Day 1 Gaillac to Puycelsi Part I

I still have a few scenes left to write that go before Josh and Ava end up on their bike ride, but I don’t need to write their story sequentially, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve already written the last scene.

The first day kicks off with Ava realizing her Holiday had been Hijacked by Josh.  Here is q quick excerpt:

She made her way down the stairs and out the door, the excitement building inside of her to start her adventure. She saw her bike, a hybrid 2015 Scott Sub Evo 20, leaning on the kickstand in front of a van with open doors that held another bike inside.  To her surprise, the other bike, a man’s bike, was also being unloaded by the man who was there to deliver her bike, brief her on the trip, and answer any questions she might have before she heads out.  She booked a self-guided tour, so she didn’t understand why he was unloading another bike.

“Bonjour, you must be Ava. I’m Anton from Discover France.”

Ava reached out to shake his hand, and introduce herself.  “Bonjour, Anton.  Yes, I’m Ava.  Nice to meet you.”

“And you must be Josh, I’m Anton”

Ava slowly followed the motion as Anton extended his arm pass her to a man standing slightly behind her. She gazed at their handshake and then looked up to see the man whose hand she was staring at – the moment their eyes met, she froze, and possibly forgot to breath.

“You two know each other, maybe?” Anton asked in his French accent as he observed them both.

“Sorta” Josh answered, smiling, and still looking into Ava’s eyes.

They “have it out” and eventually, after setting some ground rules, she allows him to go with her. As you should know by now, the trip starts in the village of Gaillac.

Gaillac Farm Shed

Gaillac Vineyard

Bike Ride Gaillac Vineyard

Today, their ride will take them from Gaillac to the village of Puycelsi.  Much of the morning is spent in the vineyards of Gaillac, where the grapes are grown to make the wines renown for the region.

Gaillac Grapes

20150914_104953I enjoyed riding through the vineyards.  I even stopped to taste some of the grapes. The weather was warm, it started overcast, but the sun would peek through along the way. The stone buildings and farms on the way were charming.

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I stopped at the Chateau de Mauriac, but it was closed so I wasn’t able to tour it.  I did however, make a video introducing the story behind the story while I was there, which I will post tomorrow.

Chateau de Mauriac

Chateau de Mauriac in Gaillac France

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It will at first be silent between between Ava and Josh, but eventually Ava will be ready to break the silence and looking to get to know more about Josh.

The readers will get to know Josh a lot more on the first day and see how the two start developing their rapport.

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Exploring Gaillac Sunday Evening

Ava will arrive in Gaillac where her bike trip begins early on Sunday afternoon. Same as I did.  After dropping her things off at Hotel L’Occitan, she will go exploring the small village.

Here is a quick Excerpt on Gaillac, from the France This Way Website.

Gaillac is a historical town on the Tarn River 25 km west of Albi and 50 km north-east of Toulouse, in the Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrenees. The town originally developed more than 1000 years ago after a benedictine monastery was constructed here.

More recently the fame of Gaillac has been built on the fame of the vineyards that surround the town – Gaillac wines are internationally held in very high regard…

Most of the places of interest in Gaillac are concentrated in a small area, along the banks of the Tarn River… The most important monument in Gaillac is the Abbey Saint-Michael, with its origins in the 10th century, although it was substantially enhanced in the 13th and 16th centuries and renovated at the end of the 20th century. Adjacent to the abbey you can see some remnants of the buildings that were once associated with the abbey itself.

View of Abbey St. Michael from the bridge
View of Abbey St. Michael from the bridge

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Gaillac France Street

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The village was mostly deserted, the day being a Sunday, but I wandered around, exploring the different streets, taking pictures of the brick and stone houses. The village made me think of the French Quarter in New Orleans – especially all the colorful shutters. Eventually, I reached the Tarn River, and enjoyed the view before going in to visit the grounds of the Abbey Saint-Michael and tour the Maison des Vins and museum which were opened.

