Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

Festina Lente (2)

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I make my excuses and leave the MRSH in good time to squeeze myself and my bags onto the tram down to the station. In fact, much too good time, since I then have to wait around for 20 minutes. But eventually…

15h45 : Train Express Regionale no. 57210 heads out of Caen and across the Lower Norman countryside in a southerly direction at a stately pace. There are many many stations to come…. indeed, before you can say Jacques Robinson we are pulling in to…


15h58 : Mezidon!  Never heard of it, but the sun is shining and the platform is covered with cheerful looking young people. A portly SNCF person approaches to ask whether anyone fancies getting off at the next stop, but seems uninterested in checking tickets.

16:06 : St Pierre Sur Dives  is a tiny halt, but the train still waits there hopefully for a few minutes. No one gets off, or on. It barely has a presence even on Wikipedia. The countryside remains green, with ancient looking stone barns and farmhouses. And occasional rows of cottages with their backs to the railway. There’s a general air of nothing much happens here. I realize how pleasant it is to be able to actually see the countryside I am travelling through, even though there really isn’t much to see except huge expanses of greenery interspersed with trees, with occasional clumps of stone cottages. You get the idea: la Basse Normandie is very very rural. It also has railway stations so rural even this train doesn’t stop at them. Oooh horses!

17h27 : Argentan  looks like a bigger place. For one thing it has a tennis court, and something that looks suspiciously like a factory, to say nothing of a dual highway rushing alongside, a huge multistory carpark, and a nice big newish railway station. More students pile on , though not of course into 1st class. A second cheminot, sporting a proper peaked hat rather than a mere beret, joins the first one on the train and starts checking the tickets; mine is now satisfactorily punched.

17h43 : Sées  (apparently pronounced “say”) is bosky on the approach. An old station building in brick and stone, with a greatly expanded platform. A main road beyond it along which trundle 2cvs and huge lorries. Yellow gorse on the hedgerows. L’opposition de ses habitants à la ligne de chemin de fer Paris-Granville a contribué à faire stagner la ville lors de la révolution industrielle au profit d’Argentan (Wikipedia) A motorway snarls alongside, parallel to the railway between here and the next stop

17h56 : Alencon. This is actually a city: its station has more than one platform, a plethora of platforms indeed, as well as a new building (the old one was flattened during WW2), a  carrefour market, a proper 19c cemetery, and an agglomeration. It doesn’t last. We’re back in large green fields, trees, hills, horse and cow country pretty soon.

18h12 : Vivoin – Beaumont  is approached via a deep green cutting and is of the type charmingly known in French as a PANG (un point d’arrêt non géré ) . It has a level crossing, where the traffic is held up, and a much graffitoed old shed for its station building. But people get off all the same. Not much of a conurbation, and leaving it all I notice are distant hills, topped with castles. The fields seem to be getting bigger too. A couple of stations flash by.

The first clear sign that a big city approaches is an Auchan supermarket…followed by row upon row of factory style prefab sheds. Yes, it’s

18h29 : Le Mans  a major railway junction and city as any fule kno. It even has trams, a tasteful brown colour. And of course acres of HLMs and row upon row of terraces, multistorey car parks, a bus station, a taxi rank, shops and bars… a proper big city railway station where TGVs stop. Lots of people get off, not many get on. We have now entered a new TER district. After sneaking away through vast expanses of marshalling yards, my train settles down for the last hour of its journey. Out into the countryside again, but seemingly more wooded and agricultural than Normandy: we are in the pays de la Loire.

18h50: Ecommoy is another place whose station is much too small to accommodate this train (I am sitting at the back of it), having hardly changed since it opened in 1858. The village looks much the same too. There’s lumberjacks round here somewhere, judging by the freight yard full of sliced up tree.

1908 Chateau du Loir another small place with a big disused freight yard, nothing to see of station. Can’t see any chateau, but it could be anywhere, hidden away in these wooded hills. Almost everyone has left the train and all is quiet, as those who have not left are mostly contemplating their laptops playstations or mobile phones. The scenery outside the window remains charming, varied rural, as the train skirts some river, zips through some forest, passes the edge of a hamlet, rumbles through some station not worth stopping at. Finally it crosses a huge river which I take to be the Loire and pulls into the majestic Gare de Tours, notre terminus and offficially a historic monument.

Gare de ToursI check into my favourite Tourangellian hotel, and then go in search of dinner at le Chien Jaune. This used to be a somewhat chaotic bistrot, but has now (I learn from a fellow diner) been bought by the owner of the Odeon, so the food is much better, but the prices have gone up. And so to bed, well pleased with my first day’s démarche.


Written by Lou

June 2, 2013 at 19:29

Posted in Biographical

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