Heading to Paris on the TGV (The Goofballs’ Vehicle) High Speed Train
I’m leaving now. I’m on my way to Paris to spend a few days before I come home. It’s really sad. I really miss Antibes and I’ve only been gone a day. I left the apartment yesterday morning, my last day, and walked out of Antibes pulling my suitcase heading to the train station. I’m still packed too heavily. I had given my big suitcase with the broken wheel that Bob fixed to Carole to take home for me and I bought a new little $10 one. But it turned out to not be big enough so I kept back a carry-on sort of bag which is really bulky and hard to carry. It’s packed full. I don’t know why I thought it was necessary to buy the to-the-knee boots, especially when I had held back my up-to-the-shin new boots. Now while trying to travel lightly I’m carrying around 2 pairs of black boots along with everything else. Oh well, I’ll be happy with them when I get home.
Great… I’m on the TGV, the high speed train to Paris which takes about 5 hours. I had a four-seat section to myself. Two seats facing each other with an optional pull down table in the middle. I knew it could fill up because we’ve just started and we just got past Cannes. A couple more stops before we really get rolling. But there are plenty of empty seats and in Cannes a somewhat elderly, nice-looking gentlemen got on. He walked up the aisle, looking for a place to sit and finally decided to sit right in MY little section. Why??? There are plenty of empty seats. And he has some sort of weird, irritating habit where he keeps making this horribly annoying noise out of his nose. It sounds like a sudden cough, but through the nose and it happens every 10-20 seconds. I can’t tell when it’s going to happen- it’s not rhythmic so it surprises me each time. There’s no way I’m going to put up with this joker all the way to Paris. No way. I’m going to gather my stuff and find another seat. But that is so obviously rude. But he keeps making this stupid noise. It’s driving me crazy. His face is only 41/2 feet from mine- his seat faces mine- and it’s too much for me. I’m afraid something’s going to fly out of his nose and I’ll get hit with goopy nasal spray. There. I just left. I couldn’t stand it. I told him I had to find a plug for my computer and got up and walked around. The car in front of mine was almost full and pretty stuffy. I came back to my car and now Mr. Snorty is IN MY SEAT! That’s ok, I guess. I wasn’t going to sit there in front of him again anyway. I found a new seat, but it’s a smaller, tighter one. He’s two seats back and I can still hear him doing that weird snort/cough/sneeze. But at least now he’s not facing me. And now the guy in front of me is passing gas. UGH! All I want is to find a good seat and type on my computer. I’m going to have to move again. I’m the only one on the train that keeps changing seats. It wouldn’t be so obvious but I’m carrying my huge purse and that bulky carry-on bag every time I get up and move around. I’m still irritated. Snorty has my window seat on the sea side of the train with the beautiful views and I have an aisle seat on the other side in this rancid gas cloud. There are still more open seats but most are facing backwards and that makes me feel car sick. And I can still hear him too much. I’m moving to another car.
Just moved to the car behind me. It’s not as hot as the car in front of the one where I was going to move to, but it’s still a little stuffy. Mr. Snorty saw me walk by him on my way to this car. He sort of jumped up and motioned to ask if wanted my seat back. No, only if you’re moving and I can have my four-seat section back all to myself. This car’s not as nice as car #7 where I started. But this one has a lady wearing an irritating perfume. Yuck. I can’t stand this up my nose for the next 5 hours. I just sat down and got situated and everyone around me got comfortable with the new person out of nowhere coming into their car and taking a seat. The entire car smells like her perfume. That is so rude of her to wear that on a day she knows she’s going to be in confined quarters. She may as well be smoking as far as I’m concerned. Ugh. This car stinks. I’m going to have to move. People are going to think I’m crazy. Then they’ll look scared if I choose a seat near them. But I have to make a seat decision before we get to Marseille. I’m afraid the train’s going to fill up then. I’m not even enjoying the beautiful views of the Mediterranean with all of this going on. Ok, I’m getting up again… and everyone’s going to stare at me because there’s nothing going on and everyone’s a little bored. I must be great entertainment… everyone watching the OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder) lady find a seat.
