The Past Four Days!

Bonjour à tout le monde!  Writing this blog is going to be a little bit complicated on this French keyboard (most notably, the A and Q are switched), but we owe you an update!  it's been a very exciting couple of days!

PART ONE:  THURSDAY, JUNE 29

Today was our first (and only) full day in Paris, so we certainly made the most of it!  we started off with some delicious pastries and, literally, the best espresso in Paris (from the coffee shop just next to our apartment.  Afterwards, we explored the Bastille marketplace (again, thanks, Deirdre!), where we saw horse meat, live crabs, vendors cutting off fresh pieces of fruits for us to try, and other wild sights.   We picked up some pique-nique supplies (our specialty) and went for a little walk over to the Jardin des Plantes.  We have been "reading" the audiobook for All The Light You Cannot See lately, and it was exciting to see the place that the main character called home!  While we wandered around the botanical garden, a very friendly and talkative elderly Parisian lady just started talking to me randomly (this happens to me all the time) about the plants, her ability to talk to frogs, the "metallique" quality of my voice (??), Trump, and all sorts of other topics.  Her name was Susanne, though she seemed insulted that I asked for her name.

Later in the day, we had a very special rendezvous with Aude Goeminne, daughter of my French host family and our friend since we traveled to Ile-de-Ré with them two years ago!  We enjoyed coffee and conversation about the state of education in France and the US (Aude is a high school history teacher).  Hopefully it was worth our making her very late for her party ;-)  We ended the day with some Moroccan food for another very late dinner (this has become a trend), and then I barely slept that night because I was extremely nervous about getting down to the South of France the next day...

PART TWO:  FRIDAY, JUNE 30

Turns out that I was right to be nervous, because just about everything that could have gone wrong ALMOST did... but thankfully everything miraculously worked itself out, always due to the kindness of strangers!  People who think the French are standoffish really have not spent enough time with them; I have never found them to be anything but generous and kind.

ANYWAYS!  Our first step was to get from the Bastille to the train station, the Gare de Lyon.  After our nightmarish experience dragging the bike boxes through the metro, I figured it would be much easier to get an Uber.  However, the Uber that we summoned never came, so I ran out frantically to find a cab large enough to fit the bike boxes.  Inexplicably, cab after cab turned me down for a variety of reasons, and I was starting to panic until, finally, a cabbie took pity on me and agreed to take us!  Obstacle 1 surmounted, thanks to this heroic cabbie.

Our second step was to board the TGV (high speed train) to Marseille, which I had booked months earlier.  Of course our track was on the complete opposite side of the station, which meant more dragging for Adam.  AND THEN... as we were trying to board the train, the conductor stopped us and informed us that bikes in boxes were not allowed on this TGV.  I protested, citing all the research I had done on this very subject, but she resolutely repeated that there was no room.  My jaw dropped, I blurted out that we were Americans on our honeymoon, and I burst into tears, then insisted that we were going to try and see if someone would let us into the train, and so we continued down the platform.  I think some combination of my tears, her pity for this young married couple, and her surprise that I was an American who spoke good French moved her, because the next thing we knew, she had run down the platform after us and started a shouting match with another conductor, INSISTING that he allow us on the train!  And thus Adam and I ended up on the train, each in different cars, sitting on the floor next to the bathroom, holding up our bike boxes... but we were on our way!  Thank you, TGV conductor lady!

Our third step was to switch to a regional train in Marseille.  This was not an issue, but of course, there ended up being a fire on the tracks ahead of us, so we were delayed by an hour.  I was concerned because we were going to be picked up at Croix Sainte by Jean Luc, a cycling enthusiast whom I had found online in my attempts to find a local bike shop that could rebuild our bikes down there.  Jean Luc had offered to rebuild them himself, which was extremely kind, but I was still nervous about this rendezvous because I had never met him, nor could I even call him on the phone.  Also, the train station where we disembarked was literally just a sign next to a long stretch of tracks.  What were we getting ourselves into?

Turns out that Jean Luc is the coolest guy ever and is seriously our hero, along with his friend, Raymond, his wife, Marie Claude, and his twins, Charlotte and Tristan.  They welcomed us into their home with open arms and spent hours in Jean Luc's garage putting together our bikes, problem-solving,  serving us cold drinks, and helping us plan our route.  It was such a blessing to meet them all -- I literally don't know what we would have done without them!  I can only hope that we can return the favor by hosting them in Boston sometime.

On our newly rebuilt bikes, Charlotte and Buddy, we rode triumphantly to our lakeside campsite in St-Mitre-Les-Remparts (not before getting drenched in a rare Provençal rain during an otherwise impeccably sunny day), cooked some pasta, and prepped for our first day on the road! 

