Billy Takes a Train

All right, enough is enough. I will happily trade foot pain for budget pain. The train to Bordeaux set me back $80 and transported me to balmy, rainy, above-freezing weather near the coast. I had a two hour wait for the train, and when it came in I was on the wrong side of the tracks. Such an American idiot. I hustled down the stairs, through the tunnel and up the other stairs with my 90 pounds of bike and gear. Just barely made it, but I accidentally boarded the first class car, which had no exit to the other other car, and no provisions for bicycles. I was tolerated politely for half an hour, until a drunken Polish euro-trash punk, big and abusive, emerged from the bathroom and started his loud show. He started bothering a young woman a bit too much for my comfort, so I stood and told him to back off. He came at me, but it was easy to dodge his drunken lunge, and soon I had him back in the bathroom. Then I was popular! A stout fellow posted himself at the bathroom door and called the next station on his phone. I played my mandolin and ate ate the snacks they offered, and let the little kids play with my mandolin. At the station two smiling, laughing cops bowed to me, shook my hand, whacked the Pole on the head with their gloves like he was a bad dog, and took him away. The passengers insisted on unloading my bike for me. I would like to report that the young woman gave me a kiss, but…

Bordeaux is beautiful. All these French cities are beautiful. Wandering around I found a luthierie, a violin restoration specialist, a one-man shop. In my experience, this kind of craftsman can be a little cold and distant with visitors. Not this guy. His bit of English and my bit of French weren’t getting us very far at first, and there were some uncomfortable silences. Then we started to simply name famous violin builders and pantomime our admiration or disapproval. Then musicians. He is a big fan of Doc Watson. The fellow was so nice, and had such a beautiful shop, I wanted to end my travels and work there, rehairing violin bows and restoring cellos.

I’m staying with Lydie, a woman who takes bicycling holidays all over the world and doesn’t ride much otherwise. She is a great cook and photographer. Here is her blog:

It is in in French but her pictures speak all languages. She makes me want to improve my photos, and I will try harder now.

While Lydie was at work this morning, I stayed home with Fifi the dog and did some e-mails and WarmShowers planning. Trying to update the software on my phone so I could use the new CouchSurfing app, my phone crashed and died. It made me realize how much I rely on this little thing. (I finally got it going again, but lost all my music, photos, and [replaceable] apps). My contacts and calendar and e-mails were backed up in the cloud.

I make a map with each day’s route the night before, and consult frequently with a GPS fix. It is no problem getting from city to city, but finding my host, hotel or hostel would be quite time consuming without it. Plus, I use the phone to do this blog, take my few photos, e-mail my kids and everybody else, find places to stay, translate language, convert currency and metric measurements, get weather reports and news, tune my mandolin, pay bills and do my banking, Skype phone calls, and buy stuff. Of course a man can ride his bike around the world without all this help, many have, but I have to admit that if I lost this gizmo, it wouldn’t be long before I secured another.

I believe that Bordeaux is the last big French city I will see. For the next few days I will travel down the coast to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where I will for the first time visit old friends, Francis and Irene, parents of my dear friend Maude Bonsingnour. I plan to camp now that it is warmer (38F today). A big change from the gourmet food, fine wine and luxurious surroundings here at Lydie’s home.


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