|In France, the Duck amongst the cows...|
On Thursday, June 10, I left Ottawa's train station to begin the fifth Lost Boys Tour of Europe. Not by train, but by Air France bus, which took me quickly and easily to Montreal's international airport in two hours. Once there, I was very pleased to discover that the staff was able to deal with bike cases quite easily and that the fee would be only C$ 55 to get the case to Toulouse. Hooray!
I was a bit surprised to learn that my seat had been changed but apparently there were so many families flying that it was hard to arrange things. This meant that I got to sit in the top of a 747-400, which meant plenty of storage room next to me. The downside was that the airplane was indeed packed to the gunwales and I had the opportunity to listen to small children wail for the next seven hours. The flight was longer than expected as the usual tailwinds were not to be had and I was concerned about making my connection to Toulouse in Paris.
Once we arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I went as fast as I could to my gate but, as usual there were big lineups for customs and immigration. It always amazes me that an airport this size only seems to have two people to check passports for several 747-sized flights that land around the same time. It was hot in the terminal and I was pretty tired by the time I reached my gate. Of course, once there I learned that my onward flight was delayed an hour. At least the bike case would probably join me!
The flight to Toulouse was quick, and I dozed off since both seats next to me were empty. On landing, we taxied by the enormous Airbus Industries facility where I saw not only several of the Beluga transport aircraft, but also four brand new giant A-380s, two unpainted, one in Air France and the other in KLM colours. Impressive.
The terminal in Toulouse did not seem to be a very busy place and I quickly found my bag on the carousel. As I walked towards the oversized luggage area, I found two more of the Lost Boys, Greg and Brett, and we waited for our bike cases. Nothing happened and eventually we were the only people in the terminal. We walked over to the Air France counter to check where the cases might be and the lady confirmed that they had indeed come with us, so we went back to wait some more and eventually all three did arrive.
I used the courtesy phone to call the Holiday Inn Express to get the complimentary shuttle bus and when asked my name I was told that I did not have a reservation, nor did Brett and Greg. I quickly realized that the courtesy phone was for the Holiday Inn rather than the Holiday Inn Express and the person at the desk put me through. Success this time, but I think that the Express really needs its own telephone since this confusion must happen a lot.
The van picked us up quickly and within ten minutes we were at our modern and very clean yet inexpensive hotel. Some of the others had already arrived, including the Duck and Young Brian, and had arranged a storage room for the cases. I went to my room to get cleaned up and later we went off for a very nice dinner at a restaurant directly across the street. I had an inkling that France was not necessarily vegetarian-friendly but I managed to have an excellent salad, and of course there is always dessert.
My roommate Terry arrived a bit after I did but his luggage did not. Fortunately, everything did come later in the evening and it was a relief to see that everyone and everything was set for us to go the next morning. Our number was a lucky thirteen, of whom four had not been previously on a Lost Boys trip. We retired to the hotel bar and enjoyed watching some World Cup play over a few cold beers.
|Now, this is a coffee machine!|
|Chris and Helen|
|Zeezou the Champion!|
Reaching Gurmencon, we came to our little hotel and unloaded our gear. As the days went on, we would get much better at this, and faffing would be minimized. But not quite yet. Anyway, there were several single rooms so it was not necessary to share this night. I was up at the top of the hotel and of course the old buildings in France have very low ceilings so I came close to knocking myself out several times when I hit my head on the ceiling joists.
|In the Pyrenees National Park|
It felt good to get on the bike and we quickly rolled towards our intersection with destiny. There were eight of us in all. I was a bit concerned about rain but nothing happened. As is typical with mountain areas, there were lots of microclimates surrounding us.
|First Col of the trip|
|French birthday pyrotechnics (photo by Mr. Duck)|
Hitting my head on the ceiling once more before turning in, I had a good night's sleep, although excited about the next day, which promised to be one of the most difficult I had ever done on a cycling trip.