Tag Archives: Lyon Part Dieu

Saturday 3rd September 2016 – ONE OF THE THINGS …

… that is pretty much guaranteed to get my goat is the general unco-operative spirit of people who seem to deliberately set out to obstruct and inconvenience every single one of their fellow human-beings. And I had one of those on the train today from Leuven to Brussels. Here I was, struggling with my mammoth suitcase and there was a family, with pushchairs and all kind of encombrances blocking the passageway, and they simply sat there and watched as I struggled my way down the aisle.

You can tell that I’m leaving Leuven and heading closer to Brussels, on the first leg of my voyage elsewhere.

Despite being thoroughly exhausted after my walk around the city yesterday – so much so that I had an early night, and despite two trips down the corridor, I was awake quite early – round about 06:20 or thereabouts. And I’d been on my travels during the night too – but then again you don’t want to know too much about this seeing as how you are probably eating your breakfast.

After breakfast I packed up and sorted everything out. By the time that I had done this, it was midday and so I went and fetched Caliburn. Strawberry Moose had quite a surprise as I stuffed him into his suitcase, and then I took that up to my room and took down everything that I don’t need. I then took Caliburn back to his little hidey-hole and walked back.

On the way back I bought two baguettes – two being necessary because there is no other way of my obtaining any food tomorrow during the next leg of my journey so I have to make butties. I had lunch and made the butties for tomorrow and then packed my suitcase and sorted out everything that I need.

And here I have had a disaster – I don’t have the charger for my other telephone. Well, I do, but there are two of them and one doesn’t work and it’s the one that doesn’t work that I have managed to bring with me. So this is going to cause a major problem tomorrow late afternoon.

I’d also forgotten the saucepan. I had to wash that and then walk back to Caliburn with it, otherwise I would only forget it. I know that it’s not much good, but it’s the only one that I have at the moment.

And another thing – I’ve solved the mystery of why I always seem to pick up an infection, a heavy cold or cough (or both) when I’m in my room, which goes almost as soon as I leave. The reason for this is that there is about 6 feet of dust and fluff underneath my bed. This cleaner-person just seems to clean where he can see and that’s your lot. No wonder it’s affected me so much.

But, as I have said before, I’m not complaining. I had an important reduction on the room rate due to the time that I was spending there and the price of less than €26 per night, breakfast included, was an excellent deal.

By 16:30 I was ready to leave and so I hit the streets. Dragging the monster suitcase behind me I made it to the bus stop and then on the bus to the station. And despite the difficulties I made it to Brussels all the same. And I got lost in Bruxelles-Midi – it’s all changed since I was last here and what with repairs and renovations and bits closed off, it took me an age to find my way around to the Thalys lounge.

It was 17:15 when I arrived and my train was due to depart at 19:15, and we could board it half an hour earlier, which seemed like a good idea to me. I sat around for a while and then went off in search of food because there won’t be any at all where I’m going tonight. I ended up with a veggie burger and chips and a bottle of pop, quite over-priced (which is only to be expected when you have a captive audience) but wasn’t as disgusting as I was fearing.

Just for a change, I was a mere third on the train and my suitcase, with His Nibs inside, was first on the luggage rack. That’s much more like it than the mad scramble that occurs at Lyon Part-Dieu (which is where this train is heading, incidentally).

Not that it made much difference though, because there was hardly anyone on it. I’ve never been on such an empty TGV – or have I? The one that I took from Lille to Charles de Gaulle a couple of years ago was quite empty, so I recall. It didn’t fill up much more at Lille and we shot off into the sunset from there still pretty-much empty.

At the airport (yes, I’m at the airport) we had the usual half-hour wait for the shuttle bus, and when I finally arrived at my hotel, the hotel had no trace of my booking, even though I had the agency’s confirmation. This led to a very interesting 30 minutes at the reception desk, but luckily the bridal suite hadn’t been booked and so I’m spending the night in 5-Star luxury in an emperor-sized bed. And you can’t say fairer than that, can you?

So an early start tomorrow, and we are off on our travels again. See you soon!

Wednesday 13th July 2016 – I’M BACK …

… in Leuven. My stay back in France didn’t last too long, did it?

I had another good sleep, only having to leave the bed once. Well, twice actually, but seeing that the second time was 05:50, just 10 minutes before the alarm was due to go off, I didn’t bother going back downstairs. Instead, I dressed and went down to make breakfast.

