Day Three : Fast Train To Luxembourg

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September 12th 2022
Published: September 12th 2022
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Just waiting for our train to exit Platform 30 at Gare de L’Est, Paris.

I have my own electric reclining seat, a fold down desk, and tons of leg room. Who wouldn’t pay $12. extra for the first class upgrade. Looking around, I might even be with a better class of traveller.

Oops, that’s just my reflection in the window.

What a wanker, you say.

The trains are on time, spotlessly clean, and travel at over 300 kilometres per . You know I’m not in Victoria now.

This morning we woke refreshed , ate a hearty breakfast at the hotel, and went in search of a SIM card provider. Orange seems to offer a good deal, have wide cover, backup, and I signed on the dotted iPad.

We walked off breakfast- I should have walked to Luxembourg- and visited the Fragonard Perfume Museum, it was free, didn’t cost a scent ( first Dad joke ), and circled the Opera House, passed Galeríes La Fayette, but nothing was open until 10am.

There was nothing to do but finish our checkout, wait a while in the hotel foyer, and order an Uber for the short drive
to the station.

A lean, energetic, stern looking man jumped out of his Series C Mercedes, popped the boot, physically short armed me as I attempted to help him with the cases, and then leapt between me and the car to maintain a safe distance from the duco, as I walked around to the rear door, just as he ordered me to. A little officious but we arrived safely without a word spoken, mainly from fear on my part.

He was nothing compared to the delightful French man walking his dog yesterday who, when his pace was broken by a group in front of him, yelled, “ Tourist bastards !”, to no one in particular, but to all of us around him. It would be interesting to see the condition of Paris without the money those ‘ bastards’ inject into his economy.

And his dog shat on the path in the Tuilerie Gardens. He must have thought a tourist might clean it up. He sure didn’t.

As we moved east, leaving Paris, the suburbs and towns seemed friendlier, from an architectural viewpoint. The edge of the tracks are lined with communal garden plots and the houses immediately behind them are older, single story stone or brick residences. Bordering the edge of some of these towns, long white rows of lifeless looking apartment blocks create a wall around the town. By lifeless, I mean the unappealing look of the places. The people housed within, as COVID demonstrated, are often the lifeblood of our communities; cleaners, drivers, retail workers, and other low paid workers who had to support us all in lockdown when everyone else stayed home. Then they shouldered the blame, and harsher restrictions , for any breakout that occurred in their neighbourhoods.

The train sped silently through the hills, passing sandy fields of stubble, slowly rejuvenating, with various crops of green and cream appearing as autumn approaches. Villages hid among tall trees, only visible because of the slate church steeples and the cream steep peaks of the village rooftops.

My main source of amusement for the ride was two young French girls, probably about 4 or 5 years, laughing and chatting in high pitched joy filled tones , only in French. From the pitch and authority passing back and forth, I could just about pick who was the ‘boss’ because my grandsons sound the same, only in english.
I had just fallen asleep on the train when about 15 french Border Police dressed in civvies , snapped on their red identifying armbands, and proceeded to target dodgy looking passengers to see if they were illegals. Naturally, Sue was viewed with suspicion and was quizzed about her intentions; where she was from, why she was here, where she was going, and was she travelling with the man sitting next to her. Her replies seemed to allay any fears that I was Mr Australia, or Aussie Steve, running some syndicate importing any contraband into Europe. The blond guy with the interrogator didn’t seem convinced to me and kept a close eye on us both. Maybe Sue nudging me and pointing to his gun, saying, “ Look, he’s got a gun.”, just loud enough for the train driver to hear, did the trick, but Aussie Steve was being watched. I’m quiet deaf, so I’m sure it was for my benefit. They did find some people to interview at length but the railway security had already evicted a few people who didn’t have first class tickets earlier, so their job was done for them.

The French have successfully decentralised some large industries that have relocated in the countryside, and small communities have formed solely to support these businesses. Well known brands are manufactured to the sounds of tractors and cows mooing in the fields next door.

At one point the ruins of an ancient viaduct made of cream bricks forming close arched supports appeared, bordering the tracks . A few houses gathered around it, old traditional two story dwellings with rendered walls needing a coat of paint, and steep pitched tile roofs, blending with new concrete multi-storey blocks filling in any gaps.

We’ve passed through Metz, so our train ride is nearing an end. Tim will pick us up in Luxembourg where we will spend the next five days doing local stuff. Train rides into the city, walks around Esch, and generally chilling out until we leave for Tour.

Tim picked us up at the station, and with far less respect for the Nissan Micra than our last Uber driver who I’ll call Didier, because that is his name, I threw one case in the boot, the other on the back seat, and we were away. Peak hour traffic was pretty daunting, as cars ducked in and out, cut across lanes, and wouldn’t cut anyone any slack if they had to change lanes to exit the expressway; bad luck, try for the next exit. It was brutal even by Melbourne standards.

After relaxing in the shade at a popular cafe in Esch, topping up our caffeine levels - two cappuccinos for me - we went to Tim and Natalia’s place, unpacked, and relaxed on the veranda, going over the plans for our drive around the French countryside, starting with a champagne tour. Looks like I’m the nominated driver. They’ll need all the champagne they can drink to get in a car with me driving on the opposite side of the road.

Dinner was Portuguese Ribs and chicken, and with a high population of Portuguese in this area, it was the real deal.

Catch up tomorrow.

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