Friday, August 26, 2005

France: Part I

FRANCE

I know you have all been holding your breaths waiting to hear about France. You may now breathe out. I am going to tell you EVERYTHING.

I travelled from Karlsruhe to Nimes by train. By trains, actually. I think there were four. The first one went from Karlsruhe to Strasbourg, at which point I had an hour in which to change platforms. Finding this more than adequate, I left my luggage at the left luggage office and set out to find someone to be rude to me, in order to convince myself that I was indeed in a different country. I took notes. Here are my notes, slightly coffee-stained.

* Station huge. Left luggage office people claim not to understand English, but do.

* No noticeable smells.

* Construction work happening all around station. Inconvenient and noisy. Mustn't go far.

* Sit on park bench. Large elderly woman with small dog sits beside me, and sighs. Does not respond to my polite, "Bonjour." Is this a rude Frenchwoman, or are the nearby jackhammers rendering her deaf?

* A young man walks past shouting to himself and gesticulating wildly. Is this a rude Frenchman? Then I notice the headset. He is talking on the phone, which frees up his hands for the necessary gesticulating. As he passes I notice that the label on his t-shirt is sticking out. Is this French chic? I've heard all about French chic, and it worries me. Perhaps I can stop worrying.

*I start to worry about missing my train, and wander back around the construction work and find the entrance to the station again. I retrieve my luggage. The guys in the office are suspiciously polite to me, and I wonder if they are really French.

*The train arrives, and I get on. The smell is AWFUL. It is a French train! It's amazing. I have now travelled on trains in England, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany, and this is the first dirty train I have been on. It is also non-smoking, unlike the others (except England). Is there a connection, I wonder? Do they think that since they're non-smoking they don't need to be cleaned?

I am disappointed, because I cannot take photos out the windows. I can barely SEE through the windows.

The next three trains are just as bad. I notice that people smoke between the carriages, ignoring the no-smoking signs. This is a relief. I could not bear it if they all followed the rules. It would shatter too many of my stereotypes of French people.

*The train conductors are fantastically friendly. Is it a trick?

NIMES

Nimes is beautiful, aside from the area directly around the train station. Walk five minutes and you are right next to an arena built 2000 years ago, which is STILL USED. For bullfighting, I notice.

Hold on, which country am I in again?

LANGUEDOC

I am staying now in the wilds of the Languedoc in a lovely old stone cottage, and using a dialup connection. We are in the stone age! My hosts are fantastically friendly. (This could be because they are English.) Today we visited a mind-bogglingly big hole in the ground, negotiated a large number of hairpin bends (one of which required a three-point turn), paddled in an icy river, took a million photos, and got briefly but excitingly lost. People have been friendly to me for four days now, and I remain suspicious.

4 comments:

wiccachicky said...

Oooooo...France! Wow - when are you going to go home? This seems like the trip of a lifetime!!!

Lippy said...

Continue to remain suspicious. Everyone (who isn't French, obviously) knows that Frenchpeople are rude and smelly. Persist, Badaunt. I'm sure they won't disappoint you!

Faerunner said...

Quite the adventure you're having... I'm a bit envious. I'm sure France can't be all bad, as a friend of mine visited and didn't bring back any horror stories (which was a horror in itself, as far as I was concerned). Everyone needs at least one good travel horror story, though. It's a requirement of international tourism.

Here's hoping the rest of your trip goes really well :)

-Fae

Cheryl said...

Wonderful!
Except the trains. Poor you.