By the time that I had done that, made my butties for lunch and had a shower and change of clothes, it was 07:10 and Terry was ready so we hit the road.

It was a beautiful drive right across France to the Rhône valley and Lyon, and we were there on the outskirts of the city by 09:20. The next 6 kilometres was a different proposition. With the traffic queue that we encountered and then the changes to Lyon’s road network that weren’t shown on Terry’s Satnav, it was 10:10 when we arrived at the station. It’s a good job that we had allowed plenty of time for the journey.

There was however plenty of time for a coffee as the TGV was late arriving. 11:00 was the time of departure, but we finally set off at 11:25. We stopped at Marne la Vallée, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lille as I expected, but also at Haute-Picardie and Arras which I hadn’t realised. Consequently it was 15:30 when we pulled into Bruxelles-Midi.

The journey wasn’t boring though. I did a pile of work on my website, though and I was sitting next to a woman whose father was born in Les Ancizes. We had a lengthy chat about the Auvergne, and she and I set the world to right about the Brexit. It’s not very often that I meet someone who thinks along my lines.

A brief amount of excitement at Bruxelles-Midi was when I bought my ticket for my onward trip to Leuven. I used one of the automatic machines and I received my ticket, plus one from the previous passenger who had clearly forgotten to pick it up. I had to find an information booth to leave it there.

15:56 was my train to Leuven, and by 16:30 I was there on the station. And it was pouring down too. It started almost as soon as we arrived at Charles de Gaulle and had continued for almost all the way. Typical Northern French and Belgian weather.

It soon brightened up though and so I set off for my place of residence. Half an hour’s brisk walk it took me to arrive here and that was carrying a large bag too. That made me think how much my health must have improved. I would never have done this two or three months ago, and round about now i ought to be experiencing a collapsed blood count and expecting a blood transfusion instead.

It’s nice to be back in my little room again, even if I am moving on to another room tomorrow. I grabbed a coffee and sat down for a relax. Tea was rice with lentils peas and carrots and it was delicious too. I must remember to buy some more boulghour tomorrow.

Now, I’m going to have an early night. After my marathon voyage today, I reckon that I’ve earned it.

Tuesday 12th July 2016 – I NEEDN’T HAVE BOTHERED …

… to go to all of this effort and worry about this morning.

I breezed into the bank, checked my accounts, and then gave the bank cashier the kind of instructions that would normally have caused a considerable amount of upset and confusion, and probably have led to the involvement of the bank’s Head Office. And I was prepared for quite an argument too.

But to my total surprise, and in an attitude that is going to change the way that I think about banking in the depths of darkest rural France, the bank clerk carried out my instructions to the letter without even batting an eyelid and, even more astonishingly given everything that was involved, without even asking to see any identification.

We were in there, out and gone in less than two minutes and that must be something of a record.

I had a reasonable night’s sleep in the nice comfy bed at Liz and Terry’s. So reasonable in fact that I only left it twice, and when the alarm went off at 07:00, I promptly turned over and went straight back to sleep. It’s been a good while since I’ve done that, hasn’t it?

Off to Pionsat and the bank, and then round to my house to sort out my mail and pick up a few things that I might need. And what a mess my place is in. Brambles, weeds and long grass everywhere. It’s just so depressing. I’ve asked Terry if he’ll attack it with a strimmer if he has five minutes, then I’ll be able to find the front door.

We went shopping for food, and I bought a baguette to make some butties for tomorrow seeing as I’m back on my travels to Leuven after all of this. I didn’t get to stay for very long, did I?

Nothing happened in the afternoon – I stayed in and did some work on the blog to bring it up-to-date – and then tonight after tea we had the laugh of our lives.

Celtic, Scottish football champions, were playing Lincoln Red Imps, Champions of that major and important footballing nation … errr … Gibraltar, in a Champions League match which could not unreasonably have ended up with a cricket score. And the final result? Lincoln Red Imps 1, those giants of Scottish football … errr … 0. I’ve never laughed so much in all my life.

So another early night, because it’s a 06:00 start. I need to be on the road by 07:00 as it’s a long way to Lyon and the Part-Dieu station for my train. But at least once I’m on it, it’s direct to Brussels with just three stops and no messing about in Paris.