Ok, I’ve changed. One older lady looked mad when I got up, I think it was a look of scared concern instead of anger. I found a decent seat I think. This car has a little smell of food or something. Like onions… uh oh… it’s BO. And a lady just walked by with a kid and it’s coming from her. Oh my god… it’s the WORST BO I have ever smelled in my life!!! She just walked by again. Her seat is about 5 behind me and I can’t stand it. And now her kid has started screaming…. Goodbye!
Just walked by the lady I scared before, now she really jumped. The pencil she’s using on her crossword puzzle almost fell out of her hand. I can’t even remember where my suitcase is now. It’s the only thing of me or my possessions that has remained stationery since I got on the train. Back to car #7. Mr. Snorty is still in MY SEAT, now he looks real uncomfortable. He thinks I want it back. He’s looking odd, like he’s concerned he did something impolite. I just walked by him to take my second original seat back next to the guy that passed the gas. Maybe he went to the bathroom while I was in car # 8 and 9. What??? Someone’s in that seat now! Darn it! Where’d he come from? That was a prime seat and I let it go. I just found a seat in a 4-seat section. I’m facing forward but someone is right in front of me which means I’m going to be playing footsies or knees-ies all the way to Paris. He must wonder why he’s been on the train for almost an hour with this 4-seat section to himself and suddenly I appear to cramp his space. Now he can’t stretch his legs out like he had them. I’m not happy with this seat. It’s right on the other side of the door from the bathroom. And it stinks. I’m not going to sit here. Can I possibly move one more time? A guy just got on at this stop, Les Arcs- Draguignan, and chose a seat in Mr. Snorty’s 4-seat section. He’s looking real nervous and keeps staring at the noise-maker. He thought he found a prime seat and now he knows why no one was sitting there. He doesn’t have nerve to move, I can tell. It takes a lot of balls to get up and change seats after you’ve already sat down because everyone knows there’s something you don’t like about them.
Like last night- when you think you’ve found a prime spot… After I got back from my Alps trip, which is what I had wanted to write about before I got sidetracked trying to find a decent seat on the train, I needed to find a hotel room in Nice. I had done a ton of research on the train coming back with a little resource book of hotel rooms and a Nice map. (That’s not a nice map, it’s a map of Nice). I narrowed down my search to five places, all reasonably priced in nice areas. I almost decided to just get something close to the train station but that’s such a grimy, unsafe area. I didn’t want to spend my last night in the south of France in that environment so I thought it would be worth the walk. Not. My suitcase and carry-on bag were way too heavy and bulky.
OK… NOW I’VE HAD IT! SOMEONE IN MY AREA IS PASSING GAS! CAN’T THEY HOLD IT OR GET UP AND GO TO THE BATHROOM! I’M SICK AND TIRED OF SMELLING PEOPLE’S FARTS THIS MORNING. Yuck. A guy across the aisle just came back from somewhere and getting things situated in his seat bent over with his butt next to me. I mean next to me. Where else would I have a stranger’s ass sticking less than 3 inches from my nose and just sit there like it’s ok? Get your butt out of my face! Public transportation is really weird. And Mr. Snorty is really going to town now. The guy who sat down across from him has his head buried in a newspaper, pretending not to notice. It’s only 11:00 am- think it’s too early for a glass of wine? I need something to settle me down. There’s a loud squeak coming from where cars #7 and 8 are connected together. It’s not even bothering me. It’s a little annoying, but there are way too many things taking primary importance to let that thing get too high in my line-up. I need to relax and look out the window at the south of France before I’m out of the area. I love it here.
Back to finding the hotel room last night. I walked and walked. Isn’t that how I started my time in the south of France? Walking and walking, dragging a heavy suitcase? Some things just don’t change. My hand got sore from
pulling the weight. I switched hands. My back muscles really ached. My other hand got real sore. I need racing gloves so that part of my hand doesn’t get so raw.
