Family & Friends
An adventure on the SNCF
One of our biggest adventures centers around trying to leave Paris for the southern city of Avignon. We arrived during the TGV train strike. The TGV is "Trans Grand Vitesse"-the pride of France. The strike affected all trains leaving Paris-the TGV was our only planned transportation to Avignon! We had not rented a car in Paris, but had one awaiting us in Provence. Why rent a car in the city? It would be an 8 hour drive-it's only a 4 hour train ride. We certainly could not take a cab!
We were told that the strike would surely be over by our departure date of Saturday.
Well....We tried to buy tickets on the preceding Friday. The ticket machine stated in French what we thought was "your card has been denied by the Central Banking Authority". odd. So we approached a ticket window, and noticed that each window had "adjourd-hui" flashing in red neon above them. We found someone that spoke enough English who explained that the strike was still in full force, and we could not buy tickets for Saturday's train at this time.
So much for pre-planning.
Saturday we awake extra early and haul all of our luggage and goodies bought in Paris down to the Train Station. (My luggage at this point weighs a ton.) The train station is in a state of chaos! People screaming at attendants in red jackets, dogs everywhere, luggage abandoned.
Zac waits in line for 2 1/2 hours while I watch the luggage. Several times things almost came to fisticuffs when a sneaky Parisian would try to cut in line.
Tempers are high.
We now have a 2:00 ticket for Nice, then we wait in Nice for another train to Avignon. First class -paid a fortune- but first class was the only guarantee that we would have a seat.
We check the big monitor board which is flipping like mad trying to stay current with the changes. No 2:00 to Nice. we wait. Still no mention of a 2:00 to Nice. Zac investigates. Apparently there is no 2:00 train to Nice! But we just bought these tickets an hour ago! A quote from attendant in red jacket - "eh!" accompanied by a shoulder shrug.
So we ask another red jacket, and he explains that due to strike any ticket is good for any train going anywhere. Zac asked about our reserved seats. Another "Eh!"
We see a 3:00 train going to Nice, and we plan to board it. Then I see all these people sticking their tickets in a little yellow punch machine. What is this? Zac goes to investigate.
Apparently, if we do not stick our tickets in the little yellow punch machine we are not "validated" and can be fined 1000.00 francs on the spot.
We punch our tickets. While punching we consult another red jacket. This one speaks excellent English and tells us "Listen, there is a 2:30 train leaving very soon directly for Avignon, I suggest you get on it." Now we inch our way toward the quais so we can prepare to board when the exact quai is announced.
The French travel with their dogs like the Americans travel with our computers. They are everywhere. One suspicious poodle looks as if we wishes to pee on my luggage.
We inch closer to the quais. All eyes are on the monitor. We wait. 10 minutes pass. We clutch our luggage ready for action. The monitor flips into action and the 2:30 Avignon train shows quai 3.
It was like a scene out of Ghandi- people trampling one another, luggage shoving, dogs yapping, kids screaming, mad rush to board. Zac lost me in the crowd. He is screaming "Lockie!!, but I can not see him. I finally spot him throwing our suitcases on the train. People are literally tossing things over his head. such as small poodles. yip! I hand him my big suitcase while elbowing an aggressive old lady out of my way. I bought an umbrella in Paris with a mother of Pearl duck carve into the handle and I am prepared to use it!
We miraculously find seats.. and yes in first class. People are arriving who actually have real tickets for this actual train and are kicking people out of their first class seats. "I am not going anywhere", I tell Zac. "Pretend like we belong", and I take a nail file from my purse, and a copy of "La Maison". If they try to kick me out I am prepared to stand my ground for these seats.
Zac thinks I'm nuts, and goes to find a conductor. There are none, and no porters. The strike. So it is a free-for-all. No dispute resolution by authorities. Noone can make me leave. I am staying put. We stay in these seats all the way to Avignon!!
Now the interior of the train resembles the train scene on Doctor Javago. People in the aisles, playing cards, opening wine, students smoking and standing in the connectors between cars.
We arrive in Avignon exhausted and achy from our luggage, and the worlds cutest bellhop grabs everything and shows us to our huge antiqued, airy, room with marble bath, bidet and Jacuzzi tub! Lockie is tress hereuxe!!!
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