Over 800kms in well under four hours. That’s the beauty of the TGV

Thursday 15th October 2015 – NOT A SINGLE PHOTO …

… for the return journey today, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

But I left you last night with me dozing off in the middle of a film. And I awoke to find that not only were we starting our descent to Frankfurt Airport, I’d actually missed my breakfast seeing as how I’d been asleep. And that’s not something that happens every day – missing out on a free meal. Mind you, I made sure that they knew that I was awake and so they quickly brought me my breakfast and coffee before we landed.

And I’m not quite sure if we landed or if we were shot down over the airport. It was a really rough arrival and when I looked out of the window I could see why. It was blowing a howling gale and teeming down with rain.

I had to travel right across to the other side of the airport for my connecting flight to Lyon. That took a good few minutes and a tram ride, I can tell you, as well as another passage through “security”. And I’ll tell you this – if the passage through “security” at Frankfurt could be completed in the same friendly, relaxed and informal manner in every airport throughout the world, then flying would be a pleasure. I spent more time discussing cameras with the guy at the gate than I did discussing security issues.

Our plane was parked up on the concrete pan right back across to where I had originally arrived, and so we were bussed right back over there. And as we turned around a corner of the building, a huge Airbus 380 took off right alongside us. It was absolutely immense and dwarfed the A340 upon which I’d arrived and which we drove past a minute or so later.

There was no chance of my taking a photo of my aeroplane in this wind and rain. I was drenched just crossing the pan from the bus to the ‘plane and it was freezing too – much colder than it was in Montreal and that’s a change. Anyway, it was a Boeing 737-300 that we had and it’s been years since I’ve flown on one of those.

And here’s a thing. Why is it that when the chief steward of the plane announces on the PA system announces that “you should not be sitting next to an emergency door if you are unable to open it”, they become quite upset and all peevish when you try to open it just to make sure?

And there was no snack for me on this plane either. But the stewardess found me a banana, which was very nice of her and I much appreciated it.

At Lyon, the wind and rain continued and it was even colder than at Frankfurt. We had a little drama on the tram at the airport as a foreign lady had boarded without having a valid ticket. She was waving around the receipt, claiming that that was all that she had received. However, when I had bought mine, two tickets had fallen out of the machine. I’d taken both with me onto the tram intending to give the spare one to the conductor, but here was the reason right before me.

At Lyon Part-Dieu, there was no train for 2 hours and so, now that there’s free public access internet at the station, thanks to the SNCF, I caught up with some stuff on the laptop and then went to the Subway around the corner for lunch. Handy places, these Subways, even though the price in Europe is twice what it is in Canada which is totally ironic seeing that food is twice as dear in North America as it is in Europe.

I had a good deal on the train – €33 and a bit – for my journey to Montlucon. And I had to run between trains at Riom as ours was 5 minutes late arriving from Lyon, so no time to photograph either train (no chance of doing the Lyon one at Lyon with the rain) and I arrived at Montlucon bang on time, with Liz waiting in the booking hall to take me home.

But I didn’t go home. Instead, she took me home for a nice meal and shower, and a nice warm bed. 2°C it was as we passed over the Font Nanaud and I can see me lighting the fire as soon as I return home. Have I ever lit a fire so early in all the time that I’ve been living here?

Friday 14th August 2015 – ZURICH IN THE RAIN

view from premier class hotel lyon part dieu france
Having crashed out at some silly times like 22:00 last night, and having slept the sleep of the dead, I was up and about, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, by 06:00, admiring the view from my hotel window. And a nice warm shower quickly brought me round into the Land of the Living.

By 06:30 I had finished watching the film that I started yesterday, then edited all of the photos, uploaded them onto the web and then brought my blog

up to date, all by 08:30.

I’ve had a good breakfast too – I’m not sure at all that there will be something for me to eat on the plane to Zurich and while I’m now in possession of a fruit loaf and some biscuits (as well as a bottle of water), thanks to the Carrefour Hypermarket in the gallery down the road, on these kinds of journeys the plan is to eat when I can.

I’ve uploaded a pile of radio programmes to the laptop too, to refresh the radio library, and with a few other things that needed to be done, I was out of the hotel and gone by 10:45.

airport tram lyon part dieu airport st exupery lyon franceAt the station (the other side of the station) there was a tram already parked at the platform ready to go to the airport so even though there’s a €1:00 supplement (on what is already a steep fare) for tickets bought on board, I wasn’t going to hang about. A bird in the hand … and all of that.

