Well, our Paris life came to an end today as we set off pedalling for the train station to journey back up to Normandy where the ferry leaves for the UK. We arrived at the train station nice and early and sat ourselves in view of the departure screens. We knew we had to get the bikes on the train, up narrow steps and through a narrow doorway and then get them hung on the wall and bags stored. The station began quietly and then filled with crowds of people all destined for places here and there and all milling around the platforms. We once again assumed the appearance of Bingo aficionados as we stared at the screens waiting for our platform number to appear so we could power walk ourselves and the bikes to the train, ready for action stations. We sat and stared…and sat…and stared…more people arrived…we considered strategies for getting the bikes through the crowd…we watched the screens…then…”twenty-three”, declared Steve, while simultaneously spinning round, heading for the bike and clutching the handlebars ready for power-walking take-off. I scuttled behind him and untethered my little steed, ready to lead it through the masses.
We merged with the other passengers making their way down the platform and towards our train. We arrived at the door marked for bikes, telling us there would be hooks for hanging them inside, and set about our swift boarding procedure. We quickly unloaded all the bags and piled them on the platform, then Steve leapt aboard while I handed the bikes up to him, he hung them up, then stood in the doorway while I handed up all the bags and he stored them around the bikes. All this was going on with a great deal of “Pardon” and “Excuse moi” as I paused to let people past, so they could board ever so genteelly with their nice, petite hand luggage, before I once again commenced lugging our big, bulging bags up the steps to Steve in a far from genteel manner! At least we had a bit of time, as boarding began ten minutes before departure, so we weren’t too flustered with the time and getting aboard. Finally, we were on! The bikes were hung, the bags were piled high all around them, we found a seat and we were off! We watched the towns and villages pass by us as we thundered north to Caen. The train was stopping in Caen for three minutes before continuing on its journey to Cherbourg, so we had three minutes to repeat our bike and baggage performance in reverse.
About ten minutes out from the station, we hopped up and walked up the aisle, ignoring the glances from the first-class passengers as we invaded their space with the purple plush seats and personal lamps, to reach our bikes and bags ready for action. We assumed position near the door, I took as many bags as I could hold in my hands and over my shoulders, ready to leap from the train, dump bags on the platform, sprint back to the door and retrieve the others bags Steve would pass down to me, dump them on the platform, then sprint back and take the bikes as he passed them down to me. The train was slowing…the station was drawing near…getting slower…screeeech…clunk…we’d stopped. ACTION STATIONS!!! The door opened, I flew out with bags clunking around my legs, knees and arms, dropped them in a heap on the platform and went back for the next load…time ticking away…horn sounding…sprint…grab…dump…Phew! Everything made it off, we’d done it! We were in Caen, with all our gear, together, at the same time and nothing was continuing on to Cherbourg alone and unaccompanied! We also had the added bonus that we hadn’t encountered a single flight of stairs in either train station! Street level entry at last! Thank you!
We reloaded the bikes and set off for the 16km ride to Ouistreham, the location for Brittany Ferries. It was really good to be back on the bikes again and it was a lovely ride. The weather was sunny and warm, we had a bike path all the way beside the river and we were back in familiar territory that we recognised. We passed Pegasus Bridge, a very significant bridge during D-Day, which was captured by British forces the day before the landings, giving a strategic advantage to the allies. As we rode along the path, another cyclist passed us and gave a smile, a thumbs up and a hearty “Bien!”. What have I been saying about these wonderful French people!
After a nice pedal, we arrived at our hotel, which is right across the road from the ferry terminal, ready for our early departure. After we checked in, we sat in the hotel lounge and had a cuppa, with the piped music playing in the background. Guess what came on! Men at Work and I Come From a Land Down Under! We sat there like a couple of oldies, heads bobbing in time to the music and discreetly singing along to that Aussie 80’s classic! Fancy that here in Ouistreham!
So that was the day! A bit of strategic action, some pleasant pedalling and settling in for the night before bidding France farewell in the morning. We have no plans for our riding in the UK, no particular schedule or itinerary, no deadlines to meet, so we will go with the flow, as we enjoy our fourth country in eighty-five days. We may be able to have a rest from our games of charades for a while and hopefully give others a rest from our attempts at communication as we return to English for a while. Thanks Portugal, Spain and France for your patience! We must also remember to switch sides of the road again! I asked Steve how he was going to cope without his pastries. His response…”Oooh, but I’ll have sausage rolls and pies now!” There’s no stopping the fella when it comes to pastry of any kind! I told him if he ever ordered a pie floater, I’d have his mushy peas while he ate the pie! The simple joys in life! Yep…we have many joys in life, most of them quite simple, but still, simply joyful!