Posts Tagged With: train station

Choo, Choo, Here Go I.

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I am trying hard to fight the romanticism of what I am about to embark on. I’m going on a train ride. A very long one. 16 hours (and 10 minutes). On Amtrak, which isn’t the Orient Express or anything close to it. Before that I have to take a commuter train (Metrolink),  for an hour and a half. And before that a 45-minute car ride to Riverside, CA train station. In between, a 5 1/2 layover in Los Angeles. Oh, and then a 3-hour car drive from El Paso, TX Depot Station to Carlsbad, New Mexico, my final destination. All in all, about 27 hours of travel. Is it crazy that my enthusiasm and gushiness have not subsided?

After the 45 minute car drive I arrive at the Riverside Amtrak Station. I buy my ticket at the machine on the platform since on the Metrolink commuter train you can only purchase it on the day of.

As I approach Los Angeles the old bridge studded with graffiti seems to ask if I really want to leave. The answer is a rotund yes. I’m due for a road trip even if it is on a train!

At one of my very favorite old train stations, Union Station, I take a seat in their waiting lounge where a friend I haven’t seen in a while agreed to meet with me to make the wait before my next train shorter. It’s 5:00 pm and the rush hour commute is full on as well as a sea of blue that arrives to go to a Dodgers game.

A while back I toured a space in Union Station that housed the Harvey House which closed in the late 60’s. It was a stop to men returning home from war and those going off. It was also famous for its “Harvey Girls” which were the subject of a 1946 Judy Garland film of the same name. I often wondered why such a magnificent space hadn’t been used. Well, about a year ago the Imperial Brewing Company went in and it is there where my friend Jon and I head to. There truly isn’t anything better than a friend to the rescue, good conversation, oysters and beer.

My friend leaves and left alone I walk through “my” station. Union Station is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” Inaugurated in 1939 I consider it a Grand Dame and give it the respect that entails. I love everything about it, including the characters in it. This group was singing loudly as they traversed it.

An Amtrak employee befriends me and chats with me until my time to board. Such a nice man, the kind that saves Amtrak from any criticism. He has been with the company for over 20 years. I think his name was Cyro or something like it. Thank you sir. And before I know it the time comes. I’m boarding!

I’m really glad that I checked my baggage because not having had to lug anything through the 5 1/2 hour layover was such a relief. And the storage on the train is minimal. Besides, the stairs going to the second floor on the train are so narrow people with any luggage or disability were having a rough time. I started helping people going up. As a result I was on a first-name basis with a lot of them in my wagon. I became fast friends with a retired gentleman going to Louisiana that was seated in front of me and another young man who had never been on a train, also going to Louisiana (I think they both had about a 2 day ride). The older one takes this trip 3 times a year and knows the train very well. He takes us on a tour. We settled in the observation car and chatted non-stop for hours. I now know what a lot of expressions in Louisiana mean and how to make gumbo from scratch. They were both great cooks.

We stop in Palm Springs and, with the lights, the landscape is eerie.

It’s around 2 am and we all head back to sleep a bit. I sleep soundly and quite comfortably. At 6:30 am Steve is up and looking my way. Want to go to breakfast? I say yes and off we go. He with a steady step, I bumping into the sides of the aisles. My equilibrium has never been good. At breakfast I forget my Keto diet and eat pancakes with syrup. The seating is cafeteria style and I smile inwardly when I think there’s a sense of intimacy to breakfast which I am now sharing with strangers. Train rides have a tendency to make total strangers into friends that tell you their life story.

Then to the observation car again where we claim the same seats we had last night.

As we cross Arizona we can observe the Cochise Head in the Chiricahua Mountains. If you look closely you’ll see his head, nose and chin. He’s face up.

Then we cross New Mexico (where I will backtrack to, once I “land” in Texas).

Train tracks all the way. The landscape is arid but I am most enjoying it.

I can’t believe almost 16 hours have passed since I boarded this train… 27 hours since I left home, but it must be because the conductor announces that our next stop is El Paso. I’m excited to see my friends at the station but I also am sad leaving the train. I kind of want this trip to continue on. Maybe forever. My friend tells me that I should buy burritos from this lady on the platform. They are tasty, really big, he says, and cheap at $2 each. But my friends will be picking me up and I’m sure we will eat on the way, which turns out so. We stop at a local mom and pop restaurant with fantastic service and that has their last name. I have a menudo. No. I am not keeping to a Keto lifestyle.