Lyon airport is something of a maze, and to make matters worse, you have to look long and hard for a baggage trolley. I couldn’t find one, and at first I thought that they simply didn’t have one, but I later saw someone at the check-in with one so they must exist somewhere. But the terminal is big, clean, light, airy, and there are not too many people about. At the baggage check-in, I didn’t even have to queue. There was an assistant waiting for me.

Even the passage through “security” was relatively stress-free, although the woman at the scanner had a good moan about my camera. I think however that that is more to do with the fact that she was of the moaning type, rather than for any other good purpose.

dash 8 400 swissair flight lyon france zurich switzerlandAs for our plane – well, what can I say? It was nominally a Dash 8-400, built by Bombardier in Canada, but you don’t need to be an aircraft expert to recognise this for what it is – a Vickers Vimy.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were at the controls, Ameilia Earhart was sitting at the back, and I had to move Glenn Miller’s sandwiches off my seat. That’s the kind of plane that it was.

view fromair dash 8 400 taking off from Lyon st exupery airport franceI shan’t say much about the flight. The events speak for themselves. We had to wear our seatbelts throughout the entire flight and they refused to serve tea and coffee at any moment during the flight. All of the kids were screaming during the flight, and one or two of the adults were too. Not for the faint-hearted, this particular flight.

And as for the landing – well, we didn’t actually land. It was more like we were shot down over the airport. But even that didn’t deter the passengers, many of whom rose from their knees to give the pilot a round of applause – presumably to celebrate the end of the flight

And it was here that everything started to go wrong. I was waiting for over an hour for the hotel shuttle bus to arrive, which it never did. And no-one answered the hotel telephone. Eventually, another hotel bus driver told me that there wasn’t one for the Ibis Budget Hotel. He offered to take me for 20:00 CHF

However I’m not easily taken in by this kind of thing and I walked down to the bus station. Here, one friendly river with whom I had quite a chat with whatever German I could remember. He sent me over to the 510 bus an while the driver was a little on the grumpy side, he put me off at the right place and pointed out the way to the hotel from there – all of 50 metres.

At the hotel, there’s no electrics for guests. All of the sockets are these two-pin mini-continental sockets and you need to buy an adapter – cost 10CHF.

We had a few words about that, and at the end of our debate she finished with "is there anything else that I can do for you?"
Well, she was in her early 20s, long blond hair, a nice shape, but I remembered where I was."No thanks. You’ll probably want me to pay for it".

old land rover snow plough zurich airport switzerlandWhen the rain stopped (did I say that it was p155ing down?) I walked back to the airport for a recce. I ended up walking past the car park for a hire company. And here parked at the back was an old Land Rover snowplough that had clearly better days.

In fact, this is quite a rarity here in Switzerland. There are all kinds of old cars in the country but mostly quite expensive and fully-restored. I can’t say that I have ever seen a vehicle in this kind of condition lying about like this.

zurich airport switzelandYes, I really did walk back to the airport. It took me all of about 15 minutes. And I’m glad that I did because it gave me an opportunity to photograph it

I discovered that a 24-hour ticket would cost me 13:20CHF to cover all of the zones that I need to get into the city, and so I duly did. Had I done that earlier, instead of paying the bus driver for the single journey, I would have been quids-in. But you have to pay to learn.

I found an all-night supermarket, lots of water, and a main-line railway station where, inter alia a train goes every evening to Budapest. I made a note of that. But I’ll tell you something – I was astonished by the number of beggars (mostly young, fit types) loitering in the streets.

zurich city centre by night switzerland

Another thing that I noticed was that allbut one of my night-time images of Zurich didn’t come out. I’d gone into the city with the intention of trying out the camera on the phone at night in an urban environment, and the result has not been succeesful. The daytime ones work fine as you can see, because everything to date has been taken with that.

And on the way in, I noticed at the Haldenbach tram stop an imbiss type of place so I leapt off the tram (such are the advantages of a 24-hour tram ticket) and yes, they did indeed sell falafel.

So I’m fed and watered and ready to bed. But I’m struggling to come to terms with Swiss prices.

Thursday 13 August 2015 – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE …

…I’m ready well in advance of time to go.

