For the past several years, my parents have been encouraging me to take advantage of my profession and travel over the summer/breaks. Unfortunately, I have not done so, usually because I was working as a lifeguard to make some extra money, taking classes, moving, etc. I could always find an excuse to not go. This winter though, I was presented with an unusual opportunity that was presented to me by my triathlon coach Martin- go to France and stay with a family that does triathlons, and train, race, and travel. I jumped at the opportunity.
And then the planning started. I didn't speak a lick of french, so I downloaded an app on my phone called Duolingo. I worked out with Martin and the family that I am staying with the races that I could do, and did a fair amount of googling to check out others. I bought a bike box to pack up my bike, a plane ticket, and I thought I was set. A vacation combining everything that I enjoy? What else could be more perfect?
Then small problems started to present themselves before the trip started. At school, it was decided that my course load for the next year was going to change: for the 2013- 2014 school year, I taught regular chemistry (the same as the year before) and AP Biology. For the 2014-2015 year, I am to teach honors chemistry and anatomy and physiology. Problem number 1: I have never in my academic career taken an anatomy course. In college, I focused more on the micro side of biology and chemistry. So I found an online course through UC Berkeley Extension. I bought the book, and signed up for the course.
Problem number 2: I didn't own a bike box. With a gift from my uncle, I bought a bike box. Pack bike, travel with bike. I bought a Ruster Hen House, which promised that you would not get charged for having a piece of oversized luggage. I figured this would help save me money. My bike went from looking like this:
to looking like this:
and going in here:
With my bag packed, I could worry about other details.
Problem number 3: With Duolingo, I was learning what I considered to be some useless things. For example, the title of the blog: Le papillion mange du beurre avec le singe. Or sentences like this:
And finally getting to France. Working out the race details with my coach and the family with whom I was staying, there was a race that I could do the Sunday after I got out of school. I get out of school on a Thursday. That meant the following itinerary: School ends at 12:15 on Thursday. Go to airport, get on plane that leaves at 4:40pm, get to Paris at 4:00pm on Friday, get on bus at the airport to go to train station in Paris to take the 8pm train to get to Rennes (about 2 hours away by train), meet with family, build bike Saturday, race Sunday.
I planned out the end of the school year so that I could have everything graded in time, packed up everything (including Reese's cups and a pair of cycling shoes as was requested by the family), and headed to the airport. I checked my bags, and only had to pay for one bag (British Airways gives you one free bag, my bike was packed into a wheel bag and a frame bag in which I packed my textbooks and my clothes), and got aboard with the plan of passing out.
This happened within 5 minutes of getting on the plane.
As my seat buddy passed out on me, I realized that BA had some sweet movies in their seat back entertainment system. I haven't been to the theaters to see any of the major movies in a long time (besides the Lego movie with my sister, and if you haven't seen that movie, stop what you are doing and watch it now). Making a plan on what to watch, I made it through The Wolf of Wall Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and American Hustle. All awesome movies.
After landing in Paris with a quick stop in London, I made my way to baggage claim to pick up my wheels and bike. My plane landed at 4, my train wasn't until 8, so I figured I would have time to take the bus into the city, get dinner, and hop on the train. As the bags came out, I became more and more nervous. My stuff wasn't there. And then, the final bag was my wheel bag. Nothing else showed up.
I grabbed my wheel bag, and walked over to the well staffed baggage table, and asked where the oversize luggage was, on the odds that the bag with my frame would be there. I was pointed in that direction, and walked over; my bag was not there. I walked back, asked if that was all the luggage, was informed that it was, and then told them that my bag was missing.
Going through the standard exchange at the baggage table (giving name, flight details, etc), I was informed that my bags were on the plane to Paris (good to know), but they didn't know where my bag was. Confused, I asked again-my bags were on the plane, in Paris, but somehow missing? Yes. I filled out the appropriate paperwork to let British Airways know that they had lost my bike, and then I decided to wait at the airport for the next two flights to come in to see if my frame bag would show up, hoping that it was placed to the side, and would eventually make its way up from the underbelly of the airport.
No such luck, so I took my wheel bag and backpack to the bus stop that would take me to the train station in Paris. When I got to the bus stop, I was greeted with this:
The train workers were on strike (Gare means station in French), and my train was cancelled. Seeing as some of the trains were still running, I hopped on the bus, hoping that I could get on one that was going in the right direction.
With the delay in getting my luggage, and the incredible amount of traffic in Paris due to the train strike (it took 2.5 hours to get from the airport to the train station, a trip that normally takes an hour), my plan of getting dinner in Paris was nixed, so I wandered through the train station, until I found someone who looked official, and asked for help. He let me know that I could get on a train that was leaving an hour later, it didn't matter that my ticket was for the earlier train, just put my butt in a spot on the train.
I got on the train, and two hours later, I was met in Rennes by Virginie and her husband Ruben. I was relieved, and exhausted.
The next day, with Ruben and Virginie's help, we found out that bike had been found, and that British Airways would put the bike on a flight to the local airport, and I could get it Sunday morning. While that sounded grand, Virginie didn't trust it, and we went to meet the president of the triathlon team that I would be racing with, Rennes Triathlon. They had an extra bike I could use, and they also gave me a team shirt, jersey, and a kit to use during races. I was incredibly grateful.
Sunday came and went, my bike didn't show up (a separate blog post on the bike, British Airways, and the bike bag), so I raced Sunday. The races I have done will get their own blog post shortly.
The beginning of the trip was a mess. But I am in France, with an awesome family and team, and things are good.