Leaving Paris was not easy because it’s such an easy city to fall in love with. My sister ordered us a cab for 12:30 and it took us all morning to repack our suitcases and clean up. The cab arrived on time and we arrived at Gare de Lyon in plenty of time to find out that a) we were early and b) there is nothing to do to kill the boredom other than watch people with dogs — France loves their dogs and they take them everywhere. On trains, for examples.
At 24 minutes before departure, the trains accept passengers. This, of course, means pandemonium at 25 minutes before departure as everyone scrambles for a spot. We were Classe 1, which means our seats were reserved…and we didn’t have to fight our way to the better seats…or even seats together. Admittedly though, the TGV is cool. A panel on each side of the train indicates how fast the train is going in real time…it usually read 290 K/h though at times it went up to 340 K/h.
The countryside goes by fast, though sometimes it seems in slow motion on some stretches. We see rolling hillsides and farmland most of the way with the occasional castle or church ruins. The countryside gets more rugged as we go further south. We chose the “Zap” service instead of the ‘Zen’ service, not really knowing what that meant. Turns out the Zap service is the upper car (yippee!) while the Zen service is the lower car but for quiet people. In our case, we had a 6 month old child and his 4 year old brother in front of us. Apparently the 4 year old does not know how to sit still or stop talking. His mother, at some point, told him she was tired of hearing him talk. Imagine us…
Next to us was a lovely older lady with a nice quiet dog. After an hour she fell asleep and snored like a drunk sailor. And her dog started wandering off and sniffing everyone. She woke up when an announcement was made, collected her dog, and went back to sawing wood.
We finally made it to Marseille’s Gare St-Louis, painfully scoured the surroundings for our car rental agency, then made off to Manosque where Erin’s cousin patiently waited for us to arrive. Manosque, as it turns out, is a small village way past Marseilles. A bit less urban than what we expected. But the biggest surprise was still to be revealed the day after when we realized we’d be going to the family “cottage’ in the French Alps.