PART THREE:  SATURDAY, JULY 1

Our first day of bike touring (25 miles)!  Jean Luc had advised us not to start at the very beginning of the ViaRhôna because there was only one road leading there and it was apparently very dangerous for bicyclists.  So, instead, he told us to skip ahead to Arles and planned a route for us to get there.  We were on some slightly busy roads in the first part of our ride, through some industrial areas, but ended up on gorgeous tree-lined country roads that led us straight into Arles, ancient city that was an important trade center during the Roman Empire.  Our AirBnb was VERY cozy and located in "moustique" (mosquito) heaven, but we shut all the windows and managed to keep ourselves safe!  It was only a short walk into downtown Arles from there, and we had a great time walking around the Roman ruins (including a full arena in better shape than the Coliseum), eating dinner outside, having INCREDIBLE ice cream in an area that used to be a Roman forum (some of the best flavors we tried were honey lavender and Speculoos), meeting some priests (Frères-Prêcheurs...related to the Dominicans, I think?  They blessed our honeymoon and marriage!), and watching a ballet that was being performed outdoors in the Roman amphitheatre.  The mix of ancient and modern cultures was beautiful and fascinating, and it was so exciting to finally be next to the Rhône River, which is going to guide us all the way into the middle of Switzerland!  We truly loved our evening in Arles :-)

PART FOUR:  SUNDAY, JULY 2

We also had only 25 miles to go today, from Arles to Avignon, so we took our time sleeping in and getting ready, thinking that it would take us only about 3 hours.  Well, it took almost twice as long!  The sun was shining and the weather was gorgeous... except that the Mistral, famous wind of Southern France, was blowing... and blowing HARD, from the North, the exact direction that we were heading!  Like 30 mph hard.  This was a real vector addition problem if I ever saw one (physics nerd alert).  As a result, it took us almost twice as long as we had expected to go this short distance!  It was basically like riding up a long, gradual hill for the entire time.  Fortunately, we were riding past innumerable farms (with peach and apple trees... mmm), sunflower fields, and gorgeous views of the Rhône, and the entire route was completely flat, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been!  We stopped for sandwiches in the cute agricultural town of Beaucaire, and experienced the terror of almost being blown into the Rhône as we rode across an especially windy bridge, but we made it to our (very fancy) campground in Avignon in one piece!  We also had our first experience on the actual ViaRhôna bike path, dedicated entirely to cyclists, which was WONDERFUL compared to riding on the shoulder of these back roads.  Unfortunately, south of Avignon, the ViaRhôna is still under development, so Adam and I are looking forward to easier days of cycling once we head north of Avignon tomorrow.

We made it to Avignon just in time to make it to Mass, particularly special in this former papal city!  Our campground is literally just across the river from the famous Pont d'Avignon and Palais des Papes, which meant that we had an incredible view as we rode the free shuttle boat across the river.  Mass was stuffy (no windows in this 500 year old church) and difficult to understand (the priest's Provençal accent was confusing) but lovely nonetheless, and we enjoyed some delicious homemade pasta and a cozy night in our little tent as the Mistral howled outside!

Today is our rest day, so we explored Avignon and enjoyed the sunshine!  We'll tell you all about it later.  Sorry for the delayed post and the length of this one ;-)








Comments

  1. Bonjour Caitlin comme je regrette de ne pas t'avoir vue à Lyon avec Adam et les Goeminne. Malheureusement, nous devons beaucoup garder nos petits enfants cet été et nous étions déjà partis. Mais je dois te raconter que nous sommes allés aux USA il y a déjà 2 ans pendant un mois pour aller sur les traces du Président et Mme Kennedy et de Robert Kennedy (celui que je préfère de la famille avec Jackie...) Nous sommes partis de Boston jusqu'à Williamsburg pendant un mois. J'aime passionnément ton magnifique pays et aimerait tant y retourner ! !! Nous sommes dans le Vercors peut être y passerez vous (mais je crois que c'est trop tard 😢😢😢. ..) Si vous passez voilà mon nom de tel pour venir coucher 06 62 96 99 14. Surtout n'hésitez pas ! !!!!
    A bientôt sur le blog ! Affectueusement à tous les 2

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chere Caroline! Desolee que je n'ai pas vu votre message jusqu'a maintenant... mais je suis trop contente que vous aimiez notre blog et, surtout, que vous etes allee aux Etats-Unis et que vous l'ayez aime beaucoup!!! Catherine m'a dit que vous avez pris des cours en anglais pour vous preparer pour ce voyage; bravo! La prochaine fois que nous nous recontrons, on peut parler anglais :-)

      Bon ete a vous et vos petits enfants! Et merci beaucoup pour votre gentillesse, comme toujours!

      Caitlin (et Adam)

      Delete
  2. Bonjour Caitlin comme je regrette de ne pas t'avoir vue à Lyon avec Adam et les Goeminne. Malheureusement, nous devons beaucoup garder nos petits enfants cet été et nous étions déjà partis. Mais je dois te raconter que nous sommes allés aux USA il y a déjà 2 ans pendant un mois pour aller sur les traces du Président et Mme Kennedy et de Robert Kennedy (celui que je préfère de la famille avec Jackie...) Nous sommes partis de Boston jusqu'à Williamsburg pendant un mois. J'aime passionnément ton magnifique pays et aimerait tant y retourner ! !! Nous sommes dans le Vercors peut être y passerez vous (mais je crois que c'est trop tard 😢😢😢. ..) Si vous passez voilà mon nom de tel pour venir coucher 06 62 96 99 14. Surtout n'hésitez pas ! !!!!
    A bientôt sur le blog ! Affectueusement à tous les 2

    ReplyDelete

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Legend

  • Red = We're going to bike that
  • Purple = We're biking that now
  • Grey = We biked that!
  • Black = We decided not to go that way
  • Yellow = We took a train
  • Magenta = We took a plane

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