We have 3 hours to get to Carlsbad and as we drive we pass a checkpoint that brings back memories of 9 years ago when doing a cross country from Los Angeles to Orlando I was stopped and was questioned about my nationality and status. But that’s a long story that will be told another time.

We pass Diablo Rock where it is said that people have died on its trail from heat exhaustion. It does look quite imposing.

The sun sets, my eyes can barely stay open. Guess it was a long trip after all.

I have said that I would end my blogs with a song. One that reminded me of something or one that touches my heart in some way. I haven’t done so but I do want to, so this one ends with a video of a forever friend that just happened to have written a “little” song that Pat Benatar made famous and that forms part of many lives: We Belong. This song is one of my favorites of his, Arrows, of maybe a relationship lost but friendship gained. Dan Navarro is truly a folk legend.

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Categories: California, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“N’oublions jamais l’Australie”

We are on the road again…  We are off to Villers-Bretonneux a little town that experienced the first world’s battle (in World War I) between two tank forces (the British and the Germans).  The Germans took the town but the Australian Imperial Force recaptured it a few days later.  1,200 Australians died in the process.  A few miles from the town is an Australian Memorial and a cemetery where 770 are buried.  That is where we are headed.

Initially we were to take a bus to the Amiens train station but it is such a beautiful day that we end up walking.  In front of the Amiens station I spotted the cutest of buses.  I still get a kick out of how little cars are – even traditionally big ones as the Range Rover and Mercedes – in Europe.  Seems that they miniaturize buses too!miniature bus, Amiens, Fance

At the station train station, Amiens, France we buy our aller-rétour (round trip) ticket to Villers-Bretonneux.  We are lucky that the train departs about 15 minutes from when we arrive.  train workers, train, Amiens, France In one hour we will be there. The train is pretty comfortable SNCF, train interior, Amiens, Franceand I settle in with my espresso.  train, SNCF, Amiens, France  To my side, a reminder that I am in France: a baguette a main part of a traveler’s luggage.  Luggage, train, baguette, Amiens, France

We arrive.  station, sign, Villers Bretonneux, France  train, Villers Bretonneaux, France  Villers Bretonneux, France, train station, gare

We are two of only few that exit here.  No signs guiding us to the memorial so we decide to follow the only person that is on foot. Villers Bretonneux, France  Should we take the path unknown?  dirt road, Villers Bretonneux, France, Australian Memorial  The Franco-Australian Museum  comes up (the first thing that attracts me is the tiles on the floor)  Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, Franceso we go in Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, France   Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, France  Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, Francefor info on how to get to the Memorial.

They tell us that the Memorial is a couple of miles out of town and that it’s walkable.  So we continue. I am loving the stone houses. Villers Bretonneux, France. stone house,  Everything in this town has something Australian on it. Villers Bretonneux, France. kangaroo

We are leaving the boundaries of town. See the sign with a diagonal red line on it?  sign, leaving town, Villers Bretonneux

I promise not to go more than 50 km per hour (31 mph) in the construction zone.  In fact I don’t think I can walk that fast. Villers Bretonneux, France, road, road signs, km per hour   Though I may have to because that memorial looks quite far…Villers Bretonneux, France, countryside

The walk is long, the day is hot so I extend my right thumb in good hitch hiking mode and… nothing happens. So we continue on.  It doesn’t seem to be getting any closer yet suddenly we are there. Australian Memorial, Villers Bretonneux, France No one around.  We are alone. I fall silent.  Villers Bretonneux, France  Villers Bretonneux, France

Words of the mayor in 1919: “Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for…”

Villers Bretonneux, France Villers Bretonneux, France Many tombstones engraved with the one date they all died.  All so very young. Fighting someone else’s war. But the people of Villers Bretonneux are grateful, for, according to Wikipedia, on top of every blackboard in the school there is an inscription “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Let us never forget Australia.)

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There are stairs to go to the top of the memorial and I decide to go up disregarding my fear of heights. Villers Bretonneux, France, memorial  Going up. P1180656 The door to the outside.  P1180660  A few more steps and I’m outside.  The wind assaults me. I am quite high but vertigo does not take over and I am able to enjoy the view. P1180663 P1180665 P1180666  The markers have some names with significance to me. Amiens, London, Berlin, Paris and Villers Bretonneux.

 P1180675 P1180674 P1180673  We are not alone any more and as I climb down Dean remains upstairs and chatting with a fellow Aussie that thankfully gives us a ride back to Amiens where they are also staying.

