Gare de Rodez, 6:15
Brive-la-Gaillarde is about a two and a half hour drive from Rodez, and when I had to go there for work recently, my manager was surprised that I requested to travel by train.
She assured me there would be a work car available for me. But between driving alone for five hours and -- for once -- being able to take a train with schedules that actually worked out with my professional obligations, the choice was easy.
First, I could read or work on the train, which I told her.
Second, I'm not that crazy about driving five hours alone, mainly in the dark, in the dead of winter, which I also mentioned.
Finally, I'm a secret train/train station geek...which got left out of the conversation.
In motion in Corrèze
A lot of my American friends imagine that in this very specific place they call "Europe," people are always taking trains and that you can get about anywhere on them. This is not necessarily true in France, and certainly not true in much of the South of France.
From Rodez, you can take the train to Toulouse via Albi; you can take it to Paris by way of Brive-la-Gaillarde; and there are a few stray trains to Millau that I have never heard of anyone taking. And that is about it.
The trains stop in various towns and villages along the way, but these aren't necessarily places tourists or inhabitants regularly go.
Of course from Toulouse, Brive, or Paris you can move on to other cities, but that often means pretty long trips -- so most of my friends and acquaintances are in the habit of driving or, if routes and finances permit, flying around France.
Just a weird shot of the sort of weird place you can only see from a train
I often read articles about cutbacks in train services from French town X to French city Y, and I know the cherished Rodez-Paris/Paris-Rodez night train, which allows us to optimize our weekends in la Capitale, is under recurring threats -- although it is usually packed when I'm on it.
But the SNCF seems to be making efforts to combine services to make more cities accessible. For example, when I first moved here, it was nearly impossible to get from Rodez to Lyon -- a 4-hour drive -- by train.
Now, by taking a regional train to Millau, a bus to Montpellier, and then hopping on the TGV, it can be done in 6 hours -- something I actually might consider.
At any rate, I hope I continue to have chances to take the train in France: for the photo opportunities, and also to kindle my memories of Europass days.