Well, I’m not. I have been looking for three days for the $200 that I drew out of my Canadian Bank before leaving last October, so I’m having to go without it. And now I know why I drew it all out too. My Canadian bank card expired back in May!

So I hope that my European cards work, otherwise I’m going to have a couple of problems.

Mind you, it was touch and go that I got here in time this morning. I’d been out in Eastern Europe in a city that straddled the border between the East and the West. I was in the east with a party of people (as it happened, people with whom I worked in Stoke on Trent) and we were in a coach or a train that wasn’t moving but the seats were comfortable. Anyway, who should turn up but Nerina, with her Afro haircut of the early 90s. She sat next to me and ended up sharing my bunk, and I could see all of the people looking around and quizzing each other as to who she was.

I asked her how she had made it over to here – did she come by rail through the East, because I was interested in the trains that she might have seen, but she had come to the railway station in the West and walked across the border, which disappointed me.

So first job was the washing up. And that was when I made a startling discovery – that I had brought some water up last night to do the washing-up, and then left it on the side and went to bed. I’m definitely getting old, aren’t I?

And then there was the beichstuhl that needed emptying, cleaning and refilling, such delightful jobs that I have.

I’ve also cleaned the waste bins and isn’t that a first?

Liz came for me and we went to the mairie to pick up a Certificat de Domicile but as I expected, it’s closed for the holidays. I must remember to ring up on Tuesday! I did meet Valentin there though, loading up the Commune’s little van. We had a good chat and it seems that he’s re-signed for Pionsat this year, and that’s good news! I’ve no idea why he went to play at Terjat.

piaggio APE brasserie de la gare montlucon allier franceLiz and I went for coffee in the brasserie opposite the station.And while we were there, this interesting Piaggio APE pulled up just opposite.

I had a brief chat with the owner but he didn’t say very much. But he didn’t mind me taking a few photos of it (it’s always polite to ask).

It brought back a few memories of the Piaggio APE50 that we discovered on waste land in Brussels and which now resides – or it did, the last time that I heard anything about it – in Stoke on Trent

SNCF single unit diesel passenger train franceHere’s my train – a little single-unit diesel. I’ve not been on one of these before. But it’s nice, clean and comfortable – a far cry from anything that you find on the rails in the UK.

And we set off bang on time too, which is another far cry from life on the rails in the UK. And one thing that I like about France – “we regret that the toilet on board the train isn’t functioning. If you need this service, please make yourself known to the guard who will arrange for a longer stop at one of the stations that we visit”.

Mind you – I was half-expecting that we would be offered the possibility to pull up on the main line at a suitable hedge.

I didn’t realise that there were two railway stations in Montlucon – but I do now!

The line to Riom is what can best be described as “bucolic” – what one writer once wrote as a “merry, mazy ramble” across the Auvergnat countryside. I’ve advanced about 25 kms but it’s taken me an hour and a half and about 90kms to do it.

diesel multiple unit riom puy de dome lyon franceAt Riom it’s pouring down – a real torrential downpour – and my train is bang on time. And then this is where I realise that it’s lunchtime and for once in my life I’m caught without a supply of food about my person.

By the time I reached Vichy it had stopped raining, but it had started again at Tarare.

place part dieu lyon franceFirst stop at Lyon was at the Subway for a very late lunch. And it was at here that we had the usual Subway dialogue-
Our Hero – could I have a 12-inch with nothing but crudités?
Serving Wench – do you want cheese with that?

trolley bus lyon franceThere are trolley buses in Lyon these days – I hadn’t noticed that before. It seems that all of this “obsolete” transport of the 1950s – trams, trolley buses – was not obsolete at all. In fact, it was a hundred years ahead of its time. And it seems to be doing its work here in Lyon too because the streets are much less crowded than any other European city that I’ve visited recently.

As for my hotel, it’s 5 or 10 minutes away from the station. It’s modern and clean and tidy, with all of the services to hand. I had a lovely vegetarian pizza (I always bring my own cheese) for tea. It seems that this idea of flying out of Lyon, at least to here, is paying off in spades.

And as good an idea as it might have been, it could be even better too, believe it or not, because there’s a cheap budget hotel – the Athena – with rooms at €58:00, actually built into the station block. A walk of about 50 yards.

