After much discussion of our forward plans and how best to get to our predetermined destination in time for Anzac Day, we decided to do some leapfrogging and head part of the way north by train. We packed up early at our campsite and headed to the station in Bordeaux to catch a train to Nantes.
We arrived nice and early at the station and had some waiting time. Steve went off in search of pastries and travel snacks, while I waited with the bikes. As I was waiting, I saw a group of schoolchildren walking towards me with their teacher. She walked up to me and in French, asked if I spoke French.
“Non, désolé,” I said. “English.”
“Ah,” she said,” and began to speak to me in English.
“We are researching the train station and wondered if we could ask you what you are doing here today?”
Well, I thought, I’d better give them a bit more than just, “we’re catching the train to Nantes”, so I said, “I’m from Australia…”
She immediately began translating for the children, “something something something Australie,” which elicited oohs and aahs and much rapid writing in notebooks from the group.
“My husband and I have travelled through Portugal and Spain and now we are travelling through France. Today we are catching the train to Nantes and then we ride our bikes.”
The teacher translated and there were smiles and scribbled notes again from the children.
“Merci beaucoup,” she said.
“That’s OK,” I said, “I’m a teacher in Australia, so I think this is wonderful.”
“Aaah,” she said and translated, “something something something something professeur Australie.” The children smiled, she said something to them in French and they said to me in English, “thank you very much.” Then they wandered off, with lots of rapid conversation happening between each other and the teacher. So that was a nice thing to happen while I waited, to be interviewed by a small group of primary school children. I hope the response they got from the small, travel-worn Australian lady gave them some useful information for their research.
When Steve returned, I set off in search of a WC. I wandered around and eventually found one upstairs and at the opposite end of the station. Goodo, at least I found one, which isn’t always easy. Darn, I’d forgotten my toilet change though! I keep forgetting we need to pay to use them, so I turned around and power-walked all the way back to the other end of the station, downstairs, back to our seat, took 50c and high-tailed it back to the waiting WC. I really must carry change with me, because you wouldn’t want to be in desperate straits and have a bathroom blunder all for the sake of 50c!
It was soon time for our train and we found our platform and even found a ramp to get us up there, after Steve went searching for a way to avoid hauling the bikes up the stairs again. The train pulled up in front of us and we saw the bike symbol on the side to tell us which carriage would have a space for our bikes, so we were good to go. Then, we saw how we had to get onto the carriage! Despite it being designated for bikes, there was nothing about the entrance to the carriage that was bike friendly at all. No low platform, nothing, just a big step up into the narrow doorway into the train. The step was so far off the platform that I had to pull myself up to get on, just me, even without a bike. Luckily a friendly and helpful bystander came to my assistance and I pushed and pulled and he got on board and helped pull the bike up with all the gear. Then Steve offloaded a few things from his bike to lighten it a bit and again, with the help of this nice fellow passenger, they got the big bike on and we eventually managed to stow them in a space. Phew! It was an ordeal though! After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about seat allocation, we eventually settled in for the four hour trip.
We arrived in Nantes and we put our exit strategy into effect. I got off the train and stood on the platform, Steve threw all the panniers down to me, while I piled them up, then we got the bikes off, lightened of their load, before reloading them on the platform and heading off. It all went to plan! We managed to find an elevator to take us down off the platform, which involved quite a bit of manoeuvring of the big bike to fit it in, which Steve eventually did, standing it on its back wheel. I waited for the return of the elevator, got the little bike in OK and met Steve at the bottom. We continued walking the bikes through the station and then found we needed to go up again, to get to the main exit! Back into another elevator, with more one-at-a-time bike manoeuvring and eventually we made it outside into a grey and drizzly afternoon.
We set off towards our campsite and I said to Steve, “Are we still right to tent it?” thinking about the rain.
“Yeah, we’ll be right,” said Steve, since the rain was only a light drizzle.
As we rode on, the rain got a little heavier and Steve pulled over to put a coat on.”What do you think?” he asked, “it’s a bit heavier than I thought.”
“I don’t mind,” I said, “I don’t mind tenting it, as long as the rain doesn’t matter to the tent.”
We toyed with the idea of looking for a cheap hotel and then Steve checked the weather forecast and that assured us the rain was only going to be light and brief and would soon clear, so we decided to stick with the plan to camp and continued on to the campsite.
We arrived and the campsite is in a lovely place, we even had to ride through a paddock to get here. It’s quiet and peaceful, set in trees and near the river with lots of birds, with bird feeders hanging in the trees. It’s lovely. Like many of the campsites we’ve been in though, there are also a lot of doves. Now I know doves are pretty and they add a certain charm to a place, but I have to say, I am over their cooing! It’s non-stop and the most repetitive and monotonous bird call in the birdy world. Fair dinkum! Change the record Beethoven! This is what we get constantly, so to have some of the experience, I’d ask you to get someone close by or your nearest and dearest to start doing this…Coo-hoo-hoo…coo-hoo-hoo…now keep that up…Coo-hoo-hoo…coo-hoo-hoo…coo-hoo-hoo…keep going, don’t stop…coo-hoo-hoo…are you still going?…coo-hoo-hoo…keep it up now…coo-hoo-hoo…it gets a little wearing doesn’t it! So we have had that over and over non-stop in many of the places we’ve stayed and the doves were here to greet us on arrival too!
Oh, and the other thing, the rain didn’t stop or ease off, it kept up and got heavier! So now we are sitting in the tent in the rain, with everything feeling very cold and damp, listening to the constant pattering on the roof of the tent. I guess at least it’s sent the doves to their beds and given that chorus a rest! So we will have a soggy night. Tomorrow we had planned to ride on and find a village somewhere to have a Sunday rest day, to just “be” in a place, but that will all depend on the weather again. It may be too wet to pack up and we’ll sit it out here for another day. We shall see.
Oh well, time to settle in for a soggy slumber…coo-hoo-hoo!