Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thoughts from a Train to Cannes

In the attempt to keep you posted on my Europe trip, I've stumbled about quite badly and hope you can just accept these ramblings whenever and however late they might be. I do appreciate your patience. A minor problem is that this is posted to my regular blog page (http://www.doriengreyandme), which is automatically picked up by and posted to Facebook, but messages to Facebook don't show up here. Oh, my, it's all so confusing. But we'll muddle through, somehow.

And here we are, sitting on the top level of a streamlined train in the Gare de Lyon, awaiting the start of the journey to Cannes (or maybe Nice...I'm not sure. My ticket says Cannes, so I assume they make a stop there before going on to Nice, which is right next door. I leave for Venice from Nice). Delighted to find an electrical outlet directly beside my seat (88, coach #6)...now I won't have to worry about the computer battery dying on the 5-hour trip.

11:46, and we are off, exactly on time. Impressive. So what follows are random thoughts along the route. No one seated beside me, though much of the car seems to be a French group, most of whom apparently know one another.

The city of Paris has banned the construction of any building over eight stories high, to preserve its heritage. A very good idea, since some of the suburbs resemble American cities with mini-skyscrapers.

Just occurred to me that I won't be able to take many photos from the moving train...they'll probably all just be blurs. But we shall see.

Remembering my first trip to Paris in January, 1956. Then the first leg was from Cannes to Paris, and four of my sailor companions shared a sleeping compartment for six. I don't remember exactly how long it took, but obviously considerably longer than five hours.

12:13, and the conductor has just come by to check my ticket. He didn't do anything with it...just looked at it and gave it back.

12:17. Farmland is farmland, woods are woods, green is green no matter what country claims it.

12:32. Listening to the French group surrounding me. I'm curious as to the purpose of their trip. Obviously it is not to attend a funeral, since they are having a very good time and laughing a lot. Which set me to reflecting on the importance of friends in one's life. I'm very lucky to have mine.

12:34. Still green fields and budding forests in all directions, with an occasional glimpse of a small town, always with a grey-stone church tower dominating the surrounding doll-house homes/buildings around it.

12:45. One of the things that most impressed me on my first trip to Europe was the lack of wooden houses. Stone dominates. Stone houses, stone barns, stone churches. Considering the forests we're passing through made me wonder why I haven't seen more wooden structures.

1:03. Passing through an area of rolling green hills...sheep in pastures, several picture-postcard towns apparently untouched by either the 20th or 21st centuries. Perfect for an illustrated dictionary's definition of "idyllic."

1:15. Towns becoming larger, closer together. Obviously we're approaching a large city, but I have no idea which one.

1:36. Groups of people walking back and forth down the aisle. Not sure where they're going or why. Perhaps there's a snack bar on this car (I've seen people with cups in their hands). I may go check it out in a bit, but I'm neither hungry nor thirsty at the moment.
1:39 Ah, yes, people have yellow boxes saying "LunchTime." Wish I could eat...it would be fun to have lunch at my seat. At the Gare de Lyon I got a cup of coffee to which I added a cup of my 350-calorie nutritional supplement. Also ordered a twist pastry which I suppose was pretty good. I had two bites before totally losing interest. (All together now: "Oh, you poor, dear, brave soul!")

1:48. Another difficulty with taking photos out the window is that I'm riding backwards, so by the time I see something I want to shoot, it's too far away. Perhaps I could ask the engineer to go slower, or back up if I see something I really want to get.

2:25. Another large town. A freeway running alongside the tracks and my first glimpse of an American-style motel. Been seeing mountains in the distance for quite some time now, but they (or very large hills, about like those in L.A.'s Angeles National Forest) just swept fairly close and are now receding.

2:52. Passing through a city...no idea which one, and the train stopped on the outskirts for ten minutes, apparently for no other reason than to let passengers out for a cigarette. I saw no new passengers getting on, and no one took luggage off. Ah, so much I do not know. Saw a sign that said "Marseilles-Blancard." I had no idea we were going via Marseilles. It's on the coast and Cannes is considerably to the east. Well, whoever set up the French rail system did not consult me, so....

3:20. Yep, we are running along the coast. The Mediterranean is off to my right. Would like to try for a picture, but can't very well ask the people across the aisle from me to move. (Well, I could, but....)

3:37. Stopped in Toulon for passengers and another smoke break. Returning passengers smell of cigarette smoke. Due in Cannes at 4:51.

3:58. One of the French group is a very attractive young man around 20 who, alas, is a smoker. He has the laugh of a nervous teenager (a rather high "Heh-heh-heh"). He laughs a lot.

4:03. Waxing profound on the analogy of life being like riding on a train, and the fact we all ride backward. Riding forward, one can see things approaching in the distance, and concentrate on them as they approach. Riding backward, there is no preparation for what is coming. We catch a very brief glance as it passes us, and it is lost before we can really either recognize it fully, or appreciate it.

4:37. Riding along the Mediterranean, about a block away. Sigh. Cannes in 15 minutes. Going to put the computer away now. More later, you can be sure.


Jennifer said...

4:03. Thanks for sharing that thought. I'm sure to share it with someone else soon and I will picture your train ride through France each time I do and wonder what they had in those yellow lunch boxes. Perhaps the spring cleanse I'm doing that spurred that thought.... :)

Nigel said...

So envious.

I'm glad you're having fun!