I shall have to look closely into this, but not tonight because although it’s only about 22:00, I’m crashing out.

Thursday 9th October 2014 – WELL, I WAS RIGHT ABOUT ONE THING.

I missed the connection at Brussels.

And not by 5 or 10 minutes either, but by a whopping couple of hours too. It took all night to evacuate this ill person and her baggage and we were about a couple of hours late before we took to the sky.

The flight itself and the food were excellent but the in-flight entertainment was rather rubbish. There wasn’t a single film that I was interested in seeing. On the Sports Channel however there was the World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Germany from 2014- the match where in a devastating spell of just 6 minutes half-way through the first half the Germans totally demolished the Brazilians.

At Brussels, those of us with onward journeys to attend to had to regroup in order to see what they airline had in store for us. For me, they could move me onwards to Paris via … errrr … Frankfurt am Main. That was clearly out of the question. However, there was one person who was flying on to Lyon and so that gave me an idea. When I was at Montreal I heard them call an Air Transat flight to Lyon and while I’m not overly impressed with Air Transat, I still put into the back of my mind the idea to go around to the airport at Lyon to see what I could see and to spy out the land.

This seemed like the opportunity and so I made the appropriate noises at the airport staff. There was indeed flight to Lyon but at 17:00 in the afternoon, meaning that I had 5 hours to kill. A meal voucher for €16:00 to compensate me in part for the inconvenience meant that I could have a meal but even that voucher only made a slight hole in the price of the meal, prices in Belgium being what they are. But nevertheless, the choices of meal here seem to be better than what was on offer when I was stranded at Paris Charles de Gaulle last year.

zaventam brussels national airport belgium october 2014For the rest of my stay in Brussels, I also took the opportunity to go for a wander around the airport, inside and outside. It’s been a long time, 9 years in fact, since I’ve been here and there was a time when I was here a couple of times a week, back in the good old days.

So braving the horrendous weather outside, because it really was bad outside, I went for a look around.

zaventam brussels national airport belgium october 2014There have been some tremendous changes to the airport in this time. Outside, there’s an enormous amount of redevelopment and much of the old building is being swept away and replaced ith more modern stuff.

There have been even more changes inside the place. A huge programme of expansion has taken place with all kinds of new terminals and departure gates and I do have to admit that it is quite a significant leg-up from how it all used to be in the past.

The plane to Lyon was one of these small 70-seater things with about 40 passengers on it. The flight took a quite reasonable 75 minutes which wasn’t bad at all, even if there was no special meal for me. That came as no surprise seeing as how I’d chopped and changed from one flight to another – it can’t be helped. I was glad that I had had a meal at Zaventam. And descending into Lyon through a thunderstorm, we were being tossed around like a cork on the ocean. Not for the faint-hearted, this descent.

Lyon was a very nice airport, quite modern and up-to-date, and the tram connection to town, quite shockingly expensive at €15:70, was nevertheless straighforward and direct, to right opposite the main railway station in town. No issues whatever with this at all (apart from the cost of course).

The ticket for the train to Riom cost a mere €16:00 with my senior citizen’s railcard (and that puts into perspective the astonishing price of the tram ticket) but there was a wait of 100 minutes for my train. No mind – it gave me an opportunity to look around outside the station. In the square behind the railway station there were all kinds of food shops, including a Subway sandwich store so I grabbed a foot-long vegetarian and orange juice there – that was tea sorted out.

Further investigation revealed that just a 10-minute stagger away from here is one of these Premier Class tourist hotels. A modern unit-type hotel with en-suite facilities.

So the verdict on Lyon as a departure point for Montreal? Well, even if the only flight offered is an Air Transat service, then I am no longer going to struggle all of the way out to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Apart from the tram fare, everything else that I would need is right here in front of me at Lyon, much more so than at the airport hotels in Paris. There will also be a saving of over €200 on my travelling costs and that, dear reader, is all that you need to know.

The train to Riom presented no problems whatever, and Terry was there to meet me at the station. Liz and Terry offered me a bed for the night, for which I was extremely grateful, and I was out like a light. It had been a long day.

Tuesday 26th August 2014 – WHAT A FLAMING SHAMBLES!


This afternoon at Gerzat we had about 2.5 hours to record our radio programmes for Radio Arverne before I needed to leave to catch my train. 6 programmes this week, which meant that we would need about 2 hours or so.

