Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

Festina Lente (3)

leave a comment »


It’s 09h00 on the 1st June and the sun is shining into the familiar breakfast room at the Grand Hotel de Tours, where I am enjoying my familiar breakfast and the headlines in Le Monde. And so to the 09h58 departure for Bourges. Two nice SNCF ladies are running this, and I seem to have installed myself in their private first class compartment, ah well.

SNCF ladies taking a brief and well deserved rest

10h02: St Pierre de Corps is a SNCF “technopole”, i.e. major junction, marshalling yard, engine shed, repair centre, graveyard. Rows of passenger units varyingly disfigured by graffiti or overgrown by weeds, old shunting engines shunted together, modern ones amusingly labelled “FRET”. The TGV to and from Paris stops here, which is why I know it all too well. If it were in England it would be called Tours Parkway. Speeding through its associated industrial wasteland, my train swings off to the right on the line to Vierzon  and Bourges.

10h24: Chenonceax Maybe it;s the weather but everything looks lovely, even though this is another PANG barely known to wikipedia. As we proceed, I notice that people in these parts seem to be into building houses as developments from existing limestone caves. And then of course there are also rich folks’ chateaux, poking their turrets out of the woods here and there.

10h29: Montrichard  has a full-on iron passenger bridge, dating from 1869 when they doubled the number of tracks on this line. It is followed by a couple of quite respectable tunnels. The stations on this line have rather nice red brick stripes set into white.

10h43: Saint-Aignan-Noyers  is in the middle of some flat farmland, so boasts some cereal silos and other rather unimproved old industrial architecture. There is a long long straight road leading from here to the horizon, on which you can just see the outline of one of those famous castles of the loire.

20130601_10035510h50: Selles-sur-cher (87) . Well preserved old style station. No-one gets on or off, this saturday morning, but we still sit and wait for a few minutes. Industrial buildings, some abandoned, some not, line the edge of the track for a while, until the woods reassert themselves

11h00 : Gievres (96) is a junction station with a branch line heading somewhere called Romorartin. Splashes of yellow gorse here and there. Muddy tracks enticing the eye into woodland

11h10 : Villefranche-sur-Cher (98) has an overgrown ambitious marshalling yard. This place maybe was somewhere once, or had ambitions to be. I am guessing that Cher is the name of that river we crossed a while back.

11h30 : Some even more extensive marshalling yards announce the arrival of Vierzon ville (122), which is a major junction, it seems, at the intersection of several routes, as well as a decent sized town. The junior of my two train ladies gets off here leaving her colleague to manage alone for the last part of this train’s run, past two radio masts, and a parc eolienne of the type my Norman colleagues get so cross about.

11h47 into Bourges  (130) , in plenty of time for a coffee before the next train. If only there were a bar in the station, or a functioning toilette. But there is neither, just a horrid supermarket. Outside the sun is still shining and there are numerous hopeful hotels, none of which will offer anything short of a large lunch at this time on a saturday, so I settle for a quick coffee in the only baker who’s still open before inspecting the riverside formal gardens and accompanying war memorial.

Formal garden at BourgesI see from the map that Bourges has a large area called Le Marais, which actually consists of marsh rather than narrow twisted picturesque old streets. And so back in time for my next train, the 12h30 departure for Nevers. This is an almost identical Bombardier unit, in the care of another nice SNCF lady.


Quondam station at  12h35 Saint Germain du Puy The station building has been thoughtfully transformed into a bar where I could get another coffee if we stopped for more than 2 minutes. Ah well, off we go again past nice little homes with nice little gardens into rich fertile farmland… and industrial scale agro-factories, reasuringly mixed with acres of woodland and wheat, or maybe it’s hay. A man, appropriately dressed, sprints very slowly past on the track beside our train

1245 Avord. The stations on this line are a different design from those on the line to Vierzon, but clearly of the same period. And equally clearly, not a lot has happened to disturb them between the mid 19th century and the start of the 21st (when the line was electrified).

