North America has a car culture, Europe has a train culture. You can get pretty much anywhere by train although it may not always be easy or cheap. But trains are comfortable, fairly reliable and pretty fast.
I took the Nantes-Paris TGV many times when I was a student since my university was in Paris. The trip was exactly two-hour long and I had become a train expert. I knew which cart was the best (hint: not the infamous #15 where smoking was still allowed), when to book my ticket for the best possible fare and how late I could hop on the train and still make it.
I had a love-and-hate relationship with the two train stations, in Nantes and in Paris. In a way, I liked the atmosphere—all these strangers gathered in one place, waiting for something or someone, eyeing the train schedule nervously and impatiently, pacing in the main hall and ignoring each other. But I didn’t like the fact that everything was sold at a premium—drinks, food… you even had to pay to use the bathroom.
We took the train to Tours and back this year and Mark behaved like a true European. He sat straight in his seat, stared out of the window, attempted to chat with strangers (ahem, baby babble), read the newspaper (well, tore it to pieces and ate it) and fell asleep. That’s my boy.
Meanwhile, I busied myself catching up on my reading list (I still love my Kindle!) and capturing this special “train station” atmosphere.