Letter from France – The downside of travel #1

Getting from one place to the next

Dear Mum,

I don’t have to convince you there’s a downside to overseas travel. You tried it once and didn’t like it. Not one bit. I think it was mainly because you thought it was a holiday and Dad thought it was a business trip. You did look chic in Paris though.

Black and white image of a woman in a coat boarding a boat
Read more

I’m a late-in-life travel evangelist – the worst kind.

But I’m never going to convert you so I’ll just tell you my thoughts and we will have a most rewarding to-and-fro about it. Because even though you have no intention of ever travelling again, you will listen, reflect and gently give your opinion if asked.

The flights, the trains, the taxis – so much can go wrong. As you know, I am geographically challenged. Anne and I inherited it from you, and it’s so severe it has been referred to by various in-laws – we know who they are – as a disability. It’s never occurred to me to be ashamed of it, although a friend once applauded me for not caring.

I couldn’t tell you where Burgundy is on a map, even if I studied it for some time.

I simply wouldn’t retain it. Google maps and public transport signs tell me where I have to be and at what time. The first downside of train travel is the electronic timetable gremlin, who likes to keep the weary traveller on tenterhooks regarding their actual departure platform.

Despite that, I found my way without incident to the Gare de Lyon, and to Platform 19, carriage 11, seat 62. And what a comfortable seat it was. I will have to do some divesting of belongings though Mum. I can’t rely on kind young men to lift my case on to and off trains forever. And in one case to rearrange the suitcase section so my monster could nestle safely among its little friends. But once my Samsonite and I were settled, it was a breeze all the way to Macon-Loché TGV.

The tray table of a train with a bottle of water, a baguette and a newspaper

Every time I catch the TGV I have a brief moment of sheer panic.

It happens when the driver announces in French that the train is going to Milan. Or Timbuktu. Or somewhere other than the destination I’m after. I’ve learned to breathe through that first announcement and wait for the English version.

I arrived 90 minutes later at my destination station with nary a taxi in sight. I’ve decided to go car-less because a) I don’t fancy driving on the opposite side of the road this time and b) it will tether me to my home base and hopefully to my laptop.

There’s a strange gadget at the local TGV station that lists various taxis and their mobile numbers.

An old fashioned taxi register at the TGV train station

My first attempt to call one of the numbers elicited a flat no. My second resulted in an offer to pick me up if I didn’t mind sharing. At least I was pretty sure that was the offer. It turned out I was right and I met a lovely Indian man who runs some corporation or other in Macon.

He wants to write the story of his life but says he can’t write. So we exchanged contact details – I said I’m sure I could find a ghostwriter for him. That’s the kind of misplaced self-confidence you have after spending a week with a high powered New York literary agent. (What was I thinking?)

I fear I was ripped off by the taxi driver.

I’m sorry to think ill of any Frenchman as you know but for the second time in a week I was charged about $170 for a 25 minute taxi ride. C’est la vie maman. I told you there was the occasional downside to travel.

My travel preference is to arrive somewhere and prop for a while. I’m certainly doing that this time. Seven weeks without wheels. My feet are taking me where I need to go, treading the well worn path between chez moi and the village boulangerie for my morning baguette, and the occasional ramble further afield before the day warms up. It’s just as idyllic as it sounds Mum.

8 thoughts on “Letter from France – The downside of travel #1

  1. Love following your travel, Liz. Must confess I’m a bit nervous doing an own adventure, and must admit to being a little envious as I read of your exploits. CC

  2. I too am geographically challenged. Robert often says turn me around twice and I’m lost. I too laugh it off. Enjoy 7 weeks of writing and enjoying your surrounds

  3. I understand your reluctance CC. I read somewhere recently that if you can’t afford travel insurance that covers you for Covid, you can’t afford to travel. I found an insurance company on ProductReview. It’s expensive but worth it for the peace of mind.

  4. Your words are so evocative….I can imagine myself there! Thanks for the escape Liz, wish I was in France. Sigh.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.