Gliding on rails.

France’s bullet train is the TGV. That stands for train a grand vitesse, i.e. very fast train. J.C. Burns, speaker of OK French, taught me that a hundred years ago; he thought it was amusing. This was around the time of my own first and until now only trip here, after which my host, a friend from middle school, sent me a local weekly newspaper’s page of listings for porn theaters, helpfully translated. At the time, American porn titles were all wisecrack-y plays on mainstream American movies: “Pumping Irene,” “Indiana Joan and the Black Hole of Mamou,” stuff like that. (I wonder if anyone ever did “Forrest Pump,” one I just made up.)

Anyway, the titles were similar to “very fast train.” “Two Horny Professors and a Willing Schoolgirl,” etc. My favorite employed a French verb which means “to break into something with force,” and translated to “I’m Breaking Into You and Without Vaseline.” Sans Vaseline!

Anyway, these are the things you think about on the TGV. We boarded yesterday around 7:30 a.m., pulled out at 7:43 on the nose and were in the sunny southern city of Arles at 12:16. And that included several stops on the TGV line, a 45 minute layover in Avignon, and a far slower train between there and Arles. I remind you, this is a country the size of Texas. The distance between the two cities is 462 miles. It would take you twice that long to drive it, at least, and you couldn’t read a book, take two pee breaks without stopping, eat a slice of pizza in Avignon or contemplate the lovely scenery out the window.

I mean, that sucker flies. Of course the U.S. refused to build even one.

And now we’re in Arles. The weather isn’t good, but the place is rather amazing-looking, at least where we are, in the heart of the old city. The view out the front door is of the Roman coliseum, where today they hold no-kill bullfights, which I am sorry to learn will not be held while we’re here. They’re no-kill because the goal is to hook a ribbon tied between the animal’s horns, sometimes a bouquet of flowers. These French, they are amusing. I was hopeful there might be something going on yesterday, because we could hear occasional animal bellowing out the window. It turned out to be a sound installation by some artist whose name and goals I can’t translate. We bought a ticket and sat in the stands to listen for a while. I texted a photo to a friend back home, a fellow “Gladiator” fan, and we traded lines from the movie. Simple amusements.

The plan for our stay here is more rambling, and I expect we’ll rent a car and check out the Camargue, the brackish Rhône river delta nearby. It’s supposed to rain today, so today will probably be a rambling day, with stops for the usual midday wine.

Enjoy your Sunday, whenever it dawns for you. I’ve already eaten a chocolate croissant — aux aumandes —- and feel ready to start mine.

Posted at 4:10 am in Same ol' same ol' |

8 responses to “Gliding on rails.”

  1. David C said on October 3, 2021 at 6:40 am

    I’ve looked at taking Amtrak from Oshkosh to Grand Rapids. The cost is pretty good, about $100 each way, which is half what it costs to fly. The Oshkosh to Milwaukee train is a bus. Then you get the train to Chicago. You get on the bus at 6:00 AM and you arrive in Chicago at 2:30 PM. In that time I could drive to Chicago, back home, and back to Chicago. Then I hang around Chicago for four hours to take the train to Grand Rapids which gets me there at 11:30 PM. Almost eighteen hours when I can drive it in five and a half. It’s so ridiculous that Amtrak’s website won’t even show you can do it. Train à basse vitesse.

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  2. ROGirl said on October 3, 2021 at 7:04 am

    Doing that trip on a normal train meant an 8 hour overnight journey trying to sleep on an uncomfortable vinyl couchette. It’s kind of like being on a plane and staggering off it early in the morning unwashed and into a strange new place, and train stations can be pretty sketchy.

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  3. alex said on October 3, 2021 at 8:28 am

    Debbie Does Disney.

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  4. rb said on October 3, 2021 at 8:45 am

    Arles is great. Nîmes is also very nice and the Pont du Gard is nearby.

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  5. Deborah said on October 3, 2021 at 8:45 am

    I took the train from Chicago to Santa Fe once, took 24 hours. Never again. LB likes taking the train, better for her than flying. The Amtrak train doesn’t actually go into Santa Fe, it goes to Lamy and you take a shuttle into Santa Fe. And don’t try to use the French pronunciation of Lamy, in NM it’s Lay-me with the accent on Lay.

    And speaking of LB and travel she just had an adventure. Her friend since kindergarten that has been living in Albuquerque is moving to LA but she bought a pickup truck while in Albuquerque. So she asked LB to ride with her so she could drive the pickup to St Louis and leave it with family. Then they would fly back to Albuquerque where LB’s friend could have one more week of work before driving her car to LA for her new job. You guessed it, they got less than 100 miles out of Albuquerque and the truck broke down in a closed rest area. They waited in the truck for about 7 hours for a tow truck and it was another 3 or 4 hours until LB got back to her own bed in Santa Fe. I was exhausted just hearing about it. LB’s friend isn’t sure what she’s going to do with the truck now, maybe leave it at our cabin in Abiquiu after it gets repaired this week. At least until she can come up with something else. When LB first told me about the plan I was skeptical that the truck could make it to St Louis but there was no talking them out of it. LB’s friend is fearless, before she got her degree in health care she had a job driving a semi.

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  6. Deborah said on October 3, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Nancy, If you’re near Pont du Gard, go. It’s amazing. We went during the winter so no one else was there then. I don’t know how crowded it would be this time of year.

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  7. Margaret said on October 3, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    I also recommend the Pont du Gard. The TGV made me sick when I looked out the window, especially when riding backwards. The scenery is spectacular but I dared not look at it.

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  8. Jenine said on October 4, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Maybe a ride on a Camargue horse?

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