May 1 – A final adventure

Time to go home! I could have gone to the alps, but it would have been very expensive, and I’m getting rather sore in a few important places. So, what could be simpler than returning the same way that I came – Nice, Marseille, Paris, Caen, ferry to Portsmouth and train straight to Bristol. Here’s what happened.

The plan was to stay overnight in Marseille, then catch trains to Caen via Paris. I had a feeling that the place in Marseille might be a bit iffy, and I was right. The room was shared and I had to leave my bike on the street. So I walked away (yes, I had paid for it) and bought a kebab to aid my thinking. Downtown Marseille is very busy and a bit ‘edgy’. So I decided to spend the night just cycling around. When the train station closed at 12.30am, I cycled down to the port. I was expecting it to be rather dirty and uninteresting, but I was in for a surprise. The first area was very quiet; people were sitting by the water, some fishing, some smoking, some playing music. Really lovely! I stayed there for an hour or so and set off for a huge marina. It was surrounded by clubs, bars, people having fun. I wandered around there until about 3.30 when it quietened down. For another hour, I explored the northern docklands before going back to the station which opened at 4.30. The photos were taken on my phone as I wandered around. I chatted with a young Chinese guy, an engineer, for a while who, when I told him my age, looked concerned and told me that I must keep warm. Sweet. I caught my train at 7.30.  

After changing at Lyon, I arrived in Paris 10 minutes late. I had to get across Paris to the other station to get my train to Caen and I thought I was just in time, but couldn’t find any evidence of my train. I eventually found that the station is divided in two, and my train was in the other half. I missed it by a few minutes. This was critical, as I had to reach the ferry outside Caen which left at 11.30pm. I was lucky to catch another train that got into Caen with enough time for me to belt along the cyclpath for the 16 km to the ferry port. They let me on. Phew! So now I could relax, I thought.

Ferries have a central atrium with stairs in the middle and all the corridors leading off. As I sat down with all my bags, the space  was invaded by, so I was told, over 250 feral French teenagers. There didn’t seem to be anyone in charge. They ran around, apparently aimlessly, screaming and shouting, for the next two hours, and slightly less so until around 3pm. I should have taken videos; I did not sleep. I feel energy seeping away now just thinking about it.

The crossing took over eight hours and I cycled half awake to the station and my train to Bristol. I had to haul my bike down and up stairs because the lifts were not working, which resulted in a very sore elbow, which is going to take a while to heal. But all’s well that ends well, and it did end well. Nice to see the blue skies of Bedminster.