By the way, the newspaper guy across from Mr. Snorty just got up and left. His stuff is still in his seat but he probably needed a break. He couldn’t stand it either, I bet.
I kept thinking that the hike to find just the right hotel room wasn’t worth it. And it was getting dark. Maybe the places near the train station would’ve been ok. I decided to just keep walking. I got to the address of where one was supposed to be… and nothing! They had posted a picture of a table top with a flower on top in my hotel guide, so I didn’t even know what the hotel was supposed to look like from the outside. (I wish this guy would STOP WITH THE NOISES- IT’S REALLY STARTING TO BUG ME). Anyway, no hotel. I found where it was supposed to be, 11 Rue de Congres. No #11. I asked the shop owner of the dress shop at #8 Rue de Congres if she knew where it was. She had been locking her door and at first didn’t want to be bothered, but like all French people, when asked for help, she rose to the occasion. French people LOVE helping out. They spend hours trying to help you, way after you either understand, or if it’s something that can’t be figured out, long after it’s time to let it go. And they usually illicit help from anyone within earshot and it turns into a group mind storming session. Remember the people on the bus when I was trying to find the stop for the Matisse museum? So this lady walked outside, up and down the sidewalk, jabbering away and we couldn’t find it. D’accord, d’accord, d’accord (ok, ok, ok) already! Next. My favorite 4-letter word.
I walk and walk, dragging the suitcase and bag and things are hurting. My hands, my shoulders. This is after a long day going to the Alps which I still want to tell you about. Every curb jolts my elbow joint that has never quite gotten back to normal since I pulled my suitcase in Mexico last January. Must be something going on in that elbow now that I think about it. That was over 9 months ago. I could’ve developed a baby in that time period… surely my body could’ve straightened out some over exertion on an elbow joint.
By the way, Mr. Newspaper Guy hasn’t come back. Either he’s taking a really long you know what or he’s hiding in another car. Hey! He just walked by- right when I was typing this. And with JUICE! Where’d he get that? I didn’t see a café car on all of my traipsing around with my seat-searching. I thought I was at the end of the train. I wondered what I was going to do for lunch- we don’t get into Paris until 3:30. I just got up and asked him where he got his juice. “Is there a café car?” I spoke English. He’s speaking broken English, “Here” he informs me. No, Mr. Newspaper man… not HERE. This car just has Mr. Snorty, Mr. Pass Gas and a bunch of other thankfully quiet people.
“Here?” I ask. Do I look crazy? I’m standing HERE and I don’t see any juice for fucking sale.
“Four car”. Oh. That would actually be car #11. I thought it ended at #9. Here I had another full car of seat choices that I didn’t know about.
Back to the hotel last night. First place I checked out- not there, never existed. The shop keeper verified that. Maybe it was an idea that someone had had and advertised. But anyway it just wasn’t there. I couldn’t find the second one either. And each time I tried to find a hotel on my list translated into 4-5 blocks of strenuous walking. I’ll never over pack again. I see a 3 star hotel- this is going to be more than I want to spend. I go in. No vacancies. What? Not good. There’s some big convention in town and all the rooms are booked. Not good at all. It’s getting dark and now it’s starting to rain too. The desk person knows of one hotel that might have rooms. She calls. Yes they have one room left. Imagine that… could this be a set-up? Combien le coute? (How much) et il y a wee-fee (and is there internet)? I have to have internet to book my train for today to Paris and to find a hotel in Paris for three nights. Yes, they have internet, it’s only 2 blocks away and it’s a super-sized double room for $95 Euros. I only need a single- I don’t want to pay extra for a double bed. Nope, only one room and I’m lucky, it’s a super size (didn’t we just go through this?) and it’s $95 Euro. Ugh- I don’t want to spend $150 US on a room but I really don’t have a choice. I get to the hotel. It’s cute, clean and by the tariff list on the door, $95 is a good price for a room in this hotel. I ask if she has a less expensive room. Nope- this one is their ONLY one left and I’m lucky because it’s a super-sized room with a double bed (alright, alright). All these hotels are small, like 8-20 rooms. She will show me room #17. Ok.
