Moissac to Toulouse

We decided to skip Grisolles to spend an extra day in Toulouse. We had a generous helping of gorgeous canal paths and sleepy towns. A second day in Toulouse sounded grand, and I woke up with a head cold so it sounded even better.

87D4DC5D-E775-4825-A20C-AF11828FB343

We walked to the train station the day before to book a “Bike Train”, a train that you could carry your bike on. After reviewing the train schedule we noticed a small bike icon at the bottom of some columns. Viola! We booked a 12:30 bike train. There was only one burning question, how does one put a bike on a train that stops for only 60 seconds? Answer: Easy, in 60 seconds. Or 30 seconds for each bike. We have an interest in doing/seeing something new yet this often comes with about 60 seconds of stress. Actually it was not that bad, we had other cyclists to lead the way, but that didn’t help much. It was a three trip load in to get now 5 bikes on 4 transport hooks. We felt and looked like the square pegs in round holes?

69D869F4-E261-440D-8F44-A0D60814F75A

After a hectic 60 seconds we were on with our bikes yet not on the bike hooks but parked halfway out into the aisle. We were waiting for some angry French conductor or local to admonish us, but people side stepped the obstructing bikes like it happens all the time. And I’m sure it does.

4AE3D00F-3593-4D1D-B1CF-149B1F0E080A

We arrived at Toulouse the train’s end destination so there was no hurry to get off, but the newbies did not know that and we scrambled off. After two elevators, one escalator and one flight of stairs with the bikes we were in Toulouse. We needed a reward for our effort and ordered food at the Fake French Burger King. They took my order within a minute and I was eating a bucket full of French fries while I waited, and waited for our chicken sandwiches. At 10 minutes I gave my best international “What’s going on?” shrug that was clearly understood by the cashier. He gave the corresponding ” Hey man I don’t know”, gesture and I waited like a non-ugly American. Marla was outside and worried that she might be continuing the trip alone. At 15 minutes I said that I needed to go and would take anything. I got 3 assorted sandwiches and we donated one, with fries, to a homeless lady.

114108A0-470C-4286-A656-41F317C2FB3A

What ever good Karma we got from helping a Toulouse indigent was lost on our ever psycho GPS, “Doris”. Doris was going through multiple personalities as we headed to our hotel. I told Marla that I was trying my best to interpret 3 sets of directions with what I knew to be true- we basically needed to go, thatta way. Doris threw her biggest tantrum ever, she needed a time out and at one time I thought a quick dip in the canal might improve her demeanor. It took us almost 90 minutes to find our hotel with some directions from another hotel’s concierge. We received a more detailed city map later and noticed that we could have had a 5 minute ride taking two turns from the train station to the hotel. Doris! Navigating a new town is always a game and generally a fun challenge of wits, experience and dumb luck but Doris made it worse. We can not recommend the CoPilot GPS app for this reason. When she didn’t spaz out her dotted line ” as the crow flies, go that way, indicator”, was great to keep your lizard brain in the comfort zone. Her turn by turn function was useless and was constantly recalculating even if you walked a straight line or standing completely still. She would spin around like a weather vane giving different directions. We had to turn the sound off as she would repeatedly say ” next turn ….”, until you took the damn turn and when you are walking that may take a few minutes. I surmised that some of her programming was for cars as she anticipated an upcoming turn to be “right now!”, when it was minutes away. We did have her on bike and walking function. She failed to recognized many small streets that we needed to know.

image

The Hotel Royal Wilson was centrally located in great area. Yay Marla again for an awesome location. Plenty of shops, movie theaters, and restaurants that were open. The hotel’s wifi was great yet only allowed one device at a time regardless that we had 3 different codes for 3 devices. Oh well, a first world problem.

We caught a movie 2 blocks away and learned the codes for what was dubbed in French and what was in “original language”. A Bumba Gump bagel caught our eye afterwards and it was as good as it looked. We had another busy day and hit the sack.

