Traveling In and Out of Paris.
Paris, like many other cities, has a program providing the occasional use of a bicycle at no charge. As you can see from the photo I took yesterday, there don’t seem to be any takers. Would I ride a bike out there in Paris traffic? Only if I had a serious death wish!
My first stop after Paris is Carcassonne, famous for a fortress built in the early 1200s. To get there, I took a TGV to Bordeaux, then transferred to an intercité train.
The TGV was a bi-level train consisting of two connected train sets, each with eight or ten cars. I forgot to ask a conductor what the capacity of the train is when he came around to scan my ticket, but my wild guess would be close to a thousand people when full up.
The intercité train was fine, but clearly not new equipment. That’s OK with me, because as high-tech and speedy as the TGVs are, it’s almost a boring ride because there are noise abatement berms on both sides almost all the way. For all practical purposes, you’re riding in a giant trench and don’t get to see much of the countryside.
On the other hand, the intercité train was bopping along at over 90 mph through charming rural farmland. What’s not to like? (Well, for one thing, the windows weren’t clean.)
Getting from the train into the Carcassonne station involved a long walk down the platform, descending a flight of 16 concrete steps, a short walk under Track One, then up a flight of another 16 steps. All told, a couple of dozen of us had to schlepp our luggage, which included a couple of young mothers with toddlers and their strollers. If the French have an equivalent to our ADA regulations, they have yet to reach Carcassonne.
And finally, the taxi taking me to my hotel had turned down a typical narrow winding one-way street with cars parked on both sides of the road. After about 100 yards, we encountered an ambulance stopped directly ahead of us, lights flashing. With cars parked on both sides of the road leaving no room to turn around, the cab driver assessed the situation for a moment, then put the car in reverse and, using only his two side mirrors, backed smoothly and steadily close to 100 yards to an intersection where he had room to turn around and get me to the hotel by another route. I will tell you quite honestly, it was the most impressive exhibition of maneuvering I have ever seen.
Next: a visit to the fortress/castle which is mostlywhat brings visitors to this small village in south-central France.