Posted by: paulgilders | July 17, 2012

Lectoure, Agen and trains

After a fantastic time in the Pyrenees, it was emotionally difficult for me to cycle north. However, physically we had an easy day trundling our way slowly along a bike path which ran for the first 20km along a disused railway from Luz San Sauveur.

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The plan was to make our way north to the town of Lectoure, where Gill was keen to see the manufacture and use of traditional wode dying. On our way we passed through rolling countryside and pretty towns. The following town of Marciac was a wonderful coffee stop.

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The small village of Bassoues was also delightful.

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After 3 days of riding, we made it to Lectoure. Here is the beautiful building where they dye clothes with wode. The shutters of the building are also stained with the dye, which also acts as a preservative.

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The town of Lectoure was quiet and beautiful. We had lunch in a small café on the main street. The salad was wonderful on this very hot day.

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After our time in Lectoure, we headed to Agen. It was Poppy’s birthday, so we lived it up in a hotel for a weekend and Poppy shopped for new clothes.

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Our original plan was to cycle all the way north through France, but our progress was slower than expected and we needed to get the ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth in 2 weeks time. As a result, we decided to make up time and catch a train north.

At the train station in Agen, I bought the tickets and confirmed that bike transport would be available. There was only one train per week from Agen to Redon that could be used to take bikes and not include a change of trains (we didn’t want to load up twice). The man at the ticket office told me that there would be a special compartment to take the bikes and I had read that many of the trains had bike hooks. I was therefore prepared to split the tandem in two…

We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare and asked SNCF people at the station where the bike compartment might be located. They were very helpful, but couldn’t tell us exactly where we would need to wait.

The train was running 20 minutes late due to engine failure, but once it arrived, we found that each carriage had a separate bike compartment able to hold two bikes. Gill and I immediately set about splitting the tandem, removing the trailer and loading it on. It was a tight squeeze, but we got both bikes and the trailer into a single bike section. Whilst I was sorting out the bikes to keep the corridor clear, Gill went back out to the platform to put our pannier bags on (8 of them). Poppy carried 3 bags on and Gill was right behind with another 3 when the doors closed between them. Gill looked up at the station guard, who was close by, but he prevented her from joining the train. Some strong words were exchanged, but the guard refused to open the door, stating that we had had 5 minutes to load. Gill was left on the platform.

Meanwhile, I found Poppy on the train and she told me that Gill hadn’t made it on. I didn’t have the tickets and couldn’t contact Gill directly. I went to see the train guard who was very helpful and contacted the station.

Whilst the guard on the platform remained incredibly intransigent, other staff and members of the public came to Gill’s aid after witnessing what had happened. Fortunately, they were able to organise for Gill to catch the next TGV service and she would be able to catch Poppy and I up at Bordeaux.

Looking back on the incident, we still can’t believe that the guard would impose a 5 minute rule (which we weren’t aware of) and allow the door to be closed between a mother and daughter. It would have taken about 30 more seconds to load the 5 remaining bags and prevent the subsequent recovery operation that involved 3 more members of staff.

It all ended well and we arrived in Redon 5 hours later and had 15 minutes to take the bikes off.

Here is the station at Agen…

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…and us ready to depart the train near Redon.

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Responses

  1. what a story! you can’t make up stories like that and have it believed. Gees that must have been an interesting few hours as you sat in the train wondering what Gill was going to do and for Gill wondering what you two were going to do. How did you know? Guards and messages flying between platform and train carriage? Enjoy the summer weather…. beautiful here.


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