Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Part 2 - Je ne parle pas français

Caroline and I had already discussed keeping to our sides of the bed, yet I woke in the morning and my sheets were untucked. I apologised to Caroline if I had tried to spoon her in my sleep. We started the day with a spot of shopping as we made our way to the local shopping mall. We found a pastry place for breakfast (Caroline expertly ordering for me in French), scoffed it and some terrible black coffee and then began perusing the shops. C-line did very well for herself, making a few purchases, and I at the last minute grabbed a pair of lurid pink and orange sunnies for the wine tour we were going to embark on that afternoon.

Messages flying and plans laid, Caroline and I wandered to the Strasbourg train station to meet Lina and to make our way to Colmar, a little town about an hour out of the centre of Strasbourg. At the station, Caroline brushed up on her French by purchasing me my train ticket to Paris, fluently. I was very impressed. We grabbed a salad and drink for lunch and soon, collected Lina and the three of us boarded the train. Despite our efforts to get on the train quickly, we still managed to be the last few and found three spare seats with another girl. There was a jumper (or sweater or whatever from wherever you're from) on my seat and we asked the girl if someone was sitting there. She indicated "no", and so we assumed that someone had left their jumper on board.

Not 2 minutes later, a man come up to us and motioned towards the jumper and spoke in French. Lina and Caroline feigned ignorance, while I didn't have to feign anything and gave him my best stupid face. "I was reserving that seat," he said, and we said "Oh." Flustered, the train was full, we wouldn't get three seats together, we didn't make a lot of effort to move, and so he grabbed his jumper from me (and in hindsight he did have a half eaten sandwich there too) and found another seat (along with about 14 pieces of luggage). We started to feel bad, but seriously, you can't save a seat on these trains. He must have ducked out for a ciggie. Anyway, karma was about to bite us (me, first) in the butt. The train pulled away, I grabbed my salad, pulled off the lid of my mustard dressing and proceeded so upend the entire pot all over my dress. "Fuck." I exclaimed. "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck." No point sugar coating it. This is precisely what I said. Probably a few more times, even.

This was typical. Thankfully there was a bathroom on board and so I soaked my dress and dried it as best I could under the hand drier. Didn't do anything for the mustard smell, but at least I didn't have wholegrains down my dress anymore. I returned to my seat and begrudgingly ate my pointedly dressing-free salad.

About an hour of me making a wet patch on the seat later, we arrived in Colmar and found Eve. The bike rental place was next to the train station and so we got our little basketed French bikes and I began to panic (and not to subtly, either. I tried to be stoic about my fear of riding the bike, but I failed. Miserably). I made a couple of test laps and soon we set off, myself bringing up the rear, white knuckled on the handlebars, squealing and cursing my way through the streets. I seem to have an uncanny habit of being able to pull into the curb or into cars exactly when I'm not meant to. I think my subconscious hates me. It was not long though before we were off the main roads (after a particularly hairy cliff drop and a crazy roundabout) and found our way onto a back gravelly road.

Slipping past the flimsy tape (what tape?) we bounced and jostled between the vineyards and emerged back on the roads. Soon we arrived in Eguisheim, voted the prettiest town in France. And it sure was pretty. It was gorgeous. Buildings painted bright blues and pinks and flowers of every hue, pinks and yellows and reds and purples. Dark wooden beaming and wooden shutters lined the streets, many houses built in dates beginning with  16 or even 17. We parked our bikes and meandered through the cobblestoned streets. We stopped at a sweets store and bought some macarons, many of which we devoured instantly, before making our way to the winery. 

We chose the 3 standard + 2 fancy wine selection, and settled ourselves at a table to chat and drink wine for the next couple of hours. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and there were many delicious wines to be tasted as I got to know Eve and Lina a bit better. The day was powering along, and so we decided we'd try one more town before heading back to Colmar to return the bikes. By now, I was a little tipsy and my bike riding confidence had grown exponentially. 

We rode through vineyards, blue sky above, green vines all around, sun shining down, wind streaming through my hair. I had a moment. I had one of those moments: giddy happiness. Riding a bike. Through a vineyard. After drinking wine. In France. 


I stopped periodically to take terrible selfies and we all stopped for a few photo opps along the way too. It was an absolutely gorgeous day - we couldn't have had more perfect weather and the forecast had been threatening thunderstorms! We meandered through the streets and popped out on a main street, about to make our way to the next town when Even and I at the front were called back - there was a problem. Turned out poor Lina's bike had developed a flat tyre and so we about turned and began making our way back to Colmar, walking out bikes.

It was a reasonably pleasant stroll (although it turns out I am completely uncoordinated, and I continuously hit the pedal on my shin) and we made it back to the bike rental with a few minutes to spare. Exhausted, sweaty and happy, we organised our plans for the evening. Head into Strasbourg, shower, and reconvene for dinner (picking up a bottle of el cheapo vino along the way, my idea of course being the alcoholic of the group). Some ridiculous pictures later with our naughty meerkats, along with a few glasses, we were out and about and managed to squeeze in a last meal order at a local restaurant before their kitchens shut.

It was here we departed from Lina and Caroline, Eve and myself continued on for a rather deep conversation over a couple of ciders in the Irish pub (because there's an Irish pub everywhere!). We wandered through Strasbourg by full moon light and returned to the hotel (with a bed wheeled in for Eve), as I had a very early start to make my way to Paris on the morrow (or, as was closer to the case, in about 4 hours time...)

I will take this opportunity again to say thank you to Eve and Lina for welcoming me! And thank you again Caroline for inviting me, it was wonderful to see your face and the town I had heard so much about.

Gay Paris, on the morrow.


Eguisheim, gorgeous town

Stunning town, this was the winery

All aboard our bikes :)


Photo courtesy of Caroline: Actually riding the bike!

Meerkats gone wild.
(Mine is the one passed out in its wine,
Caroline's is gently humping the bottle)

Strasbourg. Is. So. Very. Pretty.