A Day of Rest in Toulouse

image

Arriving in Toulouse one day early has given us an extra day of rest. Today we will eat, sleep and be merrily entertained by a city bus tour.

So to begin the morning right, we opted for breakfast at the hotel…. more croissants, more pastries, more coffee, more jam, more butter….more…..more….more!

We then scurried outside to explore the city. But first we would need to do a little clothes shopping. Several days prior I had lost a shirt. Usually this would be no big deal. But when you pack extremely light it does make a difference. So we each upgraded our wardrobe a bit.

We then searched for a tourist kiosk to purchase city tour tickets. We found one close by. For 14 euros we were able to schedule an afternoon bus tour.

image

 

This gave us ample time to venture through our hamlet since the old town of Toulouse is actually rather small and easily explored by foot. In addition to Toulouse’s many beautiful brick buildings and landmarks there were quite a few parks. Also we found several different event happenings such as “Taste of Toulouse”,a “Senior Fair”and a protest of some sort.

image

After an uneventful city tour we took in an American movie “Protage” with French subtitles. A bit of dinner afterwards and we would be off to sleep….

Toulouse to Paris by train.

image

We slept in as the train to Bordeaux was not until 2:30 in the afternoon. After gathering the bikes from the hotel we walked them to the train station. It was a straight shot up the Main Street and a left on another. Easy. Again the stress meter went up when it was our turn to board with the bikes. This time there were no meat hooks to hang the bikes but a comfy compartment all to their own. Except someone had parked three overloaded touring bikes with their panniers still on the bike adding extra width. I barely got Marla’s bike in backwards, no kickstand needed and we found our seats. We walked into the compartment carrying our panniers to sit and a lady said, ” oh we should have done that “, referring to removing the panniers. Oh well. Her companion asked if there was enough room and I replied “barely”. We all talked about bikes and trains and discovered this bike compartment was built for 6 bikes! We barely got 5 into it. And sure enough another cyclist boarded on the next stop. They stood his bike up and wedged it in. ¬†Book these bike trains early as they do fill up.

The couple was from Britain and Spain heading to Bordeaux to do the same ride as we had just completed. We chatted and found out that she was retired now living in France. This was the third ex- patriot from the U.K., that we had met.

We all disembarked with our bikes and panniers at Bordeaux like circus clowns spilling out of a mini car. We all worked together to pass bikes and bags out the train. Done.

Today was the day to meet Norbert at the train station and return the bikes. Easy enough and we saved 200 euros by doing so. We unpacked the panniers and loaded up the backpacks. We met Norbert http://www.o2cycles.com outside McDonalds handed off the bikes, and then we were back on a train to Paris. A tenuous traveling day. 2 hours to Bordeaux, a 2 hour layover and then a 3 and a half hour train to Paris. We got to Paris at 10:00pm and took a taxi to the hotel.
Long day.

Lunch Date in Paris!

image

We were tired from our train ride the previous day, but we needed to get up and going to meet our friends for lunch. Gayle and Bob are two great people that we met walking on the French Camino de Santiago two years prior. They do quite a bit of traveling and happen to be spending several months here in Paris. In addition to Gayle and Bob we were introduced to Sylvie and Alan from Canada. Another interesting couple whom we had a lot in common. Sylvie also practiced the same profession as myself. We all ate at a cafe near to us which specialized in crepes.

image

After lunch we continued on to the museum L’Orangerie with Gayle and Bob. What a fantastic museum. So often we focus on the largest museums and pass up some real jewels. The building was originally constructed in 1852 to shelter the orange trees of the garden of the Tuileries . It also served as a place to house soldiers during France’s Third Republic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This museum is now best known for housing Claude Monets “Water Lillies”. These large paintings are presented in two oval gallery rooms. The rooms, which were redesigned specifically for Monets work, contained four panels each. Monet donated the panels to the French government as a monument to the end of World War 1.

In August 1944 five shells fell on the rooms during the battle of the Liberation of Paris. Two of the panels were slightly damaged.

