Sunday, August 03, 2008

A journey

Here I am in Geneva. And how exactly did I get here? Not the easy way, no. Just like this:

•Taxi from home to station, along with my two sizable and rather heavy suitcases. Hmm. Why *did* I think moving house across Europe by train was a wise plan?

•"8.45 train from Cambridge". Otherwise known as the 8.35 rail replacement bus service, i.e. chaos on wheels. Thankfully the driver knew not only where he was supposed to take us, but also how to get there. Royston station was chaos central number two, where three station staff were all busy telling different people different things about which train was which. However, I chose the right one (the non-stop variety) and a polite man decided to help me get my bigger suitcase on and off the train and to chat to me while we waited an absurd 20 minutes for the thing to actually leave Royston station.

•All good at King's cross, although I wheeled across a few peoples' feet trying to get through the crowds (definitely their fault). Relatively harmless walk across to St Pancras, although it was quite a trek to get to Eurostar's area. Once there, having procured ticket from machine, through security was remarkably simple. I even found a seat in the waiting area (a small miracle).

•Trust them to have put me in the very first row of the first carriage of the Eurostar, in other words, the furthest they could *possibly* make me walk, and in addition to that they'd parked one of those trolley train things right next to the door to my carriage so that it was as awkward as possible to get luggage on. However, even without any helpful people (there were none around) I managed to get my cases into racks, and take up my seat where I had a good time listening to some teenage girls chatting and a baby mostly screaming except when expertly distracted by its mother with a full rendition of "the owl and the pussy cat".

•Eurostar's 2 hours seemed a lot longer than everyone else's. Probably because, facing backwards (as I did all day, in fact) I didn't much feel like reading as this would probably have made me feel bad. So I ate my lunch and sat. And sat. And sat. The view isn't even very good, strangely enough…

•Paris was HOT and STUFFY. The first ticket machine I went to was broken. Having stood in a queue for another one, it decided not to take coins, nor to read my card. Stupid machine. So I stood in another long queue for a real person who sold me a ticket very easily in exchange for my coins. Lovely. Then I discovered what I'd let myself in for. The RER line D was hot, dirty, and full of exceedingly unhelpful people who didn't think in the slightest about how awkward it might be for you, with two large suitcases, to move aside for them, perfectly agile beings without baggage, who could perfectly easily go around you or wait for you to get out of their way. Thankfully, I only had to go two stops. At Gare de Lyon I nearly got lost in a rabbit warren of underground escalators (by which, in order to get out, one had first to go down, and then up by a different one). However, this I did, and successfully pulled my next ticket out of the machine, in order to spend an unpleasant 1.5 hours sitting in Gare de Lyon, vaguely attempting to read my book, and otherwise just sitting. And waiting. In a hot, stuffy station. With ding ding ding ding SNCF announcements every minute. I could have left the station but it looked unbearably hot and not much more interesting in the square outside. So I stayed.

•TGV. Got to love them. No steps to get on to the train (an improvement on the RER). Clear labelling on the carriages. Nice seat (though backwards). Swift and uninterrupted non-stop journey to Lyon. I felt sorry for a sweet little boy who was travelling with his very fed-up parents, and kept asking questions. "Maman, dans le tgv, on peut manger?" "Maman, dans un tgv, il faut payer?" "Oui, on a un ticket, mais il faut payer encore?" "Maman, ça faim" "Maman, j'ai faim" "Maman, pourquoi on va doucement?" etc. Thankfully he kept quiet after a bit and I didn't have to offer to entertain him with my book of tales…

• 18.53 arrive Lyon Part Dieu. Still no helpful people, indeed, quite the opposite, a whole lot of people so keen to get onto te train that I have to lump my luggage into their faces. Lovely. Next, locate left luggage place. No problem. However, left luggage place requires correct change…nay, correct change in coins only. So I change with the rather reluctant lady in the loos, and thus procure a locker big enough for both my cases at once. Yay! Liberation at last.

• Finally, after a very warm walk, I arrive (sweaty and tired) at Alexia's where (wonderful girl) she has already arranged for us to meet some friends later, and offers me a shower. Perfect.
We then go to the Epicerie for dinner (tartine avec aubergines chevre et jambon; tarte aux fraises: tres bon), and sit in Jacobins for a while while the italiani (by now two) have ice creams. And then we go to a house party in a flat with an incredible view over the Opéra. Just to see the flat–the party was not very exciting and we didn't really know anyone. So bedtime :-)

•Sunday, reveil a 10h30, brunch at 11.30 (yum), then back to the train station to pull another ticket from the machine, and collect suitcases. Yet again it is sunny and 27 degrees. The train turns out to be 11 coaches, only three of which were going to Geneva, and in those three all the luggage space was already taken. Bother. However, it was a nice modern train with a jovial conductor (though a less jovial French couple who didn't seem very impressed with how full the train was), and the line from Lyon to Geneva is *beautiful*. I'm glad I'll get to do it again a few times this year.

•Sma, bless her, was there with her car and her boyfriend :) and with the help of both, we managed not only to fit all my stuff into the boot, but also then eventually to find a way (illegal, perhaps, but functional) of getting the car right up into the old town, to avoid hills, cobbles, steps, and suchlike.
And so, 3.30pm. End of one journey. Beginning of quite another…


Philip said...

Being in the furthest (front) carriage of Eurostar at St. Pancras at least meant that you were at the front, with the shortest walk, at Gare du Nord.

Annie said...

This is true…