Train, Train, Go Away

I shared the room with one other person, but only about six people stayed in the hostel last night, a good sign for hostels and vacancies (although Fridays and Saturdays always risk higher occupancy). Reception completely closed by 10:00 pm, leaving the hostel dark.

Cooler mornings make for a slow start, fine in this case as the amphitheater opened at 10:00 am. The amphitheater paled in comparison to the  coliseum in Nimes, but I’m glad I went. Older than the coliseum in , the Romans built the amphitheater into a valley, and then blocked off the ends for the traditional rounded space. Ravaged by villagers over the years for stone, a goodly portion still stands in ruin.

I planned to purchase a train ticket to Nantes, but remembered that today also counts as a travel day, so instead purchased a ticket to Rennes, slightly farther north (although I still change trains in Nantes). I bought the ticket at the counter instead of the automated process, because the machines are only in French, and I wanted to confirm the train would accept a bicycle. The attendant reassured me that the bicycle would be fine and that bikes travel for free. 

At this point I’m a lot more comfortable working my way through the train station, although I still try to give myself plenty of time. Carrying the bike up and down stairs becomes routine after a while. Boarding the train from Saintes to Nantes, the conductor told me I needed to explicitly reserve a space for the bicycle, but I managed to explain that I had made that request when I purchased the ticket, and he let the bike on board. Fortunately I had the only bicycle, so space wasn’t an issue. On the train from Nantes to Rennes the conductor chided me for not having validated my ticket before boarding the train, which prompts a 20 euro fine (which he let pass, given I clearly wasn’t from around these parts).

I had an hour in Nantes, so I left the station to pick up lunch, and power wander about the center of town as self-flagellation to see what I might be missing. I found a huge castle in the center of town – the Chateaux des Ducs de Britagne. Vaguely familiar, I wonder if I cycled through Nantes on my trip down the Loire. Oh well, more interesting things ahead.

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Every city tries to have something unique. In the case of Rennes, the building still standing from the Middle Ages still show the wood used for their construction. The building are scattered around the city, and are brightly painted.

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I felt a little sad traveling by train today; the last jump for distance occurred back in Bulgaria. Part of that derives from the lack of endorphins derived from a train ride. A 300-400 km gap in my cycling trip from Istanbul to Ireland. Then again, Google Maps plots the path at 4200 km, and I’m in the neighborhood of 6000 km by bike, not even counting the short-range hops here and there. On the other hand, I’ve already cut short the time in Ireland, and I’m not going to have that time be even shorter. Rushing across France doesn’t accomplish anything either.

Every day becomes part of a routine: packing, cycling out in the morning, groceries to buy, unpacking, making dinner, working on the blog, catching up on the Internet. At the same time, the routine is not routine by its very nature. The place I wake up changes almost every day (in some ways, the same place two days in a row feels strange). Every day I find something new and different. I meet different people.  I don’t know what will happen across the course of the day. Perhaps today felt odd because I got on a train, and off again. Nothing happened in the middle.

Despite the length of the trip, and routine as the daily process of moving across Europe has become, I still have moments where I’m overcome by the reality of standing in the middle of some city, in Europe, thousands of miles from home.

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