A hop, skip, train jump away

Trip Start Apr 11, 2012
Trip End Oct 10, 2012

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F1 hotel

Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Sunday, May 6, 2012

My first train ride! Well, it didn't go all that smoothly and my bike very nearly got left behind, but everything always seems to work out. When I got to the train station, I met my first Americans of the trip. They were a couple from Austin, Texas who were also doing a bicycle tour and they also happened to be taking the same train as me to Bordeaux. We had all paid an extra 10 euros to reserve a place on the bullet train for our bicycles, but when the train arrived, there was no carriage devoted to bicycles. I had seen pictures on the internet of a portion of a carriage that had hooks to hang several bikes, and this was what I think we were all expecting to see. Unfortunately, no.

There were no porters/conductors to ask questions as apparently the French don't employ people to manage/assist passengers anymore. Maybe I just have an outdated view of how trains operate, but I sort of thought there would be someone, if not on the platform, at least on the train. While I was looking for this elusive bike storage spot on the train, some French passengers who had stepped off for a smoke apparently told my fellow touring friends that the train was about to leave the station and we had better get on. Thankfully they knew this because there was no announcement or warning, but we managed to pile everything on just in time.

The train wasn't busy, so we jammed the bikes into the aisle of a first class carriage until one of the passengers objected and told the Austin girl (the only one who knew any French among us) that we had to put them in 2nd class. It turns out that there was a small space where the seats fold up, but there had been some youths sitting in those seats with headphones in, so this irritated passenger made them move for us. Ok...so now we had three bikes jammed into a tiny spot somehow, so we started to question why the need for a 10 euro fee per bike. I could have ridden the train for free actually, as I never saw any train officials...they really do operate by the honor system here in France, I guess. A small thing I noticed too: all announcements on the train were in French. This is a major country for tourism, isn't it? Maybe a little in English, maybe even Chinese as well?? Just an idea...

My companions had both served two and a half years each in Guatemala for the Peace Corps and were liberal Texans! Apparently, Austin is one of the more liberal parts of the Lone Star State. We both agreed that there does seem to be a trend of travelers having a liberal leaning. I do not remember having met a conservative so far, and politics has often come up in my conversations with people (I can't help myself...it is just fun to talk about). It would kind of make sense that the more ignorant and close-minded people would not not put themselves in situations where they are likely to be exposed to new and different viewpoints and opinions.

Well, I have now spent two days in Bordeaux, browsed through a mall and a huge supermarket (very aggressive grocery shoppers!), walked about an open-air antiques market, ridden around large parts of the city, seen the major sights and done some people watching. I don't know what else I could do here, but I hope I am not falling into a tourist routine of seeing a few sites and peeling out for the next place. I guess I could try some wine, but I am staying off alcohol for this trip for my tolerance is apparently all gone and anything I drink doesn't relax me, it just goes straight to my head. Not like I would pretend to have any clue about wine anyhow...just not my thing.

So, tomorrow it is off to the Pyrenees for some enjoyable riding. I will be setting up a base camp at either a campground or a couchsurfing location and setting out on the road bike for beautiful, steep, and popular cycling routes in some actual mountains. This is why I brought the road bike instead of a more traditional big-tired touring bike, so I should be in for some fun. I will be on the French side of the Pyrenees for at least a week before I hook the trailer back up and head to San Sebastian and the start of some Spain riding. Barcelona is likely to follow and I will probably leave for Italy right after. Too much to see, too little time...
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LeAnn on

Stay healthy! And you are going to LOVE Italy!

Blow on

Ha ha! So much for automation. Amazing how you really can't replace people.

LeAnn on

We're all hoping that you're just having too much fun to post.....

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