We walk through town  children playing, fountain, water,  to meet with Lydie for us to have a mini table read.  The pastry shops are going to be the death of me.  This one has the dessert that I so loved: Paris-Brest (I know there is a joke here but please refrain.)P1180697 P1180696 Casa Crepes which kind of joins my culture with theirs, don’t you think? P1180700  But not all is food.  I’m taking my door photos too.  P1180710 P1180708  And windows.  P1180714  And buildings. P1180712 P1180711 Okay, back to the table read. Amiens, France, outdoor café  These are the remains of sorbets that our réalisateur (director) has devoured while we work. P1180717  Think I’m back to the food subject.  We leave.

I am now starving.  I get cranky when I am hungry.  I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry.  I need to eat now!  And when I’m this hungry even a McDonald’s will do.  And this one holds some surprises.  It is manned by smiley, cute people and it’s more in the vein of an upscale café than a McDonald’s, with comfy chairs and cool decor. Amiens, France, chair, McDonald's  And a sauce for the fries that is more on the mayo side which I like. Amiens, France, McDonald's. fast food A chicken wrap with a package that you can stand it up in.  P1180719 Amiens, France, McDonald's. fast food Prices are also a surprise: not cheap at all.

Now that I’ve been fed I have energy and will to have a walk around town.  We find a gem of a square.  Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square

I find the building that I would like to own.

 Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square

The day is done.  We have mentally wept for those gone, honored them, taken a step back in time, taken a step forward to filming, fed our minds and our bodies, and fantasized a bit about what we wanted.  Pretty full day. I smile and sleep once more.

Categories: Amiens, Amiens Square, Australian War Memorial, Franco-Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Rudeness, Pickpocket and Scam Alert!

The dreaded day is here.  The day Soleil  7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine and we part.  The day we leave our smurf bust. Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found The day Fifi stays behind.  She certainly has made herself at home.  Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat The last day when I look out the window or off the deck and will be reminded by the Eiffel Tower that I am in Paris.  Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine, window, room with a view
Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine, window, room with a view

I didn’t want the day to come but it’s here.

I very unwillingly pack.  We cross the plank with our luggage and place it in the garden.  One step further from our beloved péniche.    Fifi huddles behind it, probably because of the shade, but I am sure it is because she wants to come with us.Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure  Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure

I pick her up and go to our neighbor in the boat next to us and ask him if she is his and what her name is.  Fifi is now Yaya.   I think Fifi fits her better.

Up until now we have felt nothing but safe and have been on the receiving end of helpfulness and courteousness.  We walk to the station of Passy Paris, France, metro, Passy where in one swoop all that changes.  We are carrying substantial luggage that can only pass through the gate so I show our ticket and our luggage and ask the attendant how we can go through the gate.  He says it’s not free. I continue to smile and say I understand but how can we input the ticket for the gate (it has no slot)? Not free.  I know. How? Validate through the regular entrance and he’ll open gate.  I do.  He does not.  He is rude, nasty and unhelpful.  Had it not been for a passenger on the other side who opens the gate from the inside we would still be there.

Onward to the train (metro).  Two young women enter our wagon and stand at the entrance. Plenty of room behind them, but as I go in, one moves towards me. In French I ask her what she is doing.  Arreter!  Stop. She continues forward.  I avoid her and go towards the back.  They exit at the next stop and I look down and the zipper of my bag is open.  Fortunately nothing in that compartment for her to take, but it frazzles me a bit.

Onward to the Gare du Nord where we are going to buy tickets to our destination: Amiens.  Gare du Nord is a sea of clashing currents of human flesh.  Busy at all times.  A bit overwhelming to most.  No information booths are manned and we can’t find where to buy the tickets so we go to the machines.  A tad confusing and we must look it because we are approached by a lovely young lady who tries to help.  No, thank you.  Move onto another.  She follows and when we are about to put our credit card in she says that it  doesn’t accept foreign cards and we can pay her and she’ll put hers in.  I don’t think so!  We safeguard our credit card and move far from her.  It’s a well-known scam that has been going on for years.

We finally get to a ticket booth for SNCF but can someone figure out this billboard for me please? Gare du Nord, scam, confusion, train station, SNCF

Gare du Nord, scam, confusion, train station, SNCFThe train has little stars on the floor and I am ready to go into bliss zone again.

The countryside train travel, France, Amiens, Gare du Nord, countryside  train travel, France, Amiens, Gare du Nord, countryside shows up and in no time (about 2 hours) we arrive at the Amiens, SNCF, train station, France Amiens station. Amiens, SNCF, train station, France   Amiens, SNCF, train station, France  Bigger than I thought it would be..