Another interesting fact is that you are now allowed to take photos. Evidently the policy changed when the French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin took a picture of a painting by artist Pierre Bonnard. The Minister then posted the photo on her Instagram. The public went into an uproar. Why can’t we take photos? The president of the Musee L’Orangerie and d’Orsay then immediately reversed the decision to ban photography as long as it did not pose a threat to the artwork. Flash photography and selfie sticks are still forbidden.

SaveSave

Day at the d’Orsay Museum

image

We lucked out with clear skies again yet it was windy and chilly. We had a yearning for strong coffee and strong wifi, so we headed to Starbucks. It was the first time in two weeks that I could transfer photos from my camera to my email and I did so. Marla was also able to post some photos on the blog.

It was a simple walk down Saint Germain to St Michael which then crosses the river at Norte Dame. We made a left and it was a 20 minute walk to the museum d’Orsay. An interesting building that was formerly a railway station. On our first trip to Paris in 2002 our daughters were 10 and 16 years old and we called this ” The Horsey museum”. Back then we had to keep the visit short like our attention spans and took a loop only downstairs. On this visit we had more time to explore the upper salons and restaurants.

image

On this visit the featured exhibit was on “Images de la Prostitution”. Many artists seem to have enjoyed the night life and all that comes with it. There were many paintings and drawings of these ladies and the second oldest profession, musicians.

image

The exhibit also included photographs and memorabilia of that early time: 1850-1910. It was interesting that the gals could not solicit legally until the gas lamps came on. So the ladies would stand by a street lamp until it was time to work as indicated by the light coming on. And that kids is how street walkers got associated with hanging out at street lamps. Towards the end of this rather large exhibit they had a peep show photo display and several movies from 1910. Not much has changed except for the clothes.

Travel to New York

image

We arrived in New York one hour early. It was a good flight. Our eldest daughter flew in as well to get that New York experience. Timing also was perfect as we met up in terminal C at the Newark airport. We will be spending the next three nights in “The Big Apple” to adjust before returning to California.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SaveSave

Tips For the Canal

I’ve mentioned a few tips in previous posts and I’ll put them all here plus a few more.

Get panniers for the canal. Your bike will handle better with the lower center of gravity and they unclip easy for transport. A handlebar case is also handy.

image

Ask if the bikes have Presta or Schrader valves and use the appropriate pump.

image

Know how to change a flat. Practice doing so.

We had Cube touring bikes on the canal. They were comfortable and allowed a heads up style of riding.

Get some saddle time in beforehand. We failed to do this and it was uncomfortable at the end of the day.

The gel seat covers were a a cheap and easy godsend.

Gel padded bike shorts were a good call.

image

We had a bike odometer sensor fail and it was crucial for navigating distance. We used a band aid and a Compeed blister patch to fix it onto the fork tube.

A 3 foot length of duct tape wrapped around a tube of super glue will come in handy.

image

You can determine “Bike Trains” by looking for a bike logo at the bottom of that train’s schedule. You can book some ahead of time and do so as they will fill up fast.

image

Take your panniers off before loading your bike on the train. It will be a tight fit.

The train may be high up from the platform requiring some muscle or teamwork to get your bike in and out.

Communicate with your lodging for the night to confirm your confirmation. Ask for detailed directions and if the local restaurants are closed for the day or season. Ask them where the market is. The end of the day navigating while fatigued is part of the adventure. You will miss a turn or two, so just tell yourself ” at least it’s not raining”, even if it is raining.

image

Ask if they have bike storage. Some hotels are “Bike Friendly” and will advertise so with a green ” Velo” bike logo sign.

Get an unlocked cell phone and buy a chip for your country.

Have a reliable GPS. Also a detailed map is handy. You will miss turns, it’s part of the game, relax and enjoy the scenic route. You may not know where you are going, but you won’t be entirely lost.

Rain jackets, bike gloves and bike sleeves are a must.