From the beginning of our trip, we always said we’d bike and take the train to travel between Amsterdam and Barcelona. But everywhere we’ve gone has been our new favourite place and we didn’t want to miss anything by skipping ahead on the train, so we have ridden everywhere so far.
But it’s often 5 degrees in the morning in Brittany and even though Derek’s added hot chocolate to the breakfast menu, it’s getting harder to crawl out of the tent when it’s dark and cold. And since we realized that at our pace we weren’t going to arrive in Barcelona by October 30, we decided this was a good time to get multi modal.
So with loose plans to visit Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village, we took the train to Bordeaux today.
Years ago, when Derek and I travelled in France, you had to break your bike down and put it in a bike bag if you wanted to take your bike on the TGV trains. Now, we were happy to discover, it’s much more bike friendly and geared for utilitarian cycling and you can just take your bike as is on the TGV as long as you have a reservation for it. You’re meant to remove all the panniers, but we didn’t have to because there wasn’t anyone else in the bike car.
On the regional TER trains, there is room for a number of bikes in an area with fold down chairs and you don’t need to reserve room for them. As well as bikes, folks store golf clubs and over sized luggage there.
Because we bought our tickets on the day of, we had to transfer twice. I was nervous about taking all our bikes with all our panniers on multiple trains, on multiple platforms, but we all worked together to get the bikes up escalators, down stairs and in and out of elevators. Whenever I felt daunted because our train was due in 20 minutes and the platform hadn’t been announced yet, I thought of our friends Jen and Salem who we met in Paris. They took their three kids (including their nine month old), four bikes, a Chariot and all their camping gear on trains in France and assured us that although the process was a total gong show, it was also totally possible and fellow passengers were happy to help out.
We were really excited to find that Nantes station had free, covered secure bike parking. We didn’t actually park our bikes there during our stopover because we biked downtown to find a grocery store, but I couldn’t resist a photo.
Also, some of the platforms even had ramps or bike troughs for your front wheel beside the steps which makes it so much easier to manage. I would have taken more pictures of the ramps and the troughs because I love that stuff, but it was game time, so I just have a few photos of our bikes on the TER.
If you are planning to do this yourself, please note that tandems (and Chariots) are not officially allowed on either of the trains. Ours breaks down and Derek was ready to break it down if necessary, but since we weren’t travelling at rush hour, the conductors said it was fine.
Also please note: it is really best to be travelling with Anna Sierra and Jasper who win everyone over with their big grins, can do attitudes and awesome French -they make everything a lot more fun!
We made it to Bordeaux just before 11pm (or 23h00). Pretty late for the kids, but their nap on the last train gave them enough energy to enjoy a beautiful, warm!!, almost car free ride, through this stunning city.
Sending all our best and wishing everyone at home a very Happy Thanksgiving. There is so much to be grateful for!