Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Break Day 1-Thursday March 4

My trip began with the 9:30 AM Eurostar. I got up about 7:30, went down to breakfast at 8 or so, and then headed out to hop on the Underground at 8:15. I got to St. Pancras/Kings Cross at around 8:45, got through the ticket/security line, and waited till my train was called. I then decided that I would go buy my Paris Metro ticket beforehand, and of course it took forever and it also turned out that I could only buy groups of tickets, I just didn’t listen well enough. That aside, boarding (which had started while I was in line) went smoothly and I was able to hop online with my iPod and send two quick emails while sitting in the train. I enjoyed the trip, and actually noticed this time when I was in the Chunnel (I hadn’t realized we were in the Chunnel on my first trip). I sat next to a French girl engrossed in her book and not willing to move very much to let me out (I don’t mind climbing over people when they’re asleep, but if you’re awake the courteous thing to do is to move your legs out of the way at least a little bit). The Eurostar was a truly fast machine, it was almost dizzying to look out the window, though I was also going backwards which probably changes things. The Eurostar can be a little bit of an assault on your ears; for some reason there is a good amount of sudden elevation change during certain parts of the trip. But I still like it.

Bright and early in the station:

The train pulled into Paris right on time, 12:45, and I made my way over from the Paris Nord Station to Gare de Lyon. I got a little confused, Nord is a huge station, but eventually figured it all out. Now, I knew Gare de Lyon, I had stayed right next door in Paris. Even then I got a little lost, because I hadn’t been in the part of the station that the metro put me out by. Luckily my train didn’t leave until 2:15. I got lunch, in the form of a baguette from this little shop down the road from the station that I remembered from my previous visit. I will admit that saying I had breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, and dinner in Marseilles just sounds really cool.

My TGV experience was very different from my Eurostar one. The Eurostar was packed full of people. In the TGV train I had a second floor window seat, looking forward, and much less crowded train. On that trip we seemed to pass a lot more trains, which was always a surprise, you can feel the force of them going past for that two seconds. Both trains go 100+ MPH I believe. The seats were more comfortable on the TGV, but really the Eurostar ones weren’t bad. Also, the sights outside of the train were different. On the Eurostar, there were a few hills on the English side, and in France it was mostly flat fields with the occasional wind farm. On the TGV to Marseilles, it was much hillier, the train weaving in and out of hills and valleys. A few tiny towns pass by (as they did on the way to Paris) and if the windows weren’t as dirty as they are I would have better pictures. It’s been odd hearing the announcements in just French, and then realizing that they won’t be translated into English because I’m in France. I started to miss English very quickly…

My seat in the TGV:

Most of the trip I just listened to my iPod when I wanted something to keep me occupied. I thought about bringing a book, but I already had so much in my big backpack that I didn’t want to add one more thing to it. By the end of the trip I realized that I probably should’ve brought one.

For dinner, I walked around a little, eventually finding a shop that had baguettes. I ended up getting a sandwich with tuna, and some lettuce and tomato (those two came off when I had it). It was AMAZING. So good, that I went and got another. It was 3 Euro for one sandwich, but it was fantastic. I’m sure I’ve had better PB&Js, but this is up there in my top sandwiches ever list.

While I was trying to find some dinner, I saw a protest. Not sure what they were protesting, but it wasn’t a big group, and they didn’t look that intimidating, mostly because they had younger people, adults, and I even saw a little girl with her dad there. They were carrying some like torch-stick type things, and occasionally shooting off tiny fireworks. I wasn’t all that surprised, considering I was in France.

Protesters, not a good picture but it gives you the flavor:

I also found out that this city has electrical trams, which were pretty neat to see go up and down the street. I saw the same thing in Florence, although I never rode one. It’s something that I haven’t seen in America, other than a vague memory of them in Baltimore by the baseball stadium, and it’s been years since I’ve been there.

Overall this first day was good. Marseilles wasn’t all that interesting to me, but I enjoyed the two train rides. I had a lot of time to think and just look at some interesting landscapes. But if I somehow make it back to Italy (other than the Rome trip I'm signed up for) I'll fly.

Pictures from the first few days

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