Just a train away for delivering myself uninterrupted to Burgundy and I blew it. I met a husband and wife from Nice while at the Gare de Lyon. She is a teacher for French nationals learning English. She spoke perfect English while I spoke with her husband in my steadily improving French.
Before departing, she invited me to stay with my wife at their home in the French Riviera. Indeed, things were going well. She wanted to take a look at my billet to see if we were on the same train as we were waiting for a similar departure time. She checked my ticket and was glad to say we were on the same train.
They were first class passengers, I was set to be in 2iem classe. Two trains were in the area. One to the left and one to the right. We were to the right. We said our goodbyes and I assured her that we would visit.
I jumped on the train, and finally began to sink into relaxation as I watched the French countryside blur while tearing through at roughly 300km/hour in the TGV.
Not an hour in, I mentally patted myself on the back for being such an excellent navigator. Oh, what’s this? Ah, the ticket puncher is coming by. I’ll be ready with some French in case he engages me. He approaches, takes my billet and responds that this train doesn’t match. Translation, I hopped the wrong train. And TGV trains are great at one thing: speed. The trick is that not only do they reach mind bending speed, but they are nonstop. Excellent! That is, unless you hop the wrong train and have a friend waiting for you at the wrong station. Well, I always wanted to see the south of France.
Borrowing someone’s cellphone, I called Fabrice and let him know I was off to the south of France on mistake. He searched train timetables and figured a quick stop was in Aix-En Provence, just North of Marseilles. I hit off the train two hours later at 8pm and waited for my train at a desolate B&B hotel. Some of you may say,’wow, that worked out’. Well, B&B is a brand of hotel, not a bed and breakfast. There is a bed, toilet and shower. Included was also a 12 inch screen tv. The free wifi was not working, so I went to sleep.
Arriving in the Gare Aix-En Provence at 5am, I decided to see if I could get a ticket refund. The woman at the ticket counter was very sympathetic to what truly was my mistake and obliged with a replacement ticket, gratuit. Sitting on a bench next to the tracks waiting for my TGV I reflected on the crazy first day back in France. Looking up to see the sun rising, with the sound of people speaking around me in a language I previously had no clue about, now understanding more, again, I relaxed. With my train to Beaune rushing at breakneck speeds to take me back to Burgundy while I write this, I Have to smile. Surely, things can be worse.