Feeling at Home on French Trains.
Well, I can report that SNCF, the vaunted French rail system, is not immune from some of the same issues that plague Amtrak.
My train to Chalon-sur-Saône departed spot on time from Gare de Bercy in Paris, but as soon as I sat down, I noticed that the windows were covered with a streaky brown film. Someone had washed them–days earlier, I’m sure–with what must have been dirty brown water. Then, being thorough, they used a squeegee to smear it around. And, mind you, I had a first class ticket, but it didn’t really matter: all of the windows on the entire train had been washed by the same crew.
Once we departed, the “Speed Box” application on my smart phone showed consistent speeds of 85 to 90 mph, and topping out several times at 100-103. The ride was quite smooth all the way to Dijon.
We arrived in Dijon on time, but sat for at least 20 minutes before there was an announcement throughout the train on the PA system, the tone of which was clearly out-of-the-ordinary. One of the several words I did catch was “terminez”, meaning “terminate.” It was followed by a half-dozen trains listed by their numbers, each followed by what was obviously a departure time.
Inside the station, a young woman in the information booth soberly explained that a train on the same route and running 30 minutes ahead of us had struck a person in Beaune, a city up ahead, and an investigation was still in progress. It was a suicide, of that there was apparently no doubt and, as we all know, this is a continuing and unsolvable problem in the U.S., too.
The next train to Chalon-sur-Saône left two hours later and delivered me here without incident.
It–the next incident, that is–was literally minutes away, however, and occurred when I took the elevator down to the lobby, heading for the hotel restaurant and dinner.
When the elevator door opened on the ground floor, standing there waiting for a ride up was a man in his mid-30s who was holding a large brown dog on a leash . The dog barked once and lunged at me. The owner was apparently ready for that and yanked the leash, restraining the beast. I stepped out of the elevator and, without a word of acknowledgment or apology, the man and his dog got in and the door closed behind them.
There was another dog in the restaurant last night–a little one, lying quietly at his owners’ feet while they dined. Ah, yes, the French do love their dogs and take them everywhere, even into hotels and restaurants. I’m OK with little and cute and well-behaved. But big and aggressive? Not so much.