Vive les vacances…whatever the weather

Today kicks off summertime in Europe.  May 1 is European labour Day,  and since it falls on a Tuesday this year many are taking the Monday off to make a “bridge” (un pont) to the holiday (and if the holiday fell on a Wednesday,  and you took both Monday and Tuesday off, that is known as…. un aqueduc).

This weekend is essentially the French equivalent to Canada’s May 2-4 long weekend,  with hordes of winter weary workers clamouring for an easy escape from the rigours of life in Paris.   We too want a fix of green but did not want to travoel too far,  so we are off to Normandy along with about a million or so residents of la région parisienne .  It’s not for nothing that it’s known as the 21st arrondissement.

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We thought we’d be clever and escape crowds by taking our bikes on the train so we can pedal back to Paris via the uber-pretty Seine river valley.  The train part was shockingly easy.  Every one of the 20+ cars on this train have 2 bike “parking spots” (more like hanging spots)  so getting our bikes on board was a doddle compared to the TGV.

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Unfortunately, the weather gods didn’t get the email about this weekend being the start of vacation season.  Or maybe they did,  but realizing all kinds of austerity-conscious people are staying closer to home this year they kindly decided to make us vacationers feel like we’re in the exotic English countryside instead of just the department next door.

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On the bright side, we’ll have no problems keeping hydrated!

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Accidentally Extended Vacation

By fluke last night I learned that our TGV train from Avignon to Paris was cancelled due to yet another strike by French railway workers. I mentally shrugged. Being marooned by striking French transport employees is a rite of passage, and there are worse places to spend an extra day than Barcelona or the south of France.

As it turned out, we wouldn’t have made the train anyways.

Our final 24 hours in Barcelona started with a quest for paella, and ended with a replacement rental car. In between there was a proud Catalan restaurant owner plying us with free cava, truffles, brandy, and cuban cigars; a pickpocketing and high-speed foot chase in the Gothic Quarter; LaCanadienne alarming the nighttime hotel staff with her newfound religious zeal for white porcelain; a 4:30 AM au revoir to a still-drunk Fauna heading to the airport; and HerrKaa’s losing a bit of his usual sang-froid around noon when he realized that he did not recover everything from the pickpocketers: they nabbed the key to our rental car. 

As for this afternoon…let’s just say there are better ways to pass time in Barcelona. Thank god for work-paid cell phones and Avis Technical Assistance. But now it’s 11 pm, we have a new rental car, and are spending the night in the cava- and pickpocket-free town of Perpignan, just north of the Spanish border. The room looks (and smells) like it was once part of an old-folks home, but the owners are friendly, happily cramming our bikes into an already-stuffed storage room and letting us park illegally outside their front door. They even have wifi (which not even our slick Barcelona hotel could boast of) with which we managed to find 2 free seats on a TGV tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to the quiet life back in Paris.