Sunday, November 15, 2015

BUS STORY # 471 (Part Six: French Trains, And Some Train Stories)

Our train to Narbonne from the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Photo by Busboy.

This is the final post in this series. Since Friday night’s terrorist attacks on Parisians, we are stunned and terribly saddened. We pray, and know not what else to do.

Previous posts in this series:
Part One (Paris 2015)
Part Two (The Arrival)
Part Three (The Metro)
Part Four (Le Bus!)
Part Five: (More Buses)

French trains go everywhere. French trains go very fast. French trains are (mostly) on time.

There are special lines to get you into Paris from the metropolitan area outside Paris, and there are trains to get you all over France, not to mention Barcelona, Brussels, and even England by way of the Chunnel.

A commuter in the train next to ours at an RER stop. Photo by Busboy. 

We used the website Capitaine Train and found it relatively easy to use once we got the hang of it. We booked two trips, from Paris to Carcassonne, and from Agde to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Both involved transfers from the main line to a connecting regional line on the way south, and regional to main line on the return.

A trunk line train leaving the station at Agde. Photo by Busboy.

First class on French trains is comfortable, not much more expensive than second class, and you are, at least theoretically, guaranteed a seat. We have some stories.


When we booked our tickets for the trip south, we clicked on the option “side-by-side.” Capitaine Train gave us seats 34 and 36. Unfortunately, we did not realize until the morning we boarded the train for Narbonne that seat 34 was in Car 2, and 36 in Car 3! We think there may have been a mix-up. Mrs. B told me that the gentleman she ended up sitting next to in car 2 said he and his wife had also been separated in the same way. It is possible I spent the four-hour trip sitting next to his wife! Her seat mate had a theory that this is the French train system’s contribution to marital harmony: an hour or two of spousal respite...


As I was finding my seat on the other car, Mrs. B found her seat. There was a woman sitting in it, with a friend in what would have been my seat. She showed the woman her ticket, but the woman did not seem persuaded. The gentleman in the row behind looked at Mrs. B’s ticket, then explained to the woman in French that she was in the wrong seat. She told him she was fine where she was. He asked her to show him her ticket. She didn’t feel that was necessary. He then invited Mrs. B to sit with him. This is when she learned he and his wife had suffered the same fate we had.


On our return to Paris, after transferring to the main line at Nîmes, we saw a conductor point out to a young woman that she should be in second class. She had been talking non-stop with a young man in the seat behind her, and she launched into an elaborate response.  We have no idea what she said to monsieur le conductor, but he moved on and she stayed put until her stop.


At the next stop, a British couple entered our car and became frustrated trying to find their seats. They exited the car, then returned a short while later and stopped at our seats. The woman told us in French that we were in their seats and she was not happy. While we were reaching for our tickets, the husband pointed out their seats were actually the ones in front of us. She didn’t apologize, but turned her displeasure on the woman occupying one of the correct seats. She chewed the woman out in French. The woman remained unruffled and, without being the least bit apologetic, explained in halting English that the seat was unoccupied, so she took it. She gathered up her things while explaining, and simply moved up one row.


The best (or worst) story of all, however, came from our hosts, Mrs. B’s sister and brother-in-law. They had reserved seats in which they found two women sitting who refused to move. They found the conductor who accompanied them back to the seats, examined everyone’s tickets, then explained to the women that they were in the wrong seats. One of the women then asked the conductor if he was really going to make them move. He replied that was up to the couple holding the tickets!


Anonymous Brenda said...

As a person who likes all her boxes checked I think this system of reservations would give me heart palpitations. I'm glad you and Mrs. B are home safely. Our prayers are indeed with the Parisians.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Mrs. B was somewhat more distressed by the seat situation than I was. It really helped that the gentleman who came to her assistance was so helpful and spoke such good English.
That one booking was the only problem we had, fortunately.

9:37 PM  

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