We left Paris on a bullet train heading to the south of France. They could also call it the quiet train. Here is something Americans in France should learn right away. Pipe down. The French speak to each other in cafes, in hotel lobbies, and on trains, in hushed voices. Americans talk to each other like they are ordering hot dogs at a ball park. I suppose like me:
Le Conductor: “Un billet monsieur” ?
Le Me: “No thank you. I went at the station
LC “Your ticket please”
LM “Oh. Here ya go. So you have le dining car ?
LC “Oui … two cars forward monsieur. You must have the reservation”
LM “ Tres Bien ! Where do I make the reservation ?
LC “From your seat monsieur. They can hear you in the dining car”
I like trains. I think trains are most comfortable and relaxing way to travel, and sometimes the most elegant. You can wander around on a train. Meet people. Go for a beer instead of waiting for one. So it’s not news that train travel in Europe is a different experience than it is in the United States. The French word for train is … train. Here the similarity ends. The French railway is known as the TGV Train à Grande Vitesse. (trans: ‘train that goes really fast’). It travels 200 mph and is powered by electricity from French nuclear power plants. In America the train is called Amtrak, and I do not know the average speed of American trains, but if you look out the window you could likely see Dudley Do-Right galloping past your car to untie Nell from the tracks. The last Amtrak train Jacki and I rode from Denver to San Francisco arrived 18 hours late ! By the time Amtrak got us to San Francisco the passengers had become zombie-fied. We had bad hair and were all shuffling and moaning in a line-up in the dining car waiting for our rations of Goldfish crackers.
You should never take an Amtrak train to a wedding, a funeral or the Super Bowl.
However if you like train travel there is a problem with the French bullet train. It gets there way too soon. Bullet is right. This train flew. It seemed like we arrived before we sat down. We had set out the cheese, crackers and sausage, a French mustard and a bottle of wine on our little train table when all of a sudden the Toulouse sign, our destination, flashes by the train window. “Mon dieu we’re here !?” Now I am Steve Martin scrambling to gather the wine bottle (can’t find the the cork ), half-wrapped cheese, (crackers on my lap, crumbs on my face), guide book under one armpit – phrase book under the other, hurrying to get off at our all-of-a-sudden stop. Jacki is somehow perfectly organized, but I am stumbling down the aisle with our picnic pressed to my chest. ‘Scusay moi ‘scusay moi’ !
A lovely French lady let me know, in a soft voice that I barely heard, that was I leaving my jacket in the overhead which just happened to have my cell phone in one pocket and my passport in the other. This is the day after we got all our luggage back.
The French train that took us from Paris to Toulouse The Amtrak train that took us from Denver to San Francisco