The travel bug has gotten us, again! We are making up for the lost time due to COVID. Following the advice of whoever said, "You can't take it with you", we have actually been considering buying real tickets instead of traveling stand-by. Of course, we could never follow the advice of whoever said, "Money is no object", so we look for great deals on airfare. This time, we found a decent deal on business class tickets to Geneva. After we bought our tickets, we started looking at what we would do there. We decided that a bicycle trip along the Rhone river would be a great option. The group would be the Morrises, our friend Nancy (also on a real ticket) and our friend David who would take his chances traveling stand-by. We made reservations for rental bikes and hotel rooms for the first and last nights. We would take a train from Geneva to Seyssell, France to start the ride so we would not have to traverse the mountainous terrain around Geneva. The rest of the plans would be fluid.
Wednesday, May 3, 2023 4804 miles Flying
David had flown over to Geneva the day before we did, successfully securing a business class seat on stand-by. The rest of us left Jacksonville on the 6:30AM flight for JFK. Our JFK-GVA departure was delayed, giving us PLENTY of time in the JFK Sky Club. 12 hours to be exact. We ate, drank, read and played games until it was time to go to the gate. The time went by much quicker than we feared.
It was great to be welcomed aboard in our Delta One seats!
Thursday, May 4, 2023 Geneva to Seyssel
29.5 miles on a train, 1.2 miles walking
Upon landing, we were greeted by our friend David who showed us how to catch the transportation to the Geneva train station. There is a ticket machine inside the airport where you can buy a transportation pass for 3 francs (francs are roughly equivalent to dollars). The bike shop Geneveroule is just outside the train station. The boys got electric bikes but the girls went with the lighter regular bikes. We didn't realize that the bicycles would have rear baskets which would not work with our backpacks. The staff at the shop removed the baskets for us.
This took a good bit of time, but we still thought we would have time to catch the 12:25pm train to Seyssel. David & BJ went to the train ticket office where they had to take a number. When they finally got to the counter, the agent said she needed all of the passports. BJ texted Tony that they needed the rest of the passports and headed in that direction. They missed each other in the train station and cost a little time finding each other. We finally got the tickets and headed back to get the bikes and get on the train. We did not mount our backpacks on the bikes to make it easier to lift them onto the train.
We headed for Track 7 which took us through a border patrol crossing. The agent there told us (in French) to turn off the lights on our bikes. When we finally figured out what he wanted us to do, we couldn't figure out how to turn off the lights so he just told us to go on. We made it to the train platform in time to see the 12:25pm train leaving the station. Thankfully there was also a 1:15pm train to Seyssel leaving from the same platform so we didn't have long to wait.
We loaded our bikes into the train car that had a picture of a bike on it, but then the conductor said (in French) that we couldn't put them there. We were told to put them in the front car of the train, so we had to unload them (ebikes are heavy) and reload them in the front car. There was a cargo area in the front car but it was locked, so we put our bikes out of the way as best we could. It was hard maneuvering around them with our backpacks on, but we found our way to some seats. Then the conductor came & unlocked the cargo area so we put some of the bikes in there.
The train to Seyssel took almost 2 hours. Our hotel, the Beau Sejour, was a short bike ride from the train station. We checked in and found our rooms. The hotel is a 2 star hotel and we have found that we are usually 3 star people. One of the rooms did not have a separate shower stall. The shower was in the bathroom and a plastic chair was provided to sit on while showering (ick). BJ and Tony won the room lottery, getting a room a separate shower stall and a nice balcony overlooking the river.
We got our bikes set up for the next days ride. Our technique for bicycle touring involves mounting a plastic cutting board on the back of the bike with zip ties. This gives a larger platform for securing the backpack. We mounted our handlebar bags, GPS and phone mounts and then locked our bikes in the bike garage under the hotel restaurant.
Next, we set out to explore the town. We found the Bar Le Cellier which had a nice table in the sun. We enjoyed chatting with the fellow at the next table who spoke English.
We took a 20 minute walk to the Carrefour Market & picked up a bottle of wine. On the way back, we stopped at the Brasserie Les AlloBroges. One fellow really wanted to chat with us but he spoke no English and we spoke no French so we took turns talking into Google Translate and letting it converse for us. He wanted to know why we were there because they do not get tourists in the area. We told him that we wanted to take a bike ride along a river that was downhill!
