DAY ONE - TRAVELLING TO PARIS
I'm not sure if this should actually count as Day One because firstly, there wasn't much of it and secondly, I didn't actualy leave the country. It was however they day that I hit the road (or rather hit the rails) and so for that reason I've included it as a fair candidate.
Having said that though, I did actually hit the road rather early. I was all washed up, cleaned up, tidied up (well, sort-of) and on the road for 09:45 because today is the day that Liz and I record the Radio Anglais programmes for the month of September. We did the Radio Tartasse sessions in the morning and then I drove Caliburn down to Liz's and left him there, piling myself and the baggage (no, I was not taking Percy Penguin) into Liz's voiture for the journey down to Gerzat and the Radio Arverne sessions.
When that was all over she heaved me out at the railway station at Riom and that was that. And only a wait of 75 minutes for the train. Good job there's a coffee machine here.
Eventually my train pulls into the station at Riom, and this is the locomotive that is pulling it - all the way to Paris Gare de Lyon.
And start as I mean to go on. My Jane's Train Recognition Guide doesn't tell me very much about it at all, which is surprising, but it has a similar kind of shape to the Alstom Prima range of trains from the turn of the century.
My seat on the train was next to a girl with whom I had a healthy conversation. After about 10 minutes, she noticed me reading a book in English and so the discussion became, on her part anyway, much more animated (mine was already animated-enough).
It transpired that she was from Inverness and a student at St Andrews University, studying French for Scientists. She was spending a year's exchange living in Vichy and immersing herself in the language but she'd been in Aurillac for a month house-and-dog sitting. Her family lives in the wilds and they have no mains electricity - just solar panels and wind turbines and so we had a good chat about that and I gave her one of my business cards.
Start as I mean to go on, didn't I say?
From Vichy onwards I was on my own all the way to Paris Gare de Lyon. And to my surprise, we were more-or-less on time. Of course, this isn't the United Kingdom where delays are commonplace and where there was once the legendary announcement
"British Rail wishes to aplogise for the timeous arrival of the 08:22 from London Euston. We regret any inconvenience that this might cause to your journey."
Here's a better shot of my locomotive sitting there right at the end of the line. It's already lost its carriages to the locomotive that's going to pull it back out again. You can tell how long it took me to organise myself.
This station, by the way, is very well-known to every schoolboy and schoolgirl in the United Kingdom because it is from here that Richard the Lionheart used to take the train to the Holy Land in order to do battle with the Saracens in the Crusades. In fact, he was such a regular passenger that the French nicknamed him Richard Gare de Lyon.
From here it was downstairs to the metro to the Gare Chatelet-Les Halles and then across the platform there for the RER to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. It's a nightmare struggling across Paris with a heavy suitcase and I'm going to have to do something about this. It's really annoying me and I'm stressed out enough when it comes to airports.
Anyway, I eventually arrive at the airport and now I need to find the shuttle bus that will take me to my hotel for the night. It calls at Terminal Two and Terminal Three so any one of the RER stops will do, but the first RER station, Terminal Two - is the second stop for the bus and the second RER station, Terminals One and Three, is the first stop for the bus, so it's totally immaterial which one you take.
And what's happened to this blasted bus anyway? I've been standing here for about a flaming week and there's neither sight nor sound of the perishing thing. Has he lost his dratted way?
Anyway I eventually arrive at the hotel (this photo was taken next morning after I woke up, just in case you were wondering. I didn't have to wait all night for the bus) and there's no perishing internet. Or, at least, there is internet but it's not working. Badger!
To ease the pain, I go for a walk around the nearby town and discover that there's a pizza restaurant, but would you believe (well, I suppose you would, knowing how things pan out for me) that the flaming thing is only open in the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and that's not a tap of use for me because it's Tuesday night and I didn't get here until 22:00 and the blasted thing would have closed at 21:30.
It's a good job that I brought some biscuits with me, and a good book as well.