Biking the Dordogne Valley: Paris to Saint Émilion (Part Two)

When I left you Monday, I had just boarded the TGV, headed first to Bordeaux, have the better part of an hour to change trains, and then on to Libourne, where I would start my ride through the Dordogne Valley. As luck would have it, my seat was actually just a few feet away from where I had stowed my bike and the rest of my luggage.

No bike in there. Nothing to see. Move along.

My seat was also located in a COVID triangle of death, so to speak. Directly behind me was a guy who, it turned out, would cough incessantly for the two-hour train ride to Bordeaux. And it was not one of those “excuse me” or mildly scratchy throat kind of coughs. No, it was the full-blown, phlegm-producing cough that makes you want to call 911 as soon as you hear it. Yeah. And he was directly behind me.

Across the aisle and one row up, was a guy who must have blown his nose 123 times during the trip, or roughly once a minute. How his nose was not completely raw, I have no idea, but that bozo was trumpeting away on the regular. Yeah.

Then there was the little kid two rows in front of me that just could not stop sneezing. The outbursts would come in salvos of 3-5 in rapid succession as if to hammer home the idea that the little brat was infecting all of us with his brand of whatever deadly disease had invaded his body.

Before COVID, I would not have considered myself a germaphobe, not even slightly. But since the pandemic hit? Oh, yeah, you betcha. A simple sneeze will foster my best “What the hell was that? Why are you even out of your house? Get away from me you contagious freak!” look. And now I was surrounded by three such purveyors of pestilence, trapped for a solid two hours.

So I put on a mask.

Now for all of you mask deniers in the crowd, I get it. You don’t think it does any good. Well, I have no idea if it does or not, but it sure made me feel better trapped in that huge Petri dish that was humming along at 200+ mph. To my shock (maybe even horror), no one else in the vicinity was following my lead. Look, COVID or not, I did not want to catch anything that these sickos were trying to spread but apparently the French could not have cared any less.

On another note, about halfway into the trip to make my experience that much better, it started to rain. There are few things in this world that I’d admit I actually hate (it is such a strong word), but riding in the rain has to be one of them. I don’t like riding in the rain. I don’t like it in Maine or Brisbane and certainly not in Spain. I do not like riding in the rain.

I frantically checked the weather on my phone: no sign of rain in the next 12 hours in Libourne. Phew. I really don’t like riding in the rain, so I was so glad that the weather app was telling me it wasn’t raining.

As we pulled into Bordeaux, the rain was no longer a mere drizzle–it was pouring. Still, according to the weather, though, there was a 0% chance of rain. Glad to see that the French meteorologists are just as incompetent as their American counterparts.

Once inside the Bordeaux St. Jean station, I discovered a fun fact: my train from Bordeaux to Libourne had been replaced by a bus. A bus. Perfect. It also meant that I had a twenty-minute walk to get to the freaking bus. Excellent. It was 1:15 p.m. and the growling in my stomach reminded me that I had not had a bite to eat all day (I had planned to go to the dining car on the train but I was too horrified to ponder what diseases waited for me there).

Like almost every large train station I’ve been to in Europe, the Bordeaux St. Jean station is impressive.

That left me about twenty minutes or so to grab a sandwich and something to drink so I headed to the conveniently placed Paul boulangerie where there was a modest line of about four people. Almost immediately upon joining the line, the chap who was second in line left. Shortly after that, so did the couple who had been behind him. A minute or two later, so did the third and fourth people waiting. So it was just me and the couple who were currently at the front of the line.

Then it hit me why everyone had left. The guy ordering was a complete and utter moron. When I got within earshot, he was asking the poor guy behind the counter to recount every ingredient for every sandwich. For chrissakes, buddy, it’s a freaking sandwich! Choose one and move on. Just when I was about to punch the guy in the neck, he made his choice. But then he had to decide on a drink (he asked the clerk to tell him everything they had even though they were all on display right in front of him) and whether or not to pay an extra 25 cents for a freaking bag (that decision he approached as if his life depended on it–little did he know it did, since I was about to kill him). I swear the guy had to be related to Ohmygod.

Eventually, I got my sandwich, woofed it down, headed to the bus, and was on my way to Libourne. Arriving in Libourne, it stopped pouring. The rain was now coming down in solid sheets of water, pretty much a waterfall kind of rain. Perfect. Just perfect.

I checked the forecast for Libourne. 0% chance of rain.

You know where this is going.

Surprisingly, I guess, the bike fit much better on the bus than on the train.

It was raining in Libourne, perhaps not as fervently as in Bordeaux, but I think I did see someone building an arc behind the station. It was a short ride to Saint Émilion (less than 10 miles) but I really hate riding in the rain (I think I mentioned that). The next train to Saint Émilion was a good two hours away, so I had time for the rain to clear (after all, there was a 0% chance…).

More tomorrow… (I hope, but I have a big day of riding today, so….).


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in France, Humor, Travel, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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