Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Train Travel

We've traveled through Europe on train in the past and were really looking forward to our trip from Paris to Nice via rail. This time, it was a nightmare - because of luggage and inaccessibility to lifts and escalators. When we boarded Coach 12 (a very long walk from the station!), we discovered our seats were on the top level. Cool - great views! However ... there is a very narrow and winding flight of steps to get to the top level - with luggage (no place to store on bottom level!) That was a nightmare. I dragged my bag up - one step at a time. It wouldn't have been so bad if there hadn't been people behind me - quite impatient to get up the steps. The man behind me was literally pushing me! 

So we get seated and calm down and begin to enjoy the countryside. The speed was high so I could never capture the cute little villages we passed on my camera. I did get some photos along the way.

Gare Lyon - not very interesting or pretty

Fields of green

Fields of mustard seed
George went to the dining car, only to find they only accept French credit cards or cash, neither of which we had. So our apple, banana and some nuts had to suffice the 4 hour ride. But the views were splendid ... these were taken somewhere between Marseilles and Toulon.

And then it was time to disembark. At the Paris apartment, I'd pushed my bag down the steps in front of me. However, these windy narrow steps on the train had ridges on the edge of the step making that process impossible. We waited until we were the last people so we wouldn't be pushed. A young couple also had waited ... the young man was taking their luggage down one piece at a time. He took my bag from my hand and deposited it on the platform! Wow ... what a relief!

But then ... we were faced with a long flight of steps down from the platform - no escalator, no lift. Well, there had to be a lift because there was a service person taking a man in a wheelchair off to the lift - but he wouldn't allow the man's wife to go with him. Nor would he allow a woman with a baby carriage. This would be totally unacceptable here in the states!

So, here I am pushing the bag ... one step at a time ... almost in tears. And along comes the same young man who swoops my bag away from me and deposits it at the bottom of the flight of steps. He was so definitely my guardian angel that day. I thanked him profusely to which he responded, "No problem. Glad to help." They were American, btw.

So ... lessons learned - lessons we hadn't faced on previous train travel in Europe --
  1. Only pack enough to be able to lift and carry your own suitcase.
  2. Always carry cash.
The latter was further demonstrated when we got to our destination in Villefranche and the taxi driver (who spoke very little English) wouldn't accept credit. He deposited George and the bags ... and took me to the nearest ATM so I could withdraw cash. He was actually quite nice about it ... I'm sure he wasn't pleased to have to do this.

When we arrived at the apartment, I was so exhausted and out-of-sorts that I was thinking, this is it - no more travel for me!

And then I saw this ...

View from apartment
And so our experience in Villefranche Sur Mer begins.

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