Bus Riding 101 and a Shark Face

Yesterday we rode the bus for the first time here in Carcassonne.

We are not the world’s most experienced travelers, but we have used public transportation before in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Rome while traveling. It isn’t that hard to figure out how a bus, trolley, metro works but there are some differences in each place . . . we learned about some of those differences on our travels yesterday.

We woke up and decided today is the day we will try riding the bus. Where to go? The grocery store, of course. In many places and even in Reno/Sparks the buses always have stops near grocery stores and we wanted to look for better grocery prices than those in the tourist areas, which we know are higher priced with minimal selection. We had visited a Geant Casino supermarket in Montpellier and Alan did a little online research and found there are two here in Carcassonne. So we got ready and headed out to ride the bus to a grocery store.

Which bus to take? There are 11 bus routes around Carcassonne, there is no printed route map that has all of the routes listed. Cathy, our new friend at the tourist office had told us that one street over from ours is one of the main offices of the bus system Agglo’transport. So we headed to the bus system office.

Alan talked to the nice elderly gentleman behind the counter and asked if he spoke English. He said with a surprisingly Italian accent, “a little.” Alan said we wanted to go to Geant Casino, the man asked “which one?” Alan replied “either one.” The little man, circling the times on the route 1 brochure, said “that’s your bus out there, go, I call and let him know you come.”

So without any fanfare, we raced over to hop on a bus. Alan had thoughtfully scooped up the brochure before leaving the bus office.

We board the bus and the driver said, “Geant Casino” we smiled and said “Oui.” We paid him 2 Euro and found a seat.

15 minutes later we arrive at Geant Casino and get off the bus. TaDa! Bus trip number 1 accomplished!! We congratulated each other and entered the store to have our first “supermarket” experience in Carcassonne.

We went inside, found that it is like a mini-mall, and there was a coffee bar so Cafe Creme it is! A nice way to celebrate our successful bus riding affair.

Fortified with caffeine, we go to the corral of shopping carts only to realize that they are all chained together. We look around and see that other people have shopping carts and realize that there must be a way to get one unlocked. We look at the mechanism, there are no directions. Alan notices a slot and realizes that something must fit in it to remove the hook from the cart. We assume a coin of some sort, but there are lots of coins and we’re not sure which and don’t want to jam the mechanism.

Thankfully, a little girl about 10 years old comes by to get the cart for her mom and Alan notices that she got the cart unlocked, then scooped out a handful of coins and asked, “which one?” She grabbed a 2 Euro coin and showed him it was too big. He scooped out another handful of coins and she selected the 1 Euro coin and showed him how to unlock the cart.

So we’ve now been inside the building for 45 minutes and we’ve managed to drink a cup of coffee and unlock the grocery cart. Feeling a bit deflated after our earlier high, we head into the store and spend the next two hours walking up and down every aisle trying to familiarize ourselves with the grocery store.

As some of you have already read, I had issues over the potato chips. Realizing that this supermarket has much better prices than the ones downtown in the tourist area we select a few purchases for the upcoming week and head to the checkout.

And voila! Bus ride and grocery shopping, done. We even figured out how to get the 1 Euro coin back out of the cart lock mechanism – score!

We walk back to the bus stop where we got off the bus and headed across the street believing that the return trip would start there. We only had to wait about 10 minutes before the driver arrived with the bus.

Yippee! Bus ride number 2, commenced!

The bus didn’t use the same route on the return and we unknowingly figured that it would get to where it was going, circle back and repeat the route. It’s how it works most everywhere we’ve been before. So we stay on the bus and when we reach the far side of town, enjoying the sightseeing, in the opposite direction of where we got on, the driver stops and as we are the only ones still on the bus says “Terminus – you must got off!”

A little shocked and wary, we gather our two bags of goodies from the grocery store and hop off the bus. Alan asks the driver “Is another bus coming?” the driver says “Oui” and leaves. We look at each other and realize we haven’t the slightest clue where we are. I told Alan ‘I think we’re near the other Geant Casino, I think I recognized the logo a couple of stops before this one.” He says, “then we’re on the other side of  town.”

Okay then, but we want to be on OUR side of town. Where we got on the bus, near the apartment, not here with bags of groceries and no bus.

We had spotted a KFC across the roundabout and decide to take a moment to regroup, eat something, get something cold to drink and then look at the bus schedule. Alan spotted the bus schedule kiosk so we noted the time for the next bus would arrive and headed over to KFC to grab some lunch. We pulled out the bus route brochure Alan had thoughtfully scooped up at the bus office, look at it after we eat and realize that there are little tiny, hard to see without your glasses, arrows showing the direction the bus travels and realize that the next bus would take us back to our original starting point.

We finish our drinks, walk back to the stop where the driver left us and waited until the bus returned. A different driver thankfully, one that hadn’t been witness to our “tourist” moment earlier.

We hopped on paid the driver and found a seat, rode until we reached our original starting point and felt pretty pleased that we didn’t let the whole extra two hour experience totally ruin the day.

This morning we decide to purposefully ride to the “other” Geant Casino and check their selection and prices and to determine which of the two will make for an easier trip with bags of groceries. Yesterdays experience has made us wary.

We walked to the bus stop near the train station since we now know that we need to be on that part of the route to go where we want to go. The driver, same guy who dropped us at the “terminus” yesterday recognizes us and asks “Geant Casino” to which I stupidly reply, “Yes!” The driver tells us to take the other bus, #2, which had just pulled up behind him thinking that I wanted to go to same Geant Casino as I did yesterday. Confused we walk to bus #2 and ask Geant Casino, the driver shakes his head and points back to bus #1. We walk back to bus #1 and the driver shakes his head. The poor man is probably thinking we’re stupid tourists who like to be lost, but we pay him the fare and find a seat.

We did end up at Geant Casino #2, and did our shopping. Today’s Geant Casino had really, really fresh fish — including a small shark displayed with the head removed and set to the side with a lemon in its mouth! We opted for pork instead. This store had the same deplorable selection of potato chips, in case anyone was wondering. Then managed to catch the right bus to the stop a  block from the apartment. We have decided that Geant #2 is the better route, a longer walk to catch the bus but a shorter walk with bags of groceries.

Now I’m wondering if the driver works that route all the time as I fear that every time he sees us from now on he may think we are his weirdo riders who fly all the way to France to get lost on a bus looking for grocery stores. Can’t image what he told his family about us today!


Agglo’transport Bus #1 (with our favorite driver!)


Once again, we found chicken flavoring on chips. But I really love the “bursting with flavor” on the ketchup flavored chips!!


Today’s fresh catch.


Lemon Shark??

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