There weren't too many open restaurants to choose from, but we were happy with the Au Vieux Pont where we had some delicious pizza and a great view!
As we were crossing the bridge to go back to our hotel, we noticed several people pulling on a rope trying to retrieve something that was embedded in the river. They were unsuccessful and we never figured out what was there.
We finished the evening with a glass of wine and a game of Farkle on the deck overlooking the Rhone.
Friday, May 5, 2023 Seyssel to Champagneux
33 miles biking, .3 miles walking
We met at 8AM and walked across the bridge to the Bourgeois Christophe bakery for breakfast. BJ ordered a Cafe Au Lait and David ordered a Double Expresso. They looked just alike so we weren't sure who got the extra shot of caffeine!
We started out following what we thought was a bike path. It was a gravel path that paralleled the Rhone. After an hour and a half, it dead ended at a bridge. We were afraid we were going to have to carry our bikes up a steep bank onto the road above us, but thankfully David had noticed a cutoff not too far behind us so we were able to get to a bike path.
This was a nice smooth bike path instead of the bumpy gravel we had been riding on. An hour or so later, we came to the restaurant at Auberge de la Paillere in Lavours.
We stopped for a beer and found some maps that show the ViaRhona bike path. We decided to make Champagneux our destination for the evening. It was a beautiful ride, along the river.
It was pretty slow going for the rest of the day. David seemed to be having a hard time and his ebike was running low on battery. When we got close to Champagneux, we realized that it was up a VERY steep hill. David took a wrong turn and Tony waited for him to come back. Thankfully we had given each other access to view our locations on Google Maps so we could keep tabs on each other. Nancy and BJ started up the hill to Champagneux but soon had to get off the bikes and push. They got to (what turned out to be) the only hotel in Champagneux, the Hotel Les Bergeronnettes and thankfully found available rooms! David & Tony pushed their VERY HEAVY ebikes up the hill to the hotel. We put our bikes in the garage under the hotel.
The others went to shower & clean up, but BJ & Tony opted to cool off with a glass of wine.
We had our best meal of the trip at the hotel restaurant, the Gourjux. It was quite popular since it also seemed to be the only restaurant in town. Frog legs was their specialty but nobody in our group was brave enough to try them. BJ had the BEST QUICHE any of us had ever tasted. It was so light and fluffy and delicious!
Even though we were exhausted, we were able to stay up and play a game of Farkle before turning in.
Saturday, May 6, 2023 Champagneux to Lagnieu
32 miles biking for the girls, 34 miles biking for the boys, 2.3 miles walking
We awoke to the prediction for another beautiful day of biking!
We checked out of the hotel and used Google Translate to let the staff know that we needed the garage unlocked so we could get our bikes. As we were outfitting our bikes for the day, we discovered that the brakes on David's ebike were stuck on, explaining why he was having such a hard time the day before. We realized at this point that we had neglected to ask the bike shop for a tool kit and the only tool in the hotel's garage was an axe. Tony had a few tools in his handle bar bag and was able to get the wheel to spin slightly better.
The road to get back to the bike path was straight downhill and as David rounded the corner, he crashed, hitting his head on the pavement, bending his glasses, damaging the bike, and, as we found our later, breaking a rib! He put himself back together and we rode on to the bakery Trillat-Rabilloud Joseph. They didn't have coffee or any pastries we wanted so went on to the Vival store where the addicts got a Coca-Cola sans Sucre and David got some band-aids for his scrapes.
We got back on the bike path and rode to Groslee-Saint-Benoit where we found a lovely little place to stop for "refreshments", the Hostellerie du Port de Groslee next to the bridge.
We looked above us and saw the O Fil de l'Eau restaurant. They were quick to tell us that lunch was "comple" but they were willing to serve us some wine and frites.
When we got back to our bikes, David discovered that he was missing his daypack that had a couple of jackets, a t-shirt and the charger for his ebike in it. He thought he might have left it by the bike path where we had stopped for a break so he and Tony rode back to see if they could find it. BJ and Nancy rode on to our destination for the evening, Lagnieu to look for a hotel.
The first hotel we tried was Le Lion d'Or but it was locked up tight. Then we tried Le Clos des Acquises at the top of the hill but we discovered that there was a wedding in town and there were no rooms to be had. The lady gave us (we think) a lecture (in French) for not having reservations. She couldn't seem to understand how to use Google Translate and would wait until the phone had stopped listening to talk.