Hey- on the train we just passed an adorable little town, I can see it out the train window. It juts out into the sea with a little island just off its coast. It’s fairly developed, even the little island and looks like a fun place! I didn’t come down this far south/west. I’d like to see this place. I just asked the guy who a minute ago had his butt in my face what it was. Bandol. About 25km east of Marseille. I have to remember that.
Anyway, I love that about getting a hotel room in France. It’s standard for the guest to eyeball the room before making a decision if they want it or not. What a good idea. So the sweet desk clerk and I go up to room #17, the last room left in all of Nice as far as I can tell and hmmm… there’s a reason why this super-sized double room isn’t someone’s first choice. It’s a dormer room with long, long dormer windows that stretch almost the length of the room. The ceiling is 3 feet high to a whopping 5 ½ feet. Except for a 12 inch strip near the door where it’s standard 8 feet. Hmmm… super-sized with floor space maybe, but certainly not with head space. Well, luckily I’m 5’2” and except for having to watch to not bang my head in most of my room I’m in good shape. It’s clean, cute and has internet. I look at it and it’s amusing that no one is mentioning the elephant sitting in the middle of the living room… the fact that most people couldn’t stand up in there. Hmmm… “Perfect!” I say to the mild-mannered desk clerk. “Perfect?” she says, surprised. I can tell that I’m the only person in the last 30 years who was shown THIS asinine room and responded with a “Perfect!”. Well, let’s just make everybody’s day and be happy. I’m getting a $95 Euro-charge stuffed up my ass for an attic room, but it’s freshly-painted, the carpet’s clean and the bathroom is modern. And it has internet. Perfect!
Things are settling down in the train now. Maybe it’s me settling down. The smells are less bothersome and thank god no one’s making any noises. Mr. Snorty must have taken some Benadryl or something because not even he’s making noises. The squeaking of the two cars rubbing together is louder but I can handle that.
Last night as I was eating dinner I couldn’t help but thinking about my little place in Antibes. This was the sort of night I’d be having dinner somewhere and then head back home and be glad when I got there that I was back in Antibes. But not last night. I was staying in Nice and my little place in Antibes was sitting there dark and empty. The new people weren’t coming in till today. Wonder if my little apartment misses me as much as I miss it? It makes me homesick thinking about it. I loved it there.
Tomorrow- I’m going to tell you about my Alps adventure… i.e. I wasn’t Mary Poppins, or Julie Andrews or whoever she was. I had sat down to write it today, but this train thing set me on my ear.
I’m almost to Paris. What an incredible ride! I happened to look out the window and there was a castle! A real castle with all the turrets, an enormous stone wall and I think I saw moats. Wow- what a surprise. And fields and fields of white cow. All white. Miles and miles of farms and everyone has white cows. Isn’t that odd? I tried to get a picture, but the people around me seemed a little nervous when I got my camera out and started snapping. I wasn’t taking any of them, although I wanted to take a shot right down the aisle so you could see where I’ve been sitting for the past five hours. But that would really make everyone nervous. I did snap 30 or so pictures of the cows, trying to get a good one. It’s hard because by the time I could see them, remember I have an aisle seat now, they were gone. This is kind of like a Sunday drive, with so many interesting things to see, except instead of going 30 mph, we’re going 200 mph. A Sunday drive in fast motion. My seat mates in my 4 person section seemed mildly irritated with each snap of my camera. I don’t know why. Maybe I was moving around a lot, and sometimes getting my arms right in front of their faces to try and get the right shot. At one point the guy across from me looked like he wanted to jump up and grab the camera and scream, “GIVE ME THE DAMN CAMERA AND I’LL TAKE THE PICTURE!” He didn’t, but I could tell he eventually just had enough because he got up somewhat deliberately and with extra noise and left. Hmm… he can’t get too far… it’s a train! I did put the camera away after that.
Oh well… can’t wait to get to Paris!