Published on July 23rd, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
Fast Trains in Europe
I do love a fast train in Europe. There is something addictive about a train that speeds you through the countryside at 300 kilometres an hour.
I especially love the way the trains glide silently out of the station as though they are on air. There is no rattle or sensation of being on a train, just a lovely smooth feeling of floating on a fluffy cloud.
“You are in my seat,” I haughtily (but politely) told a man recently, pointing to my ticket which clearly stated seat 94 where his bottom was firmly planted. He looked at his own ticket, and then up at me, and haughtily (but politely) replied. “Yes, but you should be in coach 8, this is coach 7.”
But their speed can bring anxiety for the nervous traveller. It’s not the thought of a train crash (God forbid), more about getting on the wrong train. Do that and you could end up hundreds of kilometres from where you have booked (and paid for) your hotel for that night.
The announcements in the stations in France – where I write from today – are spoken very fast, no English translation, and you must listen carefully for the train number.
Your train from, say Avignon to Paris, might be going on to Brussels and will have Bruxelles on the board as its destination, not Paris. It is the train number you must go by. And try getting the number right when it is spoken in rapid French. We all seem to be familiar with the number soixante neuf for some strange reason but try hearing cinquante-et-un-soixante-douz when it is said at rapid speed. Then feeling reassured you are getting on the right train.
It is also important to get on quickly as the trains are so efficient they don’t stay in the station for a second longer than they have to. This is a moment of super-anxiety, as your ticket will have a coach number and a seat number on it, and if you are in, say coach 5 and are standing where coach 23 pulls up, that’s a heck of a long way to gallop down a station with a heavy suitcase. Just get on the train, I say, and then make your difficult way along the coaches once the train has taken off. (There is an efficient system to have you standing on the right spot on the platform for your coach but I don’t have the space to explain it.)
Although my travel-mate and I have done many trains all over Europe, rare is the time we get in the right coach on the right level: upstairs or down. We blame each other for this as we huff and puff and curse and drag our suitcases along narrow aisles knocking people’s knees and causing everyone in the quiet coach to give us filthy looks.
“You are in my seat,” I haughtily (but politely) told a man recently, pointing to my ticket which clearly stated seat 94 where his bottom was firmly planted. He looked at his own ticket, and then up at me, and haughtily (but politely) replied. “Yes, but you should be in coach 8, this is coach 7.” There was applause for the man as I slunk away.
However, once we are settled in our correct seats in the right coach it is all happiness from then on because my travel-mate, a Queen’s Scout in his youth, comes prepared.
He has a back-pack with baguettes he made that morning (ham, brie, Dijon mustard, we are in France after all) and plastic bottles of frozen pink wine. Do not scoff. He freezes the wine in empty water bottles the night before so it will be frosty enough to last a three-hour train journey.
“Here’s to wine slushies,” we say as we clink our plastic glasses and look out the window to fields of sunflowers dashing past. Many is the time our train has glided elegantly into our destination as the travel-mate shakes the bottle and the last defrosted pink drop pours out.
Happy train travels.