When the metal gate to the ancient apartment building opened, the underground parking lot was deep, steep and dark -- really dark. We edged forward pensively, slowly, with our rental Ford Kuga (sort of a small-sized cross-over) into what appeared to be hell. Were we headed into the catacombs? Why did we continue? We had no choice.
Let me start from the beginning.
We were excited about a new area of France: Albi, an ancient city located in the L'Occitainie. This region is beautiful and hilly. The countryside has rows and rows of grape vines and charming chateaus. Plus, I had come to see my friend of 3 years that I had never met in person (yet another story), and Adam graciously agreed.
We rented an apartment in the center of the old city. A busy city. As instructed, we pulled into the very narrow, one-way street in front of the apartment with an old metal garage door and called the owner. The owner decided that now was a good time to explain every painful detail of how to find the key to the apartment, how to find the door to the apartment and the apartment layout. Okay, now he was going to open the garage door remotely, but he had to hang up the phone as traffic accumulated behind us with folks honking and angry.
To help ease traffic, we circled around the block and found ourselves in front of the unopened garage door again. It started to rain heavily. A union protest began nearby. The police put up a blockade. The honking traffic returned. The garage door was still closed. We were stuck.
For better cell phone reception, Adam walked up and down the narrow road trying to reach the owner to get him to open the garage door. After 30 minutes of unrelenting rain and a waning of the protest, the squeaky, clunky metal gate opens.
We peered in. Really? We are supposed to get this vehicle into this tiny hole? We entered the first level. No, we needed to proceed down to the deeper level. This level was not gradual, it was a deep slope into further darkness. The headlights of our vehicle were not bright enough to see adequately. The motion lights in the garage were very dim too. How do we proceed? There was no way to back out. The only way out was to go deeper into the abyss.
Down, down, down we go with narrow walls and dripping rain water seeping in. Down, down, down we go. The motion lights go out and don't go back on. We locate parking slot #2, but our car does not fit. Even if it did fit, we would not have been able to exit the vehicle. Now we were deep underground, with no cell service, trying to turn the car around and trying to navigate a sharp turn to get out. The dim motion lights never clicked back on. It took us 60 minutes of maneuvering and near catastrophe for the rental car to get back out into the rainy daylight.
We finally emerged from the parking dungeon, breathing a sigh of relief. After having no safe place to keep our car and the lack of assistance from the apartment manager, we canceled our accommodations. We settled into the Chateau de Salettes where the air is crisp, the landscape is vast, the accommodations are out of a movie, and the parking is above ground.