Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh, for trains

I'm now recalling why I enjoy the desert southwest—the lack of humid heat. We are now traveling from the mountains of Italy and Austria to the Mediterranean coast at Marseilles, France. It's been a whirl wind day of trains to achieve this distance. We started at the train station in Innsbruck, Austria at 8:30am on a trip of nearly four hours back to semi-familiar territory in Zurich, Switzerland. The bonus part of this day was that all 4 train legs of the trip were to be via first class seats on the trains.

In Zurich we boarded our second train of the day to Geneva, Switzerland. This was the fanciest train I'd been on yet and at one point we had one of the entire first class coaches all to ourselves. This leg of the trip was 2 hours and 45 minutes. We broke down and bought some very expensive ham sandwiches on this train as well as the most expensive can of coke ever imaginable-- 4.80 CHF! Highway robbery.

At the Geneva train station we had close to an hour and a half to wait for our next train to Lyon, France. I managed to connect to a free and unsecured wi-fi connection there to get caught up on email and chat with the Beist for a bit via gmail chat. All sounds well back at home if not a bit rainy. Here, while waiting in the Geneva train station I really started to notice the heat. It doesn't help matters that I'm wearing the same “travel shirt” that I've worn for at least 6 days of this trip without a wash. It'll be in dire need of a wash after today's wearing, though!

Once we got on the train at the Geneva station headed for Lyon, France, the first class section was completely full but we were able to find standard seats next to each other. I'm not all bothered, regarding comfort, to sit in th standard fare area but I am quite a bit disappointed in that we paid for upgraded seats and did not get what we paid for. Such are the trains here it seems. Often times you pay for your entry on the ticket but must pay an additional fee to guarantee a seat. The train to Lyon started a bit late and got delayed for a few minutes on en route leaving us with an extremely tight transfer time of 7 minutes in Lyon to exit the train, get our bearings, find out which gate we needed to head to for our next train to Marseilles and get there. This task was made more difficult by the fact that we each have a decent sized duffel bag full of climbing gear with mine weighing at least sixty pounds. Not so nimble nor discreet.

We when exited the train in Lyon the first thing I noticed was the heat. Second, I noted the huge crowd. It seems at least two different trains had just dropped their load of passengers off simultaneously on the same platform. We got to moving and both looking around as if we were on that show “The Great Race” but without the fame and fortune or nearly the same drama. Not-so-long story short, we made it with a couple minutes to spare and boy is this is a train! It's the train known as the TGV which is an abbreviation for something in French that translates roughly to “super fast train that doesn't stop much, if at all, along the way.” And the seating in first class is super comfortable complete with a desk and tiny desk lamp allowing me to type comfortably on this here laptop as I watch out the window the late-day light illuminate the whirring French countryside.

We'll very soon be arriving in Marseilles and are staying at the Holiday Inn there. It looks as though it's a 5km distance from the train station to the hotel so we may be up for a decent walk with heavy packs or perhaps we'll try our broken French to catch a taxi instead. I just know that I very much look forward to a shower this evening. And, looking further ahead, the dry desert heat of the American southwest. I do miss it along with my family and friends there.

1 comment:

Dizzy D! said...

Awesome! Adventure via train transfers!

For future reference, the conductor on your train can tell you what platform your connecting train is on, so you can hurry over there without checking the monitors.