09 November 2014

2014 EUROPE by Rail 10 - Next is Nice Ville

We woke at 08:30. I looked out the window and saw Uncle walking down to check the river. I surmised the bridge was holding strong from his expression as he returned. So good to see his smiling face. We exchanged hellos from the window.

Soon we were mostly packed and down to breakfast. A real treat. It was a concoction of pancake mix and eggs scrambled into what looked like fat noodles. Then you sprinkle with sugar. It was umm-umm good and hardy. (Terry also gave us two packets of mushroom egg drop soup to take home.)

I must add that we have been so impressed with Aunt Terry's cooking throughout our visit. All was fresh ingredients and combinations of things that I would not have thought go together. Simple and rustic farm fare, but often elegant at the same time. 

Before leaving we closed all the blue shutters on the house. It is a way to say "nobody home."

We left at 09:45 for NîmesOur train departure was 11:32. Roads and streets were bare on this Sunday morning.

B&T wanted to see us settled with good directions for departure before they went on their merry way. There was only one chore in town before boarding the train. That was to get some Euros from the ATM machine.

Aunt helped us find one at a nearby bank, as there was not one in the train station as expected. Our MasterCard worked. Yay! Always a worry at the start of a trip.

We have a hard time with good-byes, so they did not linger or wait for the train to depart. Some quick kisses and a few hidden tears on my part and they headed home. We had enjoyed our time with B&T tremendously, but we were also anxious to see new sights.
As we waited in the great hall, two kids played (fairly well) on the piano open for anyone's use. It echoed beautifully. I visited the restroom (.50 Euro collected by an attendant). Mike bought the NY Times in hopes of finding news of the Russian Formula 1 race. While we waited a half hour or so, we reminisced about the wonderful memories we had already made at B&T's, loving every minute of our visit so far.

The train was delayed only five minutes. It was not high-speed, but fast enough and comfortable.

The terrain inland was mixed, but mostly rolling green pastures and white rock "mini" mountains. EVERY house had a red tile roof. Although some commercial buildings had flat roofs of gravel or tar.

In fields train-side we saw a few futbol (soccer) games playing. There was lots of graffiti along the tracks, too, but mostly words rather than artful paintings or stenciling. Don't know if it is political, name tagging or what. We saw the word "Brume" at every station.

People on the train were dressed in every attire. One lady wore sparkling "diamonique" (those huge stones could not ALL be real diamonds), tight leather pants with zipper cut outs filled with black lace, silver and black tiger stripe sweater and black leather boots. On the line of sexy / risqué / fashionable. There there were students in very casual wear (t's, sweats, layers of jean material), 
and everything in between.

Dogs on leashes are abundant in France, mostly little chihuahua, beagle or miniature poodle types. But others also. Many traveling on the train with their owners. Some dressed in little coats. All are well-behaved.

At the Arles station a man overheard us wondering about the mural on the station wall. It included farm herders and flamingos (not shown on this photo). He politely broke into the conversation and said flamingos lived in Spain, but not France. The flamingos here puzzled him also.
He introduced himself as Tony and added the mural depicted local folklore. He said this area was known for rice-growing and black cows. There were also wild or free (liberté) horses living nearby.

His English and our French are minimal, but somehow we understood what was necessary. He pointed out a huge lake (Etang de Bolman, I think) that we might have mistaken for the Mediterranean sea. We saw a few water-skiers. He commented his daughter lives on its shore.
He had never traveled to the U.S., but maybe in two years he might. He works for Shell Oil and lives in Marseille. He said Marseille is the second largest city in France. We offered him a granola bar and he took it. Later he asked if we were staying in Marseille. I think he would have asked us to dinner or a tour, if we were.

The travel time to Marseille St. Charles Gare (or Station) was 1-1/4 hours. Tony got off in Marseille and we connected to another train there. We said our good-byes. We soon missed his continuing "travelogue."

The next train was older. It was more crowded and we could not reserve a seat for this leg. We found two seats with a little table and they were facing forward. A treat, as up til now we had been facing backward (a little disconcerting and not great for photo taking).

Around Marseille, we began spying our first glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea. It was the beautiful azure blue with sugary white sands you see in all the movies and photos of the French Rivera. It looked warm and inviting.

Seaside homes were perched on the ends of little red rock jetties slicing into the water. Others were high on the cliffs. All had a wonderful view. The train stopped at Cannes and Antibes. Way out in the sea, we saw floating aqua culture nets probably raising fish. As we got closer to Nice we began seeing yachts of every size in harbors. Ah, the Riviera!

Up until now everyone we had met was gracious, helpful and happy. On the train we got a glimpse of some grumps--two sourpusses sitting across from us. One across the aisle hogged two seats with all her luggage, while folks stood. After many stops a young gal asked her to move her luggage so she could sit. The sourpuss reluctantly did so, but still took up more than half of the two person seating.

The gal above departed, so her seat was empty. The gal across the table from us had an empty window seat next to her. A couple with a baby in a car seat boarded. The mom asked and gestured could this girl move across the aisle so the mom, dad and baby could sit together. It was an aisle for an aisle swap, but this sourpuss acted like she did not understand and stayed put.

An older couple across the aisle, said, "Just put the car seat on our little table." The couple was so thankful. The young parents were pleased to be together even though they stood the whole way. The baby got admired by all and was perfectly smiley and quiet until near their stop.

For awhile a young fellow sat across from us in the window seat. As soon as he was settled, he took out paper and pencil and started writing equations. Like a young Einstein might do.

That seemed odd to us, but it must have been something he was trying to memorize. After a while he got out a second sheet of paper and began comparing them and making a few extra notations. He inspired me to do some note-taking myself about our trip.

After 2-1/2 hours on this segment, we arrived on time at 17:06 to lovely Nice Ville (the name of the station). It was dry and sunny on the whole trip today until we got to Nice. Very over cast there and off and on light rain showers. We managed to step between the raindrops for the most part.

I was sure I knew where the hotel was, so we started walking with our roller bags. After about eight blocks in the direction I thought we should go, we realized somewhere along the line we made a wrong turn and were lost.

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