but I did actually manage to stay from about 9 to after midnight, although it was a very quiet affair.
Turned out there were more hitches to come before I was comfortably installed in the new apartment...