We’ve arrived successfully in France, and spent the past few days a few km outside of Angers.
Getting here was an exhausting experience. It’s the second time I’ve flown bikes, so there was nothing new about packing or getting them to the airport. But there were some added complications to flying internationally with them. First, because we were flying Westjet to Toronto and Air France the rest of the way, there was some confusion about baggage policy. The longest leg policy applies, so Westjet is supposed to charge the Air France surcharge. Unfortunately, their agent was not well trained, and tried to charge the oversized & extra bag fees, as he would on a Westjet flight, but at Air France’s rates (total charge $375/bike). Despite showing him a copy of the AF policy, he couldn’t deal with the idea that Air France treats bikes differently from other baggage. He offered to waive the $75 extra bag fee, but the total price was still double what he should have charged. After I argued a bit more, he eventually said he’d just check them to Toronto for free, and we could deal with it there. I accepted this offer, and that just left getting the bikes through the oversize bag check. Unfortunately, the Edmonton airport doesn’t have a large enough bag scanner in the Westjet terminal, so we had to open the boxes and have them hand searched.
While our arrangement had gotten the trip going, it wasn’t ideal, and our leisurely 3 hour layover in TO ended up being a hectic rush to pick up everything and get to the departure counter to recheck them (side note: it’s not easy to fit a boxed bike on a baggage cart onto an elevator.) We did manage to accomplish it, and at only $100/bike it was even cheaper than I’d expected, so the result was satisfying. The flight to Paris was uneventful. I did not appreciate Peter Jackson’s over-wrought extension of The Hobbit, but there’s only so much an airline can do. We were left with just a couple of final elevators to negotiate with the bikes before loading them onto the train. Though the TGV website indicates that disassembled bikes are allowable baggage, it turns out there’s really nowhere to put them, so they were kind of in the way. But at least we got here. Now in France, we’ve been doing lots of riding. API Call ErrorOur B&B is some distance from town, so it requires API Call Errora ride of 3 or so km to get to the nearest restaurant. The weather has been less than ideal, not raining but overcast, windy and generally chilly. We’re getting by, though. Yesterday we checkout out the nearby village of Ste. Gemmes sur Loire, which was doing some significant construction to its main square, so we probably weren’t seeing it at its best. The river is very high, and has API Call Errorflooded a few of the lower sections of the bike route, so he couldn’t use it as much as we’d hoped. The water seems to be receding, though, so I think it will improve from now on.
Today’s excursion was into central Angers. It was further I expected – my newly installed odometer says 20km round trip, when I’d been expection only 13 or so – and we got lost coming into the city. Kathy and I are hoping to avoid big cities for the rest of the trip, I think. We were a bit disappointed by the tourist attractions, as one of the main attractions listed, the “Maison d’Adam (artisans house)” turned out to be an art store and a few apartments in a reasonably attractive building with lots of woodcarvings on the outside. And admittedly attractive and unique building, but nothing to really recommend it. The other attraction, API Call Errorthe castle, is quite impressive and has a beautiful looking API Call Errorgarden in the base of its moat, but we opted not to pay the €8.50 admission fee. Angers did, however, impress with how busy the old city is. It’s clearly still the center of the city, and hasn’t been abandoned to become nothing more than a tourist district like you’ll find in some of the other cities in the country. The architecture, while not unique, its style and uniformity makes the city both attractive and impressive. That should be it for now. Tomorrow we load up the bikes for the first time, and will head up the Loire, hopefully reaching somewhere near Saumur.