07 January 2012

On a train travelling south

A poster outside an optomotrists shop

It’s early morning and we are travelling in a ‘couchette’ which means we can stretch out relax and sleep.

Although tempting (a late night seeing a movie and early morning start), I could not possibly sleep away the scenery which begins at the very start of the journey in the station with an intimate view of the many trains with massive engines waiting to head off in all directions, people sitting waiting expressionless while birds pick at crumbs around their feet, others dining on coffee and croissants, or rushing to get the next train, even arguing with an official who had helped us jump the queue at the ticket counter.  As the train leaves … a tangle of concrete pillars and walls covered in graffiti, back views of inner city housing with bicycles hanging outside the window (maximising storage space), a ram-shackle cluster of  make-shift dwellings for the very poor by the tracks … and then the transition toward the countryside through towns and eventually open countryside. There is an underlying hum form the engine and the gentle rocking of the train is indeed soporific.

But this is too good an opportunity to miss – several hours in a train to think, write, reflect and reposition myself in relation to the world at large!

At this point I feel a sense of liberation having left the high energy of Paris. A week spent wandering and being endlessly amazed at everything! … art, architecture, food, clothing, style, people (culturally diverse but almost without exception absolutely charming), spectacle frames (big emphasis on both Clark Kent and TS Elliot styles), buildings (the obvious ones such as the Louvre but more and more at every twist and turn), history (the development of Paris as a city over the centuries is very interesting reading), colours (rich, subtle, unusual combinations)and on and on.

It never stops, there is always more that delights and surprises. If asked, I would say my best travel tip for Paris (particularly if you have a few French phrases up your sleeve) would be to go out and get lost!


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