05 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 14

At 7am on Tuesday, 5th April, I made coffee before popping out for some bread. Lisa made sandwiches for the train while I put away the bedding and closed up all the shutters. As always we tried to leave as little as possible for Nicole to clean up after we'd gone. Lisa made a final farewell call to Perry and we were ready to leave. I called for a taxi but after two attempts and two fruitless waits in the call queue we decided to opt for plan B and lug all our stuff over to Gorbella and get the tram down to the station. We'd had taxi trouble getting to the airport in September so Lisa had insisted that we be prepared to get to the station by alternate means.

We left at 9:30 and were pretty heavily laden but we made it to the tram stop OK. To my immense relief, the tram wasn't busy and we got to sit by the door with all our bags for the four stops to "Gare-Thiers". From there it was a short walk to the station and we were soon settled on our seats ready for the off.

Nice - Lille TGV
Nice - Lille TGV
Our seats were on the lower deck of the rearmost coach of the two coupled TGV trains on platform E and, as we left Nice, were two of only five passengers there. We gradually gained more company as we rolled along the Côte d'Azure towards Marseille where the two trains were due to separate. The front train was bound for Brussels whereas our train was due to terminate at Lille Europe from where we would get the Eurostar to London.

The train seemed much newer than the one that had brought us to Nice from Paris two weeks previously. The French TGVs are such wonderful trains! So smooth that there is no discernible transition from being stationary to moving and so quiet that all the passengers talk in whispers!

We had our breakfast of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches after passing through Cannes. Lisa is dozing in the window seat and I'm now all caught up to date here. It's just passed noon and we are currently flying through beautiful French countryside in glorious sunshine somewhere before Toulon.  Lisa is now reading her Kindle and the lady in the single seat across the aisle from me is playing Scrabble on her iPad so I think I shall go retro and read a paper-based book, Fuchsia Dunlop's "Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper", for a while.

* * *

At Marseille there was some delay as the two trains were separated but eventually we departed, reversing out of the platform so that we were now in the leading coach of the train. Lisa declared that now, 1:30, was time for lunch. So we opened up our cold bag and had a few sandwiches each and shared an orange. Now that the TGV is on the high-speed track north of Marsailles, it's racing along at a much faster speed. For Lisa and me it's back to the reading as we approach Avignon!

* * *

I finished the book just before we arrived at Marne-la-Vallée, on the outskirts of Paris, which I visited a couple of times on business back in 1993 when working on the Belgacom project (BNR Europe had a Meridian R&D lab there). After a short leg to Roissy-CDG, we are now on our way to Haute-Picardie: the last stop before we get to Lille. The weather is much cloudier now we are north of the capital; suggestive, perhaps, of what we are returning to in England.

* * *

We arrived at Lille right on time. Check-in for our train to London was not yet open so we waited a while in the waiting room. Finally we got to check in and wait in the featureless waiting room until allowed down onto the platform shortly before the Eurostar arrived from Brussels.

As soon as we were under way we were served a light meal with wine and coffee. It was raining in Lille and there was low white cloud all the way to the coast. By the time we re-emerged in England it was night time. We got into St. Pancras on time and were soon on a train for Cambridge.

And that, dear reader, is all I wrote!

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