Normally we would arrive there at about 14:00 and so our 2 hours would take us up to 16:00 leaving plenty of time for my train at Riom at 17:06. However, thinge never normally go according to plan and so we set out earlier, arriving at 13:45. I’d also had some kind of premonition and so on our way down to Gerzat we had stopped at the railway station at Riom so that I could pick up my ticket and so miss the rush-hour rush.

And I’m glad that we did, too.

When we arrived at the radio station, the junior engineer was outside smoking a cigarette. And inside at the office, the secretary told us that it was indeed the junior engineer who would be recording us. “Ahh well”, we breathed a sigh of relief. “He’ll be here in a minute”. That was famous last words, wasn’t it?

By 14:10 I was starting to become restless so I told the secretary how pressed we were for time. She phoned him up and then told us that he would be here in a minute.

By 14:25 I told the secretary that to call him again and tell him that at 16:30 we were walking out, regardless of wherever we were in the programmes.

Anyway, he turned up at just before 14:30 and by 14:34 we were ready to go. At least, some of us were. The engineer had a friend in the recording booth with him and was too busy chatting to see our cues. Every cue was missed and at one stage we overran because he had failed to give us our time signal.

As a result, at 16:30 precisely, we upped and went, even though the final programme was only half-way recorded. How they intend to finish it, I really don’t know, but ask me if I care.

For a change, everything went well-according to plan at Marcillat with Radio Tartasse. It’s usually there that we have our major issues but today, everything was ready and passed off without a hitch, even if I did forget to take my memory stick with me (good job I had the laptop in Caliburn).

It was nice to see Liz and Terry again after all these weeks and to talk to them about their holiday, and Terry gave me some really good news. Apparently Toolstation, Screwfix’s big rival, has now opened for business in France. They don’t stock the range of goods that Screwfix stocks, but from what I have seen, their prices for what they do carry are cheaper. I’ll be interested to see how their prices compare to Brico Depot. Anyway, it’s nice to see one of the major UK D-I-Y suppliers taking the initiative in France.

local train riom chatel guyon lyon perrache puy de dome franceAt Riom Station, my train came in on time. It’s been upgraded from the original rattletrap to something more modern, but it was jam-packed with people. There wasn’t a spare seat on the train. I’ve no idea what was happening there.

And not only was it on time leaving Riom, it was actually on time arriving at Lyon Part-Dieu too. And I felt so much better when we arrived too – leaving all of this mess behind.

TGV lyon part dieu france
However, being on time at Lyon was more than can be said for the TGV. It was 10 minuts late pulling into the station. And the fact that I’m passing comment on it shows you just how unusual this is. Normally, the trains run bang to time.

And while the luggage space was comparatively full, there were quite a few empty seats on the train. Not like last year when we were crammed in like sardines.

So by the time we got to Phoe … errr … Lille we were 27 minutes late, 3 minutes short of the magic 30 minutes that gives me a 25% return on my ticket. And now I’m in my hotel – a 10 minute walk from the TGV station. I’ve had a hot shower and I’m off to bed.

Monday 18th August 2014 – I’VE BEEN DIGGING UP …

… the shallots today. And there was quite an amount of those too – easily the best crop of shallots that I’ve ever had. I’ve washed them and they are draining off overnight, and tomorrow I’ll have to hang them up to dry off.

But I really am impressed with the crop. It’s superb.

I’ve also dug over the three potato beds again. Loads more spud too – it’s amazing how many were left behind yesterday but that’s something that always happens with potatoes. No matter how many times you dig over the beds, there’s always some potatoes left behind to grow again.

The beds have now been hoed and raked over and are now covered with black plastic to keep the weeds off. I can therefore forget about them for several months until the winter.

This morning though I booked my train and hotel. I’m leaving Riom on the usual 17:06 to Lyon Part Dieu and then the TGV – but this time as far as Lille. I’m having to stay two nights in a hotel before my flight leaves and two nights in a hotel in Lille is about the same price as one night in a hotel at the airport.

And not only that, there’s no food or anything at the airport except to be held to ransom in the hotel’s restaurant (and they can’t cook anything for me anyway) whereas in Lille there’s much more going on and much more choice.

