Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Having Trouble with Trains

I had a little trouble with the Eurostar a couple of weeks ago, well actually it wasn't me with the trouble, but rather friends visiting me from England who had to catch the train back home. I was naughty and nearly made them miss their train as I was late in getting them to the station. I'm so bad with catching trains and I really need to learn my lesson sometime soon.

When I went to Germany in March I went there with my work people, including my boss, for a workshop, and we were all taking the same train. They all got there with plenty of time and were starting to get worried that I would miss the train. My boss had told me the day earlier that the train left from a different station and so they were worried that I had gone to the wrong station. I never went to the wrong station, but perhaps I should have told them that so I didn't look so slack. The thing is I'm justincredibly complacent about train travel for some reason. So anyway it was a sprint through the station to get to the platform on time, though in the end I was there with plenty of time, maybe a whole 5 minutes :). Everyone was quite relieved when I turned up just before the train pulled out. I've had other instances like that when I'm going away for a weekend and have tours and hotels booked and I'm sitting in the metro trying to think of a plan B if I miss the train, but then I haven't missed one yet.

The problem is I have my watch set to the Paris train time, and I know that the trains ALWAYS leave on time, without fail and so long as I'm at the platform with at least a minute to spare I'll be fine. I really need to miss a train, then I'll learn my lesson. This complacency has now, unfortunately, spread to how I treat my visitor's travelling. I had friends visiting from England, the land of the random train timetables, and they had to catch theEurostar home, which involves customs. Once we got to the station with about 13 minutes to go, I was fairly confident that they would make it, but perhaps they were not so sure. Anyway it wasn't a very pleasant ending to a holiday, running through Garedu Nord in the middle of Paris rush hour, I don't mind doing the sprint myself but I must learn to be better with visitors. So if they still read my blog I'm really sorry about that and for anyone else relying on me to get them to the train station, I will do better with you, I promise!

The weird thing is I am completely paranoid with airports. There I like to be hours early, I don't know, maybe I just really like airports plus the security checking always freaks me out. I'm also always sure there will be some problem with my booking, I don't think I fully trust electronic ticketing yet. It is true though that I do prefer airports, train stations are normally cold, hard and full of strange/scary people. Whilst because airports are so far from town you only go there if you work there, are meeting someone or leaving somewhere, you don't go to an airport just to hang out. And they are so shiny and new with fancy shops and places to eat, as opposed to the rushing commuters and a few benches, normallycompletely full, in the train stations.

Anyway I think my guests had a good time, at least up until that last hour in Paris. We did a wine tasting on one of the days, which was my first Paris wine tasting and it was really awesome. If you are visiting Paris I recommendO'Chateau , it was given by a Kiwi who had grown up in wineries and so was really relaxed and casual, not pretentious at all. He went through the different French regions and we had 7 different wines and now I can slurp with the best of them. There is also a company that does a wine and cheese tasting, so I might have to try that before I leave as well.

It was pretty funny doing the wine tasting though, the group seemed to be divided into the Americans, who had written books about wine and were seriousconnoisseurs and then the rest, who's relationship with wine consisted of "I drink too much of it" or "I have no idea about wine". I don't know why you would go to something which is obviously aimed at complete tourists if you had studied wine, maybe you like to feel superior every now and again. Though honestly they weren't bad at all, especially once you got stuck into your 7 wines you don't really notice the other people there.

One thing I have noticed with American tourists and I don't know the reason for it, is that typically when tourists in a group are asked where they are from everyone else always says just their country, whilst Americans always say their state only, or even just their city. Is itbecause in America you are really different depending on which state/city you come from? The problem is I don't think the rest of the world really knows the difference between say Wisconsin and Missouri. At best the rest of the world would perhaps be able to pick between maybe San Francisco and Alabama, so really they are only broadcasting to other Americans rather than the natives. Is itbecause they are the superpower of the world that the assume everyone else knows all 50 US states? Does that mean that in a few years time when China takes over Chinese tourists will simply give their province? Perhaps I should start sayingNorthern Territory when people ask me, I mean Australia could be a superpower too :)

Oh and that random photo above was taken when my friends were visiting, we went to Luxembourg Gardens and as it was one of the first nice days here all of Paris was outside trying to sit on the tiny patch of grass available to them. We had been sitting round the corner on a lovely, almost completely empty, patch of grass when the park policeman came around to shoo us all off. Apparently that patch was not for sitting on, there was no sign up though. I don't think we would have fit on the grass available for sitting so we settled with a park bench.

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