12: Life on the Fast Train

I’m sitting on the TGV about 20 minutes out of Paris. Let me tell you, I know what I’m going to do the next time I take my bike on the TGV, and that is buy a 1st class ticket in the car next to the bike car and sit there instead of in the compartment with my bike. Those are just the very worst compartments on the train. More cramped because it’s the first car, where the train is getting pointy, and he interior is darker and the windows smaller.

Getting on the train in Paris was irritating because a father/son team got on with fully loaded bikes (when the train is full like this one it’s much easier for all if the bike goes on first and then the baggage) and then blocked the way for all—and then they didn’t take all the crap off their bikes and so made it impossible for us to fit all four bikes into the allotted mini-space. I probably would have gotten better results had I put on my charm instead of my bitch hat, but I just couldn’t help myself! Fortunately, through a strange combination of circumstances, I had a 2nd seat reserved 3 cars away, so that’s where I now am, not having to share a seat with those as*#%les.

After having breakfast at the hotel yesterday, I decided I didn’t need to spend 8.50€ for that again today, so this morning after I did my last bit of packing I headed out for one last tour around Vannes, this time with my “nearly naked” bike (only my little luggage rack pack).

I visited the Cathedral, one of those hodge-podge churches whose construction styles range from the 12th – 19th centuries. Very dark with some interesting stained glass. After the cathedral I rode down the length of the inner harbor to the entrance of the Gulf of Morbihan. There were already sailors waiting in the lock, ready for their morning outings, although the weather reports all called for a storm.

By the time I got back into the town the market hall was open so I was able to pick up bread, fruit, cheese and meat for lunch and dinner on the train. I had a nice chat with the cheese vendor, who asked me to help her with her German. (“Would you like some more cheese?”)

After all my errands were done, I settled in at a café across from the market and had my last café au lait and croissant for breakfast – tomorrow it’s back to fruit and yoghurt. Then it was time to go back to the hotel, load up the bike and make my way up the hill to the train station. (Did I mention that Vannes is NOT flat?) May I just say that I am extremely thankful that Vannes, unlike Augsburg, has elevators to the train patform? Boy, does that make life easier.

The ride from Vannes to Paris was cramped and somewhat uncomfortable, as the route through Bretagne is very curvy and as the TGV goes so fast, it was a bit like Mr. Toad’s wild ride. My stomach started feeling funny. Ugh.

It is so bizarre to ride down Boul. St. Germain on a bicycle! When riding through a city like Paris I am more cautious than usual, especially with a fully-loaded bike. One is just so unwieldy. But on the other hand, if you don’t ride with a certain sense of fearlessness you won’t get anywhere. My very favorite thing in Paris are the many narrow one-way streets that have an 18” wide bike lane painted in them going AGAINST the traffic! Not for the faint of heart. And I would like to point out once again, Paris is not flat!

While crossing the Seine, I stopped on the bridge for a quick mini-picnic. It started to rain, so I put the rain covers on the bike packs and curtailed my picnic, moving on and arriving at Gare del’est with plenty of time to spare.


So what have I learned from doing a (semi-) solo bike trip a second year in a row?

  • Although I took part in the organized portion of the tour BECAUSE of the linear aspect – seeing more countryside and having my luggage transported along the way, it was the enforced linearity that was my least favorite aspect of this tour. I.e., because of the idea of following a line (the river Loire) we passed through some countryside that was less than interesting.
  • My enjoyment and motivation are immeasurably heightened by the presence of blue sky. Call me a fair weather sailor, but it is sometimes difficult for me to remain enthused about my surroundings when the colors are suppressed by grey skies. Not to mention that when rain is threatening or coming down, I have even less desire to stop and smell (or photograph) the roses.
  • I did enjoy the group aspect of being able to meet people and occasionally ride, dine or drink with them, but in some ways being alone in a group points out even more that one is alone.
  • After a longer tour than last year (+3 days / +100 km) I am surprisingly enough feeling physically just fine as opposed to last year, when I needed 3 days after I got home to recuperate from vacation. That is probably due to several factors: my knees, even though stiff, feel generally better than last year (the meniscus operation helped some); although I wasn’t wild about the clouds and overcast weather, at least it wasn’t as hot as last year – that was at times debilitating; the third reason is that it just could be that I am in slightly better shape, that is, am more accustomed to riding longer (for me) distances.
  • I always need to plan a “do nothing” day somewhere in the middle. The body needs a rest.

Day 12

Route

Distance

Elapsed Ride Time