Train a not-particularly-Grande Vitesse

July 24, 2011

It seemed a bitter irony that, having gone to all the effort – not to mention spent a fair bit of money – booking our trip to the South of France by train, we still ended up delayed for over an hour at Charles de Gaulle airport. It was just that the delay was on a train under the airport rather than in it – as the TGV succumbed to what appeared to be, from my uncertain translation of the announcement, the ‘wrong kind of rain.’

In fairness to SNCF (and I type this with gritted teeth) there was a fairly epic storm brewing over the flatlands of northern France. Ragged Thread had, rather optimistically as it turned out, suggested that the French Weather Gods would see off our puny British ones. Sadly, ours were just on their way and once they had caught up with us, the Dordogne found itself experiencing a whole week of classic Galloway weather, for which I hope its farmers are grateful. I can only surmise that the storm which delayed our train long enough for us to miss not one but two Eurostars at Lille was some sort of final showdown, a battle royale between the two sets of minor deities. Whoever won, when we finally got to the UK, the clouds seem to have parted and by the time we got up here, we were treated to a glorious long light late summer evening with not a cloud sullying the sky.

Unfortunately we were also rather lighter in the pocket for we had missed our Glasgow train and, in a bit of a false economy, I’d bought advance tickets which were useless on any other trian and meant we had to pay the full price, walk-up fare. There’s nothing like unexpectedly having to put £193 on your credit card just to make it home to put the tin lid on that post-holiday glow, is there? Apparently had it been the Eurostar that had been late we might have been all right but as it was our French connecting service that was at fault, well – and here, the Euston ticket clerk demonstrated his mastery of the Gallic shrug.

But anyway, we made it, which is the main thing. And for our holiday next year – well, if there are any drought-stricken farmers or worried reservoir managers out there who’d like a guaranteed week of steady rain next summer, just put your best offer in the comments box and we’ll see what we can do. Or maybe, for a small sum, we can guaranted not to visit whatever holiday spot or resort you were planning on booking yourselves. Or maybe we’ll just stay put next year and get rained on at home.

Mad Dogs and Englishwomen

July 11, 2011

Well, we made it after a journey that started at goat speed, at least until I managed to usher a pair of errant goats out of the road on the way to the station. The speed picked up considerably after that, although not enough to stop us from missing our connection in Paris, courtesy of a delayed Eurostar. That meant they paid for us to spend the night in Montparnasse, which we realised, as we walked down the Rue de la Gaiete, past numerous shops offering very specialised services, is basically Soho. At least the hotel they put us up in didn’t appear to rent its rooms out by the hour and although it was late by the time we got there the evening was gorgeous and we found a restaurant* where we could sit out and watch the parade of stylish people (and the odd stylish bicyle to boot).

Then it was down to Angouleme on the oh-god-fifty TGV service the next morning which managed to be delayed and mess up the seat reservations (may I just say now that the UK trains performed like clockwork and yes, the Bigtown-Carlisle service basically is clockwork). Fortunately my French, as well as not being able to fool Parisian restaurateurs, is not up to anything but the most direct ‘excuse me but you’re sitting in my seat’ and it turns out the French are just as bad as the English about insisting on getting the seat they booked**

Since then the weather has been glorious – well I think it’s glorious. It’s still about 35 C now at almost eight at night – the sort of bone-melting, limb-loosening heat I thrive in. It’s slightly putting a crimp in my plan that we can use our rented bikes to get between our chalet and the farm where my sister is. As far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect cycling weather, but the other half for some reason seems to think noon might be a bad time to be pedalling up a steep hill on a rented bike on a gravel road. Cuh. Lightweight.

* ‘We don’t do steak and frites,’ the proprietress announced as soon as I opened my mouth. Clearly I need to work on my accent. Fortunately we managed to persuade her we would be able to cope with a menu that didn’t come with laminated photographs of the food

** and in our defence, some Australians were sitting in what might have been our seats and weren’t taking hints either