October 19, 2010

4| Toulouse

Roy took me to Boston’s Logan Airport, then Air France took me to France. Air France moved my bike for no extra charge, a huge consideration and a great help.  (Touring Ideas #1)   It was not an easy task to pack everything: the bike, tent, panniers, camera, clothes, …  gear for a week in a city and 10 days on a bike … in the 70 pounds allotted to by Air France. It occurred to me to wear my helmet as a hat, my heavy bike lock as a belt, several layers of clothing and my bike shoes, not my lighter city shoes. I didn’t do it, for any number of reasons, particularly not wanting to draw attention to myself! Since my backpacking days, I have known that I am the type of traveler who cuts the edges off maps and the long handles off toothbrushes, to get the easiest weight to carry. And I needed to do more than this to get down to 70 pounds. The day before leaving I packed everything as it would be when I got to the gate, weighed it on a medical scale, and removed  several items, including binoculars, that I left home, to make the weight limit. I didn't pull out the flash drive that I carry, loaded with contact info. (Touring Ideas #2)
I knew that the more French I could speak and understand the more fun I would have cycling solo in the remote part of France where I was headed. So although I really wanted more days on the bike, I couldn’t take more vacation, and stayed with my plan: to spend a week in a language immersion program before travelling.  Langue Onze in Toulouse was my choice. Toulouse is a perfect city to spend time in: beautiful, ancient and modern at the same time, chic yet relaxed, and not overwhelmed with tourists. In France, most FLE language schools will arrange home-stays for students. They typically provide both affordable lodging and an easy way to meet people. Happily for me, Langue Onze arranged for me to stay with a delightful French woman named Françoise: her graciousness made for an unforgettable week with much laughter over her delicious dinners.  

My last night in Toulouse I changed plans. I had learned at the train station that it is impossible to take the train from Toulouse to Millau, one can only make the last leg of the trip by bus, and  the bus will not carry bicycles. So I decided to go by train to Montpellier and ride north from there. 


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