Amiens, SNCF, train station, France

We are close to city center so after checking in we walk to town.  It’s about 8 pm. Amiens City Center It’s still light outside on a still mild night and no one is out.  Amiens city center, France The city seems deserted, yet it is beautiful and quaint.  Our stomachs (okay, really just mine) is clamoring for food so we sit at a pizza place Amiens, pizza place, Via Pizza,  and the entertainment comes to us.  A local theater group is walking through the plaza where we are, with the audience in tow. Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater  They stop with the police blocking the road Amiens theater as the actors perform. Amiens theater Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater

My pizza arrives and yes, that is an egg in the middle.  Via Pizza, Amiens, pizza with egg, France More than one pizza is served like that.  I avoid it and eat around it.  I accompany it with my favorite drink:  Schwepps tonic which is not that commonly available in the States in restaurants but is here.  Schweppes, tonic water, Amiens, France, Via Pizza

I decide to not remind myself that it has more calories than a Coke and enjoy every drop.

Amiens Cathedral, France, church, cathedral The cathedral is ahead.

We will walk there after dinner. Amiens Cathedral Through the side streets we go ’cause that is the way where many a surprise has been had and today is no different.  Australian Bar, Amiens, France, Aussie bar in France An Australian bar to satisfy my partner’s craving for his country though this one has Latino music blaring and a soccer match showing.  Is it crazy that I find this perfectly normal?

And then the cathedral, which is quite a beauty, intricately adorned with sculptures on the outside, The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, and quite huge.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church,The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church,

The plaza it is in is not bad either and the side streets are charming.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza   The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

 The carousel is closed and the streets are empty.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

It is time for us to go home.  Amiens  Amiens

We will explore more tomorrow… or maybe we will just chill.  🙂

Categories: 7th Arrondissement, Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Gare du Nord, Paris, Port Debilly | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Going 298 kph (186 mph). Today Je Suis Parisienne!

We arrive at the St. Pancras International Station in London (railroad) from where the Eurostar departs.  I am super excited to go on it. The waiting area is ultra modern St. Pancras International, London train station, Eurostar, London, England while the upper area, train, train station, St. Pancras International, London, England from where the train actually departs, gives you an “I’ve been here longer than you.” feel.  Customs/immigration is a breeze.

Our destination (another reason why my inner child is doing somersaults):  Paris!  I so love Paris.

The Eurostar Eurostar is set to depart at 3:31 and it leaves at… (drumroll please) at exactly 3:31 pm!!!

Tutu wants out and promptly takes over what is supposed to be my seat.  koala, train

I promptly put him in the front seat’s pouch.  He’s not too happy about this.  koala, train

The Eurostar goes up to 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph).  Super fast. Eurostar speed, mph, kph, London-Paris And takes the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France.  I find the speed mind blogging but the fact that we are underwater also blows my mind.  It will get us to Paris in 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Oh but wait, I blinked and we are here!!

Gare du Nord, Eurostar, Eurostar station, Paris, France

We get into the line (queue) to get a cab.  We are headed to the 19th arrondissement (district) to an apartment in an area that is very un-touristy and where we will probably become locals for the next 6 nights.  Love the woman in black. Very Parisian chic.  Paris, France, Gare du Nord

I am still hesitant to practice my French so I ask our taxi driver (in French) if he speaks any English.  Nope, sorry madame, I do not. (In French) And so my journey of embarrassing myself in French begins.  🙂  We manage to understand each other and actually have a bit of a conversation.  So engrossed am I in my French that Dean has to point out the taxi’s sunroof which is all glass. Paris, France, taxi, sunroof

We arrive “home”.  pied a terre, Paris, France, 19th Arrondissement, 19 district  It’s tiny but charming, quaint and cozy. Worth the climb up two stairs.  Paris, France   “Tres charmant!”  We seem to be in a red-mode here, as in London.  pied a terre, Paris, France, 19th arrondissement  pied a terre, Paris, France, 19th arrondissement  pied a terre, Paris, France, 19th arrondissement

It is a beautiful day. The first, it seems, according to the owner, -who came to greet us- in a while. We settle in.  Check out our view (and our neighbors) who have two of the cutest and biggest Newfoundlands I’ve seen.  sunset, Paris, France  Newfoundland, Paris, France,

British Flag  London, I will miss you but Paris… je t’aime!  Our first sunset in Paris is divine.  sunset, Paris, France

Categories: 19th arrondissement, France, Gare du Nord, Paris, St. Pancras International | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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