Everything is now charged up as well – the North American phone, the North American SatNav, the spare batteries for the dictaphone, all that kind of thing.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to start packing. I mustn’t forget the car charger for the laptop and a few other bits and pieces but I’m certain that I’ll forget something before I leave. Most people make a list and then pack according to the list. I simply pack, and then make a list of whatever I have forgotten.

Monday 26th August 2013 – WELL, I MADE IT TO THE AIRPORT

terminal 2 airport charles de gaulle paris franceBut it wasn’t half touch and go, I’ll tell you.

I didn’t manage to get anything in the way of sleep last night either, because I couldn’t find the keys to my storage box and my safety deposit box in Canada.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and so I put a couple of batteries for the Ryobi angle grinder on charge. It’s as well to be prepared, and that will sort out the men from the boys of course. After that, desperate measures were called for and I started going through all of the waste bins.

I’m glad I did because I found my missing personal telephone directory NOYE TO SELF – have a word with Cécile about her method of tidying up. I found lots of other disagreeable objects but no keys and at 08:52 I called it a day and started to pack everything away.

However, I had a thought. I definitely remember putting the keys in a zipped pocket and they ought to be in the zipped pocket of my “Canada Electrical” bag. But I didn’t remember opening the suitcase after I locked up the storage unit. I’d tipped out my sac banane where there are about four zipped pockets, and the keys weren’t there either of course, but there was a zipped pocket on the computer and camera hold-all.

And sure enough, with just a couple of minutes to go, I emptied that out, and there they were! Phew! That was a close shave!

So at Radio Tartasse I recorded two months of rock programmes, then Liz and I did 6 weeks of “Radio Anglais”. I stopped off at the Pionsat Intermarché to buy a pile of bread and salad and I’ve made a mountain of butties – I know all about the closed restaurant round the corner from my hotel and I have my suspicions about Air Transat and their choice of vegan food. It’s as well to be prepared.

caliburn at liz and terry messenger sauret besserve puy de dome franceAfter taking Julie and Clare’s furniture out of Caliburn, I garaged him right round the back of Liz and Terry’s where he can stay quiet for 6 weeks or so out of the way and be good.

Liz kindly prepared lunch, a salad and bread, and I shaved my head with the hair trimmer. There are First Nation Canadians, or Amerindiens, around by where I’m going and I’ve heard all kinds of stories about the Malicete. I’m not leaving them anything to pull off. Anyway, after all of that, we went down to Gerzat in Liz’s car to record 5 weeks of “Radio Anglais” for Radio Arverne.

diesel multiple unit sncf french railways riom puy de dome franceThat was for once quite straightforward and then Liz dropped me off at the station in plenty of time for my train.

I’ve no idea what make or model it is – I shall have to refer to my Jane’s Train Recognition Guide for that, but I can tell you that it wasn’t as rattly or as bangy as the one last time I came here. And as nothing at all exciting happened during the voyage, we arrived in Lyon, and Lyon is much more civilised than trying to go via Paris. I had time to eat some butties and drink a coffee.

double decker TGV Lyon part dieu paris charles de gaulle SNCF French railways franceIn the TGV though we were like sardines. I was lucky in that I boarded early and so I managed to grab a place on the difficult rail halfway down the carriage. Anyone who came after me was struggling for luggage space. It really is ridiculous – why don’t they have a luggage van and a baggagiste on each of the trains? That would make everything so much simpler.

And a good 25 minutes late, due to a tardy connection, we hurtled off into the night with kids screaming and all kinds of things. And not even a place to swing a cat. I hate to think what this would be like on a Saturday evening.

That 25 minutes ended up as being a whopping great 44 minutes by the time that we arrived at the station at Terminal 2, and although that might seem like bad news, it is in fact the first bit of good news that I have had for about a week because it entitles me to a refund of 25% on my ticket – something that I shall be following up with vigour.

paris charles de gaulle airport terminal 2 waiting for hotel shuttle bus franceUp in a crowded lift from the first floor to the fifth floor and into a heaving mass of people waiting for the hotel buses. Last year I stepped out of the station and onto the bus – this year I think that everyone else’s bus must have done 5 or 6 trips before mine came. But at least that had dispersed the masses and we were a mere 12 on the bus.

Having now had a shower (and we aren’t talking about the OUSA Exeecutive Committee here), configured the new laptop for the internet and downloaded a pile of files as well as a FTP program, I can post this load of rubbish and go to bed.