The Life and Times of a Maladroite American...

Toulouse Travel Blog

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Here's the situation: I had to go to Toulouse (about an hour away) for an appointment with the Office of Integration so I can establish residency. Lucienne (the mom) drove me there on her way to work in the morning to make it easier on me. So I arrived at about 9am in the downtown and had nothing to do. I am walking around and I see these bike stations where you can electronically rent a bike for 1€ and you get unlimited access for the day.

I thought this was really cool, so I am trying to figure out how the machine works, etc. A guy who was nearby sees me and comes over to try and help. Then a lady who has just rented one comes over and tries to explain as well. It was taking a lot of time and effort on their parts, but finally we get to the part where I have to swipe my bank card and it got rejected. Since it's a french bank card it shouldn't be rejected, but I figure this is quite a hassle, so no big deal, I'll just walk.

A little ways down the street I see another one of these stations and decide to try again because I suddenly have my heart set on riding a bike. It took me a while to figure out the machine with my bad french (dictionary in hand, mind you), but I did it. First, it tells me to chose a bike # to retrieve. I enter the bike # in front of me and it tells me that's invalid... Okay, so I enter a bike # from the list it gives me, but the bike was a little ways away and you have to unlock it within 60sec. I sprint over to it and realize the front wheel is demolished...

I go BACK to the machine, spend another few minutes figuring out how to switch out bikes, and I get ANOTHER bike. This time I sprint to the bike again and unlock it. YAY I finally have a bike, but what's that? Where's my wallet?!?!? Immediately I remember the lady and man who were helping me and am convinced it had been a scam. So here I am flipping out on the side of the street with my bike and the contents of my bag spread out searching in earnest for my wallet. Then I look up and see it lying a few feet away; it had fallen out during my sprint to get the bike.

Now stressed, I get on my bike and begin to ride away and hear a noise. "duhh dududud duuhh dududu" This bike has a broken wheel too. Great. I ride the bike anyway because I am sick of messing with the stupid machine. I got to the NEXT station where I trade out bikes for an unbroken/rideable bike. I'm standing there with the new bike and see a picturesque little street. I go to take a photo and manage to topple onto my bike (I have bruises now) and spill my bag across the sidewalk. A guy helps me up and I throw all my things in the basket and ride off in shame.

Then at my appointment in the afternoon they tell me I dont have everything I need and that I have to come back on wed... oh and they xrayed my lungs and proceeded to hand me the lifesize xray of my chest cavity to carry around with me for the rest of the day. Oh, lastly, when I go back on wed I have every intention to rent a bike again and do it RIGHT!
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photo by: ikebana