Saturday, February 22, 2014

From Toulouse to Paris

So my blogging hiatus is over now, and you've had plenty of time to check out the book, "Korea, Are You at Peace," which has been blatantly advertised on this site for the past two months. You can still order it by clicking on the image to the right of the blog.

Now, let's get back to the travel adventures of the summer of 2010. Some may remember that this was the European Odyssey where I basically saw and did everything in Europe that I still wanted to do before I die (the bucket list). It started out with three days at the British Museum,
 followed by train trips to Berlin and Milano to visit family (and pseudo-family), and then a wonderful tour of organs in southern France. Let us pick up the thread again from my journals.

On the TGV (tres grande vitesse) train from Toulouse to Paris.  The countryside truly does whiz by on this train, but the ride is quite smooth.  It seems to list and squeak a bit on the curves, but all in all it is a very satisfactory ride.
There was some seat snafu here (as on a previous train). I thought I was in Car 5, whereas I was actually in car 6.  So after having settled in, a couple came in and bumped me, and when I came to the correct car, there was a young woman sitting in my seat, and she seemed to be (claimed to be) deaf, so I took the seat across the aisle, which is perfectly O.K. unless someone comes along to bump me again.  Passing another train going in the opposite direction sounds like a couple of seconds in a wind tunnel.
I had essentially NO time on the organ tour to record events and impressions, nor to finish up on the Italy trip, so I’ll try to do as much of that as possible on this train trip and for the next couple of days.  I will fly out of Heathrow (God willing and the ash-cloud doesn’t return) on Monday morning for Kiev.  Hopefully, on that trip, I’ll have more time to write as we ply the rivers and canals of Russia.

On the TGV, we stopped at Bordeaux and are now passing over the River …  In full view is a large, gothic cathedral with a huge tower and spire.  That is a cathedral I’ve never visited.  Rivers and canals seem to criss-cross this entire countryside;  occasionally, a canal will run alongside the railroad tracks.
Later… I got into Paris (Montparnasse) about 3:00 PM and spent the next hour scouting the train station for a map of Paris and getting to the Metro, line 4, that would take me to the Gare du Nord.  After looking at a map of Paris and realizing how far Gare du Nord was from Montparnasse, I decided not to take a taxi, especially after having gotten ripped off by the taxi driver in Marseilles.  He claimed I owed him 41 euros after quoting a price of 21 euros, which was already probably twice what it should have cost from the train station to the hotel, as confirmed by someone else in the organ tour group.  

So I schlepped my two bags up and down escalators and staircases, sometimes with the help of a young, gallant Frenchman, sometimes by myself.  The strategy (especially with escalators) was to take one case down, then climb the stairs and bring the other one down.  Eventually, I developed a strategy (going up) of turning both cases sideways, holding them with my left hand, and grabbing the handrail with the right.  It was awkward, but it worked.  I even did that once going down, though it took me a little prep time, and the guy in front of me kept looking backwards, probably glad I was a good ways behind him, lest I and my bags should come tumbling down upon him.  And of course, the folks behind me were no doubt holding up access to the escalator, although no one came and offered to help.  One fellow did offer to help as I was getting ready to do the double-bag up an escalator at the Gare du Nord, though, a sturdy young black man with a perfect French accent.  There were no elevators that I could find at either train station. 
I 'm now at the Mercure Hotel, across from the Gar du Nord in Paris.  My train for London will leave from there tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM.  It’s about 8:30 PM now, and I’m going to bed soon because I have to get up at 5:30 AM.  It feels pleasant and comfortable here in Paris.  Perhaps I should have planned to spend an extra day here rather than in London.  Ah well, what is, is.  I’ll try to begin writing about the Pipedreams tour tomorrow.  Now, I need some sleep.