I think we choose the worst day of the worst week of the worst summer to travel internationally. All the headlines read “Air traffic chaos spreads” as we drove to Buffalo airport at 6:30am on July 4th. Crazy early for our flight, just the way I like it! We boarded the plane exactly on schedule, and then sat. And sat. And sat. Finally, we learned the plane had a mechanical failure, and we de-planed to spend another six hours in the teeny tiny airport waiting for a new plane to arrive from New York City. On the plus side, Mike got one more meal of Buffalo chicken wings 😁
Miraculously, we made it to JFK in time for our red-eye to Lisbon, Portugal. Feeling very fuzzy due to the 6-hour time change, not to mention the 30+ hours of travel, we crossed our fingers and caught the final flight to Lyon, France more or less on time. Phew! On the train ride from the airport to the center of town, Mike pondered deep thoughts. “Isn’t it miraculous that the train tickets we bought on-line in Grenada in April, and printed in Endicott, NY last week, and showed the security guard in Lyon this morning, allowed us to seamlessly board the train that was leaving exactly as we arrived?”
We had scheduled a day off buffer in Lyon “just in case” and spent it on a walking tour of the old city, enjoying street art, a meticulously restored cathedral, and finally sitting down to our first French meal. As Mike said “this salad tastes like France” ♥️🇫🇷
But, as we were enjoying the views of the city from the cathedral gardens, I received a notification that our 2nd train between Lyon and Le Puy was cancelled. Wouldn’t you know it? All of France was under a nation-wide transportation strike “La Grève” and about 25% of all trains in our region were cancelled. We quit sightseeing and started the long walk back to our hotel (it’s a training hike, right?) where we had good wifi to research our options. Another train? A bus? BlaBlaCar?
Eventually, I deciphered the French on our tickets and decided we could get up super early and take an earlier train whose second, connecting train had not been cancelled… Yet. It all went swimmingly. We walked to Gare Lyon Part Dieu, found our train, and settled in. About 30 minutes in, we stopped suddenly and sat for a long time. After one of those “ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you” messages, I asked the young lady beside me how long of a delay. Her answer, with a very French shrug, “quelque minutes”. That means some. Or several. In other words, who knows?
We finally got off the train at the station and it looked like we would have to wait four hours for the next connecting train. Of course, I looked for a coffee. Next thing you know, I see Mike in the doorway of the train station, waving furiously. He said “I see a train to Le Puy on the board, leaving in two minutes, but I can’t tell which platform. I took a minute to decipher the sign and said “that’s because it’s a bus!” Yikes! We grabbed our packs and my paper cup of hot coffee and started jogging toward the only bus in sight. As we got closer, a conductor recognized us as hikers and shouted “Le Puy?” We said “oui!” and jogged toward another bus. Just enough time to throw our packs in the luggage hold and we were off!
After a bumpy bus ride through beautiful scenery, we made it! Le Puy-en-valay, the start of our adventure. A little disoriented, we took a “training hike” through the suburbs to find a sporting goods store to buy hiking poles, a post office to mail spare shoes forward, a store to buy pocket knives and a picnic lunch. Quite the oasis! We finished just in time to check into our lovely Airbrb. Believe it or not, we survived the chaos and made it! Two sleeps until the start of our Camino!