On the (Rail) Road Again.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there is a strike by railway workers underway here in France and, as with most things French, it’s being conducted in a uniquely French way. The union members–that’s pretty much everybody–don’t want to paralyze the country, so they only walk out a few days each week. And some trains continue to run, even on those days.
Tomorrow is one of “those days” and of course it’s a travel day for me. I’m leaving Carcassonne and heading for the little town of Verney-les-Bains, which is one of the termini for Le Petit Train Jaune. But it’s a small town and out of the way, so on a normal day, getting there would require three trains: Carcassonne to Narbonne; Narbonne to Perpignan, and Perpignan to Vernet-les-Bains (start to finish, about three hours).
Of course, because of le grève (the strike), none of the three trains originally booked for me are running tomorrow. As a result, I have to take an earlier train from here to Narbonne, and a later train from there to Perpignon. The result is a four-hour wait in Narbonne. And–Oh, yes!–the train from Perpignan to Vernet-les-Bains was also cancelled, so instead of a 50-minute train ride, it’s going to be an hour-and-a-half on a bus!
And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between train travel in the U.S. and the rest of the world. On most of the Amtrak system, if your train is canceled, you’re screwed. The next one is 24 hours later. In France, there’s another one in 90 minutes.
Frequent trains. What a concept!