My Life as a Traveler

Je suis la femme Francaise

I am a French woman. I don’t wake up too early or too late, 7:30am. I shower, but don’t wash my hair today.

I take my café au lait and sable (shortbread cookie) in the small patisserie around the corner. I greet the young woman there in French and order in French.

I walk around town, window shopping, with my jacket on and scarf tied fashionably around my neck. I am wearing the wrong shoes, but my heels are packed because I’m walking on cobblestones.

I shop at the open-air market in the park near the metro station.  I buy tapenade (this amazing sun-dried tomato and olive spread), baguette, cheese of the goat, and des fraises (fresh strawberries from Provence) for my lunch.

I check out of the hotel and chat with the young woman at the front desk. We agree that Lyon is like Paris with its great churches, river (two rivers!), fantastic art, old town, neighborhoods, music, and food. It is less expensive and less crowded. Tons of shopping here as well, but I didn’t get to it.

I take the metro to the train station. My baguette is falling out of my backpack and some nice French person tells me. I fix it.

I arrive at the train station and can see on the board that my train is late. I understand that I will miss my connection to Toulouse, so I have my ticket changed. Of course the woman at the station who does this does not speak English. Why should she? She changes my ticket and my new train leaves one hour later than my original schedule.

I now have time for a picnic in the square in front of the train station. Beggars approach and I give them a bit of my baguette. Young men are giving away tabloids of some sort and young women want signatures for some petition. To these, I say “non.”

I go into the station and have an expresso. (un café)

I know to validate my ticket before going up to the platform to board my train. It is the TGV, the high-speed train. Today, I am riding dans le premiere classe (1st class). We hurtle south through Provence to Nimes, the intermediate stop before Montpelier, where I will change trains and head to Toulouse to meet my husband and son. All announcements are in French.

My train stops in Nimes and the conductor announces that there is an accident between Nimes and Montpelier. The train must “rest” here for one hour. There is a woman in my car who does not understand French, but English. I explain the situation to her, double-checking with the other woman going to Toulouse who does not speak English. The English-speaking woman gets off the train to find a better connection. For me, there is no other way to go, so I wait on the train.

The train arrives in Montpelier, along with 5 other trains that are late. It is a madhouse. I thought there was a train to Toulouse leaving right away that I could connect to, but I cannot find it. French woman has left. American woman is on the scene and is freaking out. Sooo many people, no one speaking English, long lines. No mention of Toulouse on the departure boards. Everything is 2 hours late. The gentleman behind the counter says to go information. No one is at information. I notice that there’s a 545pm train to Toulouse. I find the right information. There are people there. I get a reservation to Toulouse. All is well. French woman returns.

French woman gets on the train and breaks out the (petite) bottle of wine and has what’s left of the strawberries. I chat with the conductor who does not speak English. He takes my picture with my dinner. There are palm trees outside. I can see the Mediterranean. French woman is happy now.

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