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Planes, trains and other things

As we approach the end of our trip to France, I just realized that I am going to have to write my article while on the train from the Loire Valley back to Paris to make my deadlines.  I often believe that the story comes to you and this article is no exception.

As we walked into the train station in Tours, France we noticed the big doors on the front of the building were being closed.  We went to the side doors only to discover dozens of police on site.  It turns out there had been a bag left on the platform and the bomb squad had locked the station down.

Normally that would not be a big deal, but we only had 16 minutes to make a train connection at the station in St. Pierre Des Corps.  That was where we would catch the bullet train to Paris.  If we missed it, we might miss our flight home tomorrow.   Not the end of the world, but more complicated than you might imagine.

The trains began to trickle into the outside platforms and service resumed, though the indoor tracks in the station remained cordoned off.    After a fretful hour, the train was announced as 5 minutes late, but they also told us at which platform it would arrive.    

Mary Lou and I went out into the howling wind. The wind chill was now below freezing as we stood on the open platform totally exposed.   Just when you think it cannot get any worse, it begins to rain.

The train came in 8 minutes late.  By the time we arrived at the connecting station we only had 5 minutes to make our connection to Paris.  We made it with just over a minute to spare.  I am now writing this article in a comfortable seat in First Class, hopeful that our trip home will be uneventful the rest of the way.

Traveling in other countries can be incredibly rewarding, unbelievably exciting and occasionally frightening.  We have always had people help us even if they don’t speak our language.  France can be a bit challenging as you get further away from Paris. 

People speak less English as you get in the countryside and most of the signage will only be in French.  Menus in most restaurants in the Normandy and Loire Valley areas were strictly French.  Some establishments had a person or two that spoke fair English.  Some had staff that spoke only very broken English.  Some had no one that spoke any English and had no menus except in French.  That is when you pull out Google Translator.

In all my travels I have only had one or two dishes that I did not like, even if I didn’t know what it was.   You just have to make up your mind that the dish will be good or the restaurants would not serve it to customers.   

It is that spirit of adventure, the angst of the unknown, the unexpected assistance from strangers that makes traveling in foreign countries so fun.   

We traveled by plane, train, private car, subway, and taxi.  This trip we had a new addition to our transportation options, Uber.  It worked as well in Paris as any city I have ever visited.  Even if the driver could not speak a word of English it was not a problem since you already typed in your destination.    Uber was great, but service was extremely limited or non-existent once you got out of metro Paris.

We also found that Google Maps made our traveling in unknown areas so much easier.  I have almost forgotten how to read a map but using one in another language can make it even more difficult.  France apparently has no streets on a grid, so getting lost is an easy thing to do.  GPS makes that all go away and you can walk the streets as easy as in your hometown.

The use of money is simple in France because of the country’s universal adoption of the Euro.   ATM’s are fairly common and accepted my local bank’s ATM card.  Even American Express was taken at every restaurant but two.   

Next week I will give some thoughts of a few sites we visited and things we did on this trip to France.  In the meantime, I am headed home and happy to be traveling in that direction.   

Now if I can just find me some of that good bread and French Onion soup, I will be fine.