Maison des Vins with its tasting cellar is the biggest shop window for Gaillac wines, with over 100 wines offered for sale.  I purchased two bottles myself, to bring back to the people who were dog sitting Little Man (Little Man, for new readers is my dog).

The Abbey  museum, which is next to Maison des Vin was small and unfortunately, not particularly exciting, but offered a brief history of the area.  I expected a lot more information on the history of the wine. There are two other museums in Gaillac, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum – I didn’t have enough time to check them out.

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Gaillac Abbey

Entrance to Maison Du Vin and Museum
Entrance to Maison Du Vin and Museum

Ava will have dinner in the only cafe opened in town, I myself just ended up eating one of the protein bars I brought with me before meeting up with the guy who dropped off my bike (I don’t remember his name).  After he left, it started to drizzle so I went back to my room, took a shower and settled into bed to watch some French T.V.  I go lucky, my favorite show, Scènes de Ménage, was on.  After it was over I went to bed.

I came across quite a few cats and dogs on the trip…will squeeze in pictures of them at the end of my posts!

Gaillac Cat on Bench

Sunday: Travel Day

My flight was scheduled for 6:10 a.m., out of Stuttgart, to Amsterdam then on to Toulouse Airport on KLM Airline, which made for a very early Sunday morning. Thankfully, an early flight meant I would arrive to Toulouse before lunch time.

The flights went smooth, and I managed to catch a couple 10-15 minute naps. I arrived to Toulouse airport on time. It’s a relatively small airport. Once I had my luggage, I proceed outside, to search for the bus I needed to take to get to the train station. When I booked the trip through Discover France, Chris, the representative I worked with, said it would be easy to get from the airport to the train station and onto Gaillac where my trip began.

I walked outside and was quickly and pleasantly surprised by how warm it was.

It took me a little bit to get my bearing, but I eventually found the bus stop. Unfortunately, I had to wait 15 minutes for it to arrive. The bus finally arrived and for 8 euros (kinda expensive) it took me to the train station.

I was lugging a pretty large suitcase. As much as I wanted to pack light for this trip, I had to anticipate all possible weather conditions, for both my bike riding gear, and clothes to wear to explore the various villages where I would be spending the nights. I didn’t travel much by train during my stay in Europe, my one experience was taking the train from Mainz to Koblenz after biking over a 100 km. Based on that trip, I knew to use the automated machines to make getting a ticket faster, but unfortunately, the automated machines didn’t like my credit card, so I had to make my way to the ticket counter.

I found the ticket counter, grabbed a number, and waited to buy my ticket. It took a good 15 minutes for my number to be called, I purchased my ticket, but my train wasn’t leaving for another 55 minutes. Getting to my final destination was proving time consuming, but I reminded myself I wasn’t in any kind of hurry. I found a snack bar to grab a bite to eat and waited. I returned to the announcement board to see what platform my train would be arriving.

It was a bit of a hump to the platform, and another wait once there, but once seated on the train, I got excited again, the destination to the start my my trip was 40 minutes away…oh so it was supposed to be…

We got delayed and waited on the track for 40 minutes, making the train ride, twice as long. In the end, it took almost 12 hours from my wake-up call in the morning to my final destination. Thankfully, once in Gaillac, my hotel was only about 500 ft away from the train station.

Gaillac Train Station
Gaillac Train Station
Hotel L'Occitan Gaillac - First Night
Hotel L’Occitan Gaillac – First Night

I checked-in to the hotel, which was comfortable but nothing fancy, and dropped my things before I headed back out to do some exploring. I had to be back at 6pm, to meet with the guy who was dropping off my bike, and the information I needed for the trip.

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Ava will have a very similar trip as the one I had. Josh on the other hand, I plan on having come from a different route. Just haven’t decided which one yet. I can’t have them both coming from Stuttgart at the same time because I don’t want them running into each other.

They will both receive their bikes in the morning, versus the evening like I did, and that’s when Ava will find out her Holiday has been Hijacked by Josh!