The Antithesis of Train Travel vs. Air Travel
The antithesis of Train Travel vs. Air Travel
We’re in the zone now. I mean totally in the zone. We have just stepped off a train and we talk, aimlessly wandering toward the next train, not even aware of people, luggage and SIGNS, because we KNOW our way towards the next VOIE, or PLATFORM, toward our next train and our apartment in Cassis – YES! – totally relaxed and in the ZONE.
The airport however, is a different animal.
I’m uptight and tightly wound as a wringer washer, ready to spit out commands of going here, going there,(what DO the signs really mean and why are the ARROWS pointing DOWN when they really mean that you continue straight ahead??!! – ) navigating the maze, and ready for a fight with the ticket agent. The airport is full of fast walking people. The bags are ONE only (to each passenger) and on rollers and moving with their owners creating a continuous hum on the gigantic terrazzo floor.
The agents on the perimeter steer you to the appropriate counter. You wait in line. You know what is coming. You KNOW that you have 1) too heavy a bag and 2) and extra bag. These are the sins of the airline traveler. You will pay dearly for that 1) overweight bag and 2) especially the extra bag. You will take out hundreds of euros to accomplish this, because you have no choice, you had to pack heavy as you are going home. My friend Gudrun, does this airline agent work for a living with an US based Airline in America. She’s a pro.
I told her she would have to pay extra and gave her the money to do so. Especially on this particular airline. Both of our “things” were in these bags, and yes, she did pack them, she didn’t accept anything from a stranger, and no, she couldn’t combine one bag into the other and save the extra expenses.
But she did open her mouth and out came something, I’m not sure what, a promise of her firstborn child, a room with a view in sunny Florida for the said agent shaking her head profusely regarding the “extra & heavy bags”, or that my friend was just sweet and charming and smiled and laughed…….AND, for some really untold and unbelievable reason, the agent with this OTHER airline, of which I shall not name, SAID that she would speak to the “higher powers that be” and lo and behold – it was done. DONE. !! This is now my favorite airline. She is my favorite new old friend.
I stood there with my mouth open. I froze and forgot to take a photo even of this most unbelievable event. Of this ANGEL OF MERCY who allowed these 2 – and very heavy bags to proceed on the belt, towards the baggage drop towards the waiting airliner that would soon cross the ocean.
happier than I can even write. This NEVER NEVER happens. Yes, This is now my favorite airline. (& Ofcourse, it’s French. Why else would I love it?)
That was a good experience. But you know what is even better. ???
Heading for the SNCF TGV (Fast Train) where just walking among the train travelers is – well – extremely ZEN-like. It’s hard to explain.
There’s no big security lines, big machines checking every single bag for every single water bottle, or deodorant that must be thrown out, there is no one TOUCHING you, let alone giving you an X-rated MASSAGE to make sure you’re not carrying a gun or knife and the people around you, there’s no shoe removal & catching god knows what from that floor of millions of other’s bare feet. So, I urge you, next time your trip takes you by train – – – watch them…….watch the folks, they ACTUALLY have time to sit for their train, relaxed enough to let the dogs out and yes, even SLEEP on THEM, …..
then unlike cattle, climb into the train, take a seat, sleep,
watch the gorgeous scenery,
eat leisurely, in your seat or in the dining car
Your train now comes into the station. There is no mad rush to storm it. ………people civilly approach the steps and take their seats. The dining car is stocking up with unbelievable tasty food. The drinks are pouring in – you can’t wait to enjoy imbibing during your incredibly beautiful ride, and you pack your suitcases in (really whatever you can carry yourself is just fine), sit in the wide and luxurious seat and take a snooze. When you wake up you play a game of cards on your lovely large table with a soft lamp, you talk, you look out the window at the meadows, provencal farms, cows, sheep coming into your view and luxuriate in the peace of the entire travel. It’s mesmerizing You get up , you don’t have to squeeze through the aisle to go to the toilet, and it’s wide and spacious inside that little room.
There’s even a dryer for your hands.
Then it’s time to eat (somewhere in the middle of your travel,) and the dining car becomes your next “event”. The train steward helping with the provisions has a lovely menu out for the passengers. He treats these items that (basically are only heated) with such attentiveness and care that you think that he thinks he’s an actual CHEF. He discusses the pros and cons of the “Sandwich de la moment” – (sandwich of the day) vs. the Croque Monsieur (a hot cheesy delight of a sandwich). He tells you he will bring out to you & place on your table, the “hot chocolate cake” once it is at the exact temperature you , ofcourse, would expect it to be. He also expounds on the particular wine bottle you are eyeing and tells you the benefits of that year as though he were a seasoned Sommelier. You sit and enjoy your “sandwich of the moment” , your fresh carrot salad, and your husband enjoys his croque monsieur while watching cows in the fields, old church steeples, hills, mountains and valleys gliding past your very large window. A room with a view (again).
A lovely no-stress environment. You don’t want the train to end. Honestly, you do not. It’s so unbelievably lovely, quiet, conducive to talking with your neighbor/partner/friend, or to not talk at all. It is a little bit of heaven.
Everytime we come into Marseille from Paris I turn to my husband and tell him I do not want to get off. So I’m one of those that never rushes the door, because I like my seat, I like this train and if I were younger, I would probably try and get a job here. 🙂
That’s my story of TRAIN TRAVEL and why I’m crazy for the TGV.
Don’t even think that traveling AMTRACK in the U.S. is remotely close, because, – (don’t even get me started) because, unfortunately, it is not, and you might as well take a plane.
The train – the TGV – in EUROPE (anyway) is the way to travel here, bar none.
FYI – if you are going to be in France, are 60 years of age, staying for 1 plus week and using the train a lot, get one of these senior discount cards and you’ll save 40% on all fares. Plus, you can go first class for a few extra euros.
Our next train travel? Well, it’s ITALY, if you must inquire. We’re very excited.