Wednesday, 22 July 2009

trains, pains and automobiles

What a day

I left my house at 6am this morning. I needed to be at the station by 7 for a 730 train. Luckliy I had been pretty organized and had scouted the route the day before- it took 45 mins in traffic but I gave it an hour (and there was no traffic). I was feeling pretty smug at arriving about 40 mins early, time for a café solo and a pastry before embarking on the 5 hour trip to san Sebastian. I had a chat with the guard as I had time to kill, after a few nicities he kindly informed me I was at the worng station and that the train to get to the right station was leaving, now. He waived the usual baggage scan and told me to ride across and onto the train. Now when I say ride onto the train I do mean ONTO, I quite literally rolled into the carriage with both feet still clipped in, badass.

I was pretty pleased ot arrive at the right station with 10 mins to spare, I scanned my bag and went ot the platform. At this point a lady, who may or may not have been satan’s daughter) appeared. Her 3 foot frame was easily overlooked at first but her hi pitched dsquealing was not. She proceeded to tell me I couldn’t get on with a bike. I proceeded ot show her my reservation con bicicleta. She wasn’t taking any crap – the train was overbooked and I wasn’t getting on. By the time I had finished questioning her mother’s fidelity the train had left, and so had my hopes of getting to San Sebastian in the next 12 hours.

I waited in several lines and eventually ended up 2 hours later on a regional train to the French border, I got into france 5 hours later after spending a while hugging my bike in a baggage car and trying to sleep with my head on the saddle – if you’re wondering it’s not comfy but it is oily.

ON arriving in france I took another train to Narbonne, where I was kindly informed that I would need to wait another 5 hours for the next train out of Narbonne. This would have been cool if I could have gone for a ride but, with my bags, that wasn’t possible. So I engaged my default lost in France setting and went to look for a bakery. Unfortunatley it’s bastille day and after a pretty extensive cruise I can confirm that everything is closed. Judging by the inhabitants of Narbonne most of the clothing shops closed in about 1983 and they put an embargo on new hairstyles right before the mullet became tragically uncool.

An hour of suitcase dragging flip flop wearing crusiing later and I have found a bar, I have persuaded them to show the tour de france and bought a pretentiously small espresso (my 3rd today). I should get into Bordeaux at about 11.30pm if all goes to plan, and to the house about 1am – happy days.

After stocking up 15 hours on the bike in 3 days I am ready for a day off sitting in a bar but this is not how I had envisaged spending it. But every cloud has a silver lining – right now I’m panning for silver, I’ll let you know if I find any

UPDATE well I haven’t spoken French for a while so that’s quite fun and I think I can see a shop where I can buy those yummy sweets they have here – carambars I think they’re called. I might try and order a perrier without looking like a twat as well, that would be pretty cool. I’m also working on disguising the hair on the op of my head to make my long hair look like a straight up mullie, if I succeed I’ll post a picture.

Part deux

You’d think that with a five hour layover in a town the size of most people’s cars in southern Califronia the one thing you’d be guaranteed is not missing your train. Well, I beg to differ, you see I had missed out on a crucial fact about corssing borders, sometimes you cross time zones. This resulted in a frantic sprint on the bike through the narrow, cobbled streets of Narbonne with my flip flop flippin’ and floppin’ and my backpack swining, all the while pursued by a very friendly north African chap who was prepared to offer me an I-phone at a substantially reduced price.

I just made my train and got to tolouse in time for the next transfer. I went straight to the platform as we were running late and the next train should have already been there, it wasn’t. it too was running late. I wasn’t that bothered as this was the last leg of my hourney. I was, in fact, quite excited to be nearly done. So I rode my bike around the platform (I may have also done some of my more flamboyant victory salutes for the adoring masses, and I’m sure both of them appreciated it) until a guard decided to threaten me with expulsion if I continued.

I got on the TGV, it was pretty cool, with seats reserved for cyclists having special info printed on them, only in france! I set about eating the yogurt and museli I had bought in Narbonne, only to realize I didn’t have a spoon – fortunately I was able to blag a coffee stirrer and thus occupy myself for 45 minutes with only 125g of diary produce – pretty creative time management I think you’ll agree.

On arriving in Bordeaux I was pretty happy to be done – I rushed out of the station only to find my parents lost in the one way system. I then got to spend a n enlightening quarter of an hour in the red light district and met some very friendly middle aged women. who, I am reliably informed, were not women before they were middle aged – nice. Anyway after making a couple of passes my parent picked me up, great to see them again. We drove back to the house and I was relieved to finally be able ot get to bed.

The doors were all locked, just when my day had been going so well! After a brief mountaineering trip I managed to get in through a French window and crawl into bed – bring on the holiday!

ps it's worth noting that my appendix was properly kicking my arse all day - no bueno

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