12h51 Bengy sur Craon  has a rather pretty church visible from the station as well as a really silly name.

12h56 Nerondes The station is fairly clearly unused. This is farming country. Grain silos.A tunnel!

130h7 La guerche sur laubois seems like a pleasantly sleepy country town, prosperous enough to maintain three trains a day, and a street full of small shops.

13h20 into Nevers (186). A large station, with its own fancy subway, and all the trappings of modernity. I was a bit worried about having only ten minutes between trains, but the connexion was easy. Here we leave the Central Region and enter Burgundy, home of The 13h30 train to Dijon is (as they say) labellisé as belonging to the Conseil Regionale de Bourgogne as well as the SNCF, though the rolling stock appears to be identical (Alston, TER for the use of).

1340 Imphy station is dwarfed by surrounding old engine shed, scrap metal sheds. Once it had a proper station but now it’s just another PANG.

20130601_123051_v1 1353 At Décize I woke from my snooze to see that we are travelling alongside a river, or maybe a canal, and that most of the waterlogged fields around here also sport big crowds of white foraging beasts which are not sheep but cows. This must be were they grow the active ingredient in steack frites.

1404 Cercy la Tour No sign of a tower unless you count agricultural silos

1424 Luzy (271m) Nothing to see except sheds. Purpose of station is to load goods trains, really More fields of white cows, woods, wooded hills and rivers.

1439 Etang sur arroux (277)  There’s a fair going on here, but my train is slowing down, and then enters a tunnel. From which eventually we emerge, some 70 metres higher, into the little town of …

15h00 Le creusot (352) : lots (well five) people get on! On tother side of the mountain there is a conurbation of sorts, and then we start going down hill again alongside the river. Sky clouds over for first time today, boo.

1505: Montchanin has a smart new signal box and shunting yard but its wikipedia entry is entirely vacuous. The fields hereabouts are not full of cows any longer, but instead what looks very much like vines. We must be nearly arrived at this train’s terminus: Beaune 

Subway, BeauneThis is a large station with a much decorated subway. I am surprised to learn from it that the true father of cinematography was not a Bristolian called Friese Greene as I had always supposed, nor the American Eadweard Muybridge, but in fact some French chap called Etienne-Jules Marey  – apparently Beaune’s most celebrated son.

I have a 90 minutes between trains here, which is a good thing since the walk into the centre of town in search of a nice cup of tea takes rather longer than anticipated. The town centre, when I find it, is picturesque, and full of people on holiday enjoying the sunshine and buying large amounts of interesting wine. My luggage is heavy enough, so I content myself with some nice biscuits to go with the tea.

20130601_161253_v1Last train of the day is the stopping train from Paris Bercy to Lyon, which pauses briefly at 16h59 in Beaune. This is a cut above your average local regional TER: it is a real train with a locomotive and carriages that at least pretend to have compartments. Like other long distance trains, it proceeds in occasional rapid spurts, interspersed with patches of dawdling. Sitting on it is quite a different experience from the Bombardiers I have been on all day. The countryside looks further away, and not just because the windows are dirtier I think. There are three stops (17h15: Chagny, 17h25: Chalon sur Saone, and 17h45 Tournus) before we arrive at my final destination for the day, Macon.

I have booked into a chambre d’hote I found on the web: an old house opposite the Police Station and just ten minutes walk from the station. The lady who runs it helps me and my suitcase up the stairs to a very smartly renovated mansard, offers me home made orange wine, and wifi, and is generally welcoming. She also confirms that La Couronne restaurant just up the road is quite  acceptable and even books me a table, where I subsequently enjoy solid Burgundian dinner and a decent glass of wine (their specialty is frogs, but I decline the offer)  And then   a little stroll along the banks of the river, and so to bed.


Written by Lou

June 4, 2013 at 10:18

Posted in Biographical

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: