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.