Travel: Getting to Lyon

Spent the bank holiday weekend out of London - went to Lyon by Eurostar and TGV. That meant that half the fun was getting there. Well at 6-8 hours you would want it to be fun. I am typing this on the return leg from Paris Nord to Lille Flanders on the TGV to pass the time by. I have seen this part of the countryside before.

Friday's journey involved leaving London at 14:00 and making a connection at Lille and arriving at Lyon around 9pm - enough time for dinner at a sensible bouchon - or something like that.

It was a hot day, and so was the Eurostar as it left Waterloo. In the section I was travelling there was an American businessman, a woman from Manchester, a French businessman and myself. Shortly after leaving London the woman started complaining about the heat. It was over 30 degrees in London Friday so when that happens the city becomes a sauna anyway... She could speak French so the crew were sympathetic but explained there wasn't anything we could do. It picked up a little after leaving London - enough so I ordered a hot meal - but approaching Ashford International station in Kent the driver explained we were going to make an unscheduled stop there while they attempted to fix a "mechanical problem".

I was watching the clock noting that I had a 20 minute window to make the connection to Lyon and that was fast closing. The others seemed more worried than I was but I figured I was on vacation and there was nothing I could do so I should just go with the flow.

All the food was taken away from us which was an ominous sign. The woman from Manchester - Betty - was most annoyed about not getting a cup of coffee so I taunted her with an outrageous French accent saying: "Ah neooo coffee for yoo. You have ad enouf!"

After about ten minutes of witty repartee with my travel companions - overlooking the lull when Richard informed everyone he was American and he lived in Texas (he might as well have said he was prisoner on day release) - the driver announced the train could not proceed, but that in 10 minutes time a train coming from France would be able to be swapped for our dodgy train to continue the journey to Lille. It is okay for the train to limp along in England with no air-conditioning but they don't want it limping in the chunnel or in France - which is probably a good thing.

As we alight the conversation went something like:
Betty:Oh aren't we all being terribly British about this, just not minding all the inconvenience.
Paul:Well actually I am Australian..
Betty:Really?
Richard:Isn't that sorta the same thing?

I wondered about that. Later that night French news played scenes of Australians distressed over the fact that some woman who was found with 4kg of dope on her, was sent to jail for 20 years. One woman was particularly hysterical that the girl won't be able to have children. At this point I realised as an Australian I wasn't getting hysterical enough.

But back to Ashford International Station. Waiting on the platform for the replacement train seemed to take forever. And then the people on the train seemed reluctant to leave - it could have been that some were still eating lunch. But Betty and I kept telling the people as they alighted that they would love our train - nice and cosy and warm. And they would enjoy the Kent countryside all that extra since the train could not reach top speed...

Finally on board and realising that my train to Lyon had departed Lille already I knew that it was going to be a longer night than planned. There was no coffee on the new train, but the airconditioning worked and they kept handing out the fruit juice.

Finally arriving a Lille an hour later, I bid farewell to my travel companions and told them this was definitely one of the more memorable trips.

I just assumed that trains from Lille to Lyon were a dime a dozen - or at least there were several ways to get to Lyon - and it turned out there was. It didn't help however that it was a hot day in France on Friday and tempers were short, sweat marks were long and I had to get downgraded to second class on the leg from Lille to Paris. Everyone was given a card to explain their rights for compensation however so I figured I can deal with that little matter later. Right now I am on vacation.

I arrived at Lyon at midnight practically and found that the metro had already shut down. Unperturbed I hopped on a tram which sort of took me in the right direction. I got a taxi for the last half kilometre since by then I just wanted to sleep...

But don't let that deter you from travelling on the Eurostar. It is fabulous and so relaxing (particularly when there is air conditioning and the trains run on time which is the usual case)... And travelling 1st class is the best way to go... As I can attest on my return journey... The story continues...

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