For various reasons, we ended up taking the night train to Paris to start our vacation. We arrived at the Munich train station with our fully packed bikes at about a quarter past 10. The first adventure was trying to fit the bikes on to the hanging rack in the train. They both have horns on the handlebars and the horns kept fighting with each other – it took Werner several minutes to wrangle them on to their respective hooks.
We found our places and got settled in and for the first bit had a comfortable time and could stretch out a bit. In Stuttgart a family got in and stretching out became a thing of the past. Ugh. I think I managed about three hours of restless sleep. Werner, bless his heart, can sleep anywhere in any position. I am extremely jealous of that attribute.
Ten minutes out of Stuttgart the train came to a halt and did not move for a full two hours! So much for making our connection in Paris, for which we’d planned a generous two hours. The most irritating part of the whole affair is that there was no announcement made explaining what was going on or when we might move again or when we’d eventually arrive in Paris. I really have changed, because instead of getting my panties really in a knot about it I just shrugged my shoulders and said “oh, well…”. I did, however politely complain to the train personnel about the lack of information, and only then did I get the form to fill out to request a rebate for lateness. Oh, the service-friendly Deutsche Bahn!
By the time we finally arrived in Paris it was 11am and our train was due to leave the Montparnasse Station, located several kilometers away on the opposite side of town, at 11:21. We knew we couldn’t possibly make it in time, so we made the decision to ride as directly as possible to the station but not stress out about the time. We got slowed down by all the construction around Les Halles and a very nice Frenchman helped us out (he spoke excellent English!). Our second stop was on Pont Neuf – this was Werner’s first time in Paris and he need to soak it up just a bit.
We arrived at the Montparnasse Station at 12 and went directly to the TGV customer service area. I had had visions of not being able to get any bicycle places on the TGVs today and perhaps having to take a slow train and arrive at some ungodly hour, but we were extremely fortunate. After asking the first question “Parlez-vous anglais?” and getting “No, not at all” as a response, I gulped and proceeded to explain the situation in my broken French. I managed to make myself understood and we were able to get places on the 2:30 train to Bordeaux. The lady was so nice, and it was no problem at all – she even apologized for not being able to get us on the earlier train. What a huge relief!
Our second adventure was in getting on the train. One strange business practice of the SNCF is that they always post the track number just 20 minutes before the train’s scheduled departure. What happens is that the track number is posted on the board and the hundreds of people that want to board the train take off walking as rapidly as they can with luggage (or in our case, fully-packed bikes) in tow. Inevitably there is a traffic jam and lots of confusion at the start of the platform. In this confusion, I imagined that I saw the “1”, which was the number of our car, so we took the luggage off the bikes, got everything stowed away on the train and got settled into our seats. Just then (luckily for us!) the conductor came by and asked to look at our tickets. It turned out that we were in the wrong part of the train and we were in car 11, not 1. Eeek!! He told us we needed to get off RIGHT NOW and hurry to the other end of the train – he kept saying “Depechez-vous, depechez-vous!” (“Hurry up, hurry up!”).
We made it to the other car in ample time, but not without sweating buckets. Werner had a good laugh about it and declared it “the event of the century” because he saw me run for the first time. Ha ha.
All’s well that ends well and now we’re about ½ hour out of Bordeaux. I am looking forward with great longing to a shower and a change of clothes – and maybe a nap in a real bed, too.
We got our much needed nap and by early evening we were taking the tram into the center of town. We got off at Place de la Bourse and I was happy to see that Werner was as taken with the beauty of the Place and the adjacent “mirror d’eau” (water mirror) as I. From there we walked down along the waterfront to the Esplanade de Quinconces and marveled at the majesty of the fountain/monument at the head of the square.
From there we meandered into town and looked for dinner restaurants, ending up at Le Brasserie Bordelaise, where Vera & I had enjoyed our last meal the previous year.
The best part of the meal was the wine – a half bottle of 2010 Bordeaux Supérieur. I wanted to eat fairly light so I chose two first courses. To start with I got a small “Caesar” salad – in my book a salad with chicken, creamy dressing and tomatoes, no trace of romaine lettuce and topped with thyme sprigs is NOT a Caesar, but it there were anchovies and I suppose that was their definition. It was tasty but I wasn’t expecting so much chicken, so a “light” dinner was no longer happening. My second “first” course was a delicious salmon tartar – a tastefully arranged mound of chopped raw salmon and finely chopped vegetables in a delicious vinaigrette. Werner’s salad was a plate of fantastic perfectly ripe sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and an excellent balsamico.
After dinner we took one more short tour of the mirroir d’eau and caught the tram from there back to the hotel and plopped our exhausted bodies into bed.