There was lots of traffic in Lagnieu and BJ's phone battery was almost dead, so we decided to find a place where we could rest, recharge and wait for the boys. The Bar Le Malibu was conveniently located in the middle of town. We continued to search online for a place to stay without success. The boys arrived (sadly, without the missing backpack). Thankfully David found an apartment online called Le Central at 23 Rue Gambetta that would accommodate all of us. He made a reservation , but we had to wait for him to receive a code to get in. BJ and Nancy went to the Carrefour market to get a few things. By the time they had finished shopping, David had gotten the code so we dropped the groceries off at the apartment and then went back to the Bar Le Malibu to get our bikes.
There was no place to put our bicycles so we locked them together on the street in front of the apartment.
We tried to go to Le Lion d'Or for dinner but without a reservation, we were turned away. We ended up at the only other open restaurant, Pronto Pizza. It is mostly a take-out/delivery place but they had one table out front.
We over ordered and wound up carrying an entire left over pizza back to the apartment. We played games before heading off to bed.
Sunday, May 7, 2023 Lagnieu to Meximieux
12 miles biking, 3.5 miles walking
We awoke to a drizzling rain. The prediction was for rain the next couple of days so we decided to take the short ride to Meximieux and spend 2 nights there. We packed up, deciding not to take the leftover pizza with us, but we did take the leftover box of wine. Our route took us away from the river and we climbed a few hills but we managed to stay dry. When we got to Meximieux, we stopped at Le Lion d'Or for some pretty spectacular cappuccino. We looked on our phones to see what accommodations were available in town and settled on the Hotel La Berangere. When we checked in, we were told that because it was Sunday, most restaurants and other establishments would be closed and the following day was a holiday (Victory in Europe Day), most places would be closed that day as well.
We dropped our bags and our bikes and hurried to the Market Meximieux to pick up some Coca-Cola san sucre and water before the store closed at 12:30pm. David suggested we get some bread and cheese but we felt sure we would be able to find something to eat. We dropped our purchases back at the hotel and walked into town.
We found one restaurant online that looked like it was open so we walked in the rain there and got some of the worst fries we had ever eaten. "Fried in yesterday's donut grease." was the description David used. We found another restaurant on our way back into town that seemed to be open but they advised us that the meal was "comple'", meaning they would not serve us even though the sign on the door said they were open until 3:00pm.
We headed back to the hotel and drank the wine we had brought with us and ate the few paltry snacks that BJ had picked up in the Sky Club on our way over. We wished we had brought the left over pizza or listened to David about the bread and cheese at the grocery store.
We had two choices for dinner. Asia Time and Galaxy Taco. Neither served wine so we went to the Vival store and bought wine. We went back to Asia Time but they would not let us drink our wine with dinner. The food was actually pretty good, just not what we had hoped for.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed the Petanque Club, La Boule Du Longevent. We were hoping to see some folks playing petanque but we never saw anyone there.
Monday, May 8, 2023 Meximieux to Perouges
2.4 miles walking
We were hoping to get another one of those delicious cappuccinos at Le Lion d'Or, but alas, it was closed for the holiday. The bakery Patisserie Rosa next door was open and had paper cups of cappuccino. We got some pastries and had breakfast on a nearby park bench.
We grabbed a baguette from the bakery and stopped by the grocery store for cheese and wine, finally taking David's advice, assuring ourselves of sustenance in case we couldn't find an open restaurant.
We packed our picnic in a tote and headed up the hill to the medieval town of Perouges. Tony carried the tote with the long baguette under his arm so we called it "UnderArm Bread".
We stopped in a few shops to look at pottery and wood carvings and then had a beer in the center of town at Le Relais de la Tour.
There was a celebration in progress for Victory in Europe Day.
We were lucky enough to find a Restaurant Les Terrasses open for lunch!
The menu board was in French and we weren't exactly sure what we were ordering. Even when the food came, we weren't exactly sure what it was. Nancy got some little chicken bones with very little meat on them. We thought they might be frog legs but the English speaker at the table next to us said it was the pulley bone of a chicken. Tony & BJ got a plate of cold cuts with Camembert Cheese.
