Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Train Tripping out of Rodez

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.



Sarah said...

I was in your neck of the woods last weekend. We drove up to Rocamadour via Rodez, and stopped there for petrol on our way back.

I've taken the train Montpellier - Mende which was a lovely trip. Otherwise I only ever take the TGV to Paris or Lille (on my way to the UK).

Dorothy Borders said...

Traveling by train is always a treat and I envy those who are able to do it routinely. One can only wish for an enlightened national policy that would make that more feasible for more of us.

Debs said...

I love train travel. Unfortunately we don't have train lines over our side of town. Buses and ferries only. Though travel by ferry is also quite nice.

Betty Carlson said...

Sarah -- Rocamadour is a great area, I hope you had fun. Next time you will need to stop in Rodez for more than petrol! The new Soulages museum is definitely worth it.

Dorothy -- Of course the French train system is still far superior to the US one, although I do use the latter occasionally to go to Seattle or Portland.

Debs -- I have a friend who does a ferry commute from Poulsbo, WA to Seattle. That must be very pleasant (although it is a pretty long process.)

Alana said...

I grew up in New York City, and I am also afraid of flying. (I wasn't at one time but I haven't been on a plane in almost 20 years). I enjoy train travel, which (by subway) was a part of my childhood. I find the sound of trains, and the rocking, so soothing. And the scenery is so different than the experience while being a passenger in a car. I was sorry to find out train travel isn't the easiest in France. It truly is a shame.

Perpetua said...

I too love train travel and would much rather go by train than drive long distances alone. However it's many years since I last took a train in France - back in my student days in the 1960s. I think since then there have been may of the same cutbacks we've experienced in the UK. :(