Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, June 05, 2008

France 2008 - travel day, May 14

After a rough night in which people outside in the narrow street under our hotel window yelled at each other for hours, we had a nice petit dejeuner complet (I think that's what it was called - it had eggs, in any event) at the Bistro where we had our first beer. We had purchased tickets for the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) on the internet and our departure time was 1 pm so we had the morning to kill. We decided to walk across the Seine and have a look at the University in the Latin Quarter on the other side.

As we walked onto the bridge, I noticed two young women standing on a sort of pedestrian island. Later, we determined that on the left side of the wide bridge were two dedicated bus/taxi lanes that went in both directions. One of the women didn't look where she was going and stepped out onto the two lanes, right into the path of a taxi. The side of the car clipped her hand and spun her around and she fell forward onto the street. The taxi never even slowed down and didn't stop. Even if the pedestrian was at fault, it seems odd to me that the car wouldn't even stop.

Her friend screamed and traffic continued to go by while the woman who was hit got up and walked over to the main sidewalk at the side of the bridge where she had been headed. She had scraped her knees in the fall and she was nursing her hand which may very well have been broken in the impact, but otherwise, she seemed okay. A bus coming in the other direction stopped and a helpful woman got off and talked to the young women. We decided they had enough help and we didn't need to interfere so we kept on walking. But it was a bit of a shock and we weren't even involved.

It turns out that the Museum of Natural History is on the other side of the Seine at that bridge. We wandered around and looked at sculptures of dinosaurs and then headed up the busy, noisy road that runs along the river - the Quai Saint-Bernard. It seems the French love their cars and they zoom around in them all day, everywhere. There is never a lull in the traffic and I'm not sure if there are emission controls either. I sneezed regularly all the time we were in Paris. So we walked up the Quai and suddenly noticed what looked like pens behind the wall on our left as we were walking. It occurred to us that this might be a sort of zoo, when we spotted an Emu and then some other animals and finally ran across the sign that indicated it was indeed a Parc Zoologique. I mean, it's on the map, but we hadn't noticed.

By then, we'd had enough of cars and headed back to check out and trudge over to the Gare de Lyon where we were to catch the TGV. It was way early but I had a fear about missing this train that we'd paid big bucks for tickets in advance, so Peter indulged me and even though the train wasn't due to leave until 1 pm, we were there with our bags at 11 am. sigh. Sorry about it dude. So what do you do when you get to the station early and there are NO seats in the public areas? You sit down at the restaurant and have - you guessed it! a beer! We nursed that thing for over an hour until they finally started setting tables for lunch and then we felt we should move on.

The station itself is very pleasant to look at and I think I studied it (or one just like it) lo those many years ago when I took art history. It was quite the feat of architecture to span a huge open space like that, covering many tracks for the trains to come in and be under shelter. There was a large board with all the incoming and departing trains information on it and it was updated every few moments. Most of the trains left right on schedule, especially the TGV. Ours boarded about 10 minutes early and left right to the second, when it was due to.

The train journey itself was uneventful and the trains go so fast and I had had so little sleep the night before, that I fell asleep on the train and missed some lovely scenery. We changed trains to a regular local in Lyon and because we had a bit of time there between trains, we got a late lunch which consisted of a baguette sandwich with tomatoes and slices of brie. I don't ever remember having a brie sandwich in North America! Next stop - Arles.

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