After lunch, we found a rock to sit on and drink the wine we had brought since we didn't want to have to carry it back down the hill.
We started the trek back to the hotel admiring the scenery one last time.
Just outside the gate to the city, we found Le Veneur Noir which looked like a likely place for another glass of wine.
The sign out front (translated) said "Hear gentle ladies and gentle lords. Stop admiring yourselves in front of this door! Enter this tavern to feast to make your belly burst! Shame on it, it's hard to think about it! Livestock (barbecue) Snail Refuges (Varied Salads)
La Pataterie about a mile away. They bought ice cream to share on the way back.
Tuesday, May 9, 2023 Meximieux to Geneva
10 miles biking, 4 miles walking, 57 miles on a train
We were near the train station in Meximieux, but upon checking the train schedule it looked like we would have to make a very short connection to another train which would involve loading and unloading our bikes quickly. After the trouble we had loading the bikes in Geneva, this did not sound like a good idea to us. We decided instead, to ride our bikes to Gare de Amberieu-en-Bugey where we could catch a direct train to Geneva.
Instead of following the longer "bike-friendly" route, we used Google Maps to take us the fastest way. BJ started out leading us in the wrong direction until she figured out she had her phone on airplane mode.
The Google route put us on the rather busy A42 with cars and trucks whizzing by. There were also a couple of busy intersections which got BJ and Tony got honked at while crossing. Finally the route took us to a bumpy path through a pasture which felt much safer.
When we got to the train station, we learned that the train we would be taking is a modern train and we would be able to roll our bikes on board without having to carry them up the steps!
We "unequipped" our bikes at the train station while we waited for the train, taking everything off and putting it all back into our backpacks. We had to take an elevator with the bikes one at a time to get to the platform for the train.
Once the train came, we easily rolled our bikes on board and hung them from the hooks in the bike car. There was a nice table where we could enjoy the rest of the wine, "Underarm Bread" and cheese.
We had one small (well, kind of large) mishap when BJ knocked over Tony's wine, but thankfully we had napkins to clean up our mess.
We got back to Geneva & went to the bike shop to return the bikes. They worked out a price for the damage to David's bike and the missing charger.
We took the tram to the Marriott, checked in and dropped our bags. The Marriott gave us a transportation pass that let us ride the tram during our stay. We took the Tram to the other side of the Rhone & had lunch at the Pizzeria Ristorante Molino Molard where we all had pasta. This was our most expensive meal of the trip. Geneva seems to be quite an expensive city.
Our first stop was at the Britannia Pub. While we were there, we got a Facebook message from a friend that we needed to check out Old Town.
We strolled up the Grand Rue in the rain and stopped at Restaurant Brasserie de Hotel-de-Ville to get out of the rain.
We slogged thorugh the rain to the Old Town area and got some frites and wine under the big umbrella at La Pomme D'Or.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023 Geneva to Fernandina Beach, Florida
Flying 4815 miles, Driving 42 miles
We caught a shuttle from the hotel to the Geneva airport. We commented that the security people at GVA were the nicest we had ever encountered. "Do you mind if I run your bag through one more time?" We even saw one agent sit a little girl on the counter next to him while he looked through her mother's bag.
We found the Marhaba Lounge and got some coffee and played some cards while we waited for our flight. The flight to JFK was great, we watched some movies, ate, drank and napped. When we got to JFK, we discovered that our flight to Jacksonville had been cancelled and we had been rebooked on a flight at noon the next day. We found an agent and were able to get BJ and Tony booked on a flight from Laguardia to Jacksonville but there was not a seat for Nancy, so she was rebooked to Atlanta and would spend the night there and fly home the next day.
The agent arranged a car to take us to Laguardia and when the car arrived, another couple was already in it. The driver said BJ should squeeze into the back with the other couple and Tony could sit up front. We discovered that the other couple was also from Fernandina Beach (Small World) and were coming home from Paris.
We had a mix-up with the gate agent over our seats and had to ask for a supervisor to straighten it out, but we made it back to Jacksonville just after midnight. We gave our new friends a ride to their house in Fernandina Beach, just a few blocks from our house.
All-in-all, it was another great trip with great friends! We aren't sure we would do this itinerary again because of the difficulty finding places to eat. Even when we found a restaurant, the staff frequently told us "Comple'", even though the sign on the door said it was open. The scenery was beautiful though.