Friday, January 28, 2011

Riding the Thalys

Late For the Train!

Rant Warning....

In Flagstaff there is (or used to be) a coffee shop called "Late for the Train". It used to employ the surliest, most perforated, college kids at NAU. Today I thought about the name of the place as it looked like being "late for the train" was going to be our story.

First off we got up at the proverbial "O Dark Thirty", took our waiting taxi to the Brugge train station and arrived right on time. 

Hmmmm. OK our train is not listed on the big reader board.

When I inquire about our "once a day high speed Thalys train" to Paris, the station agent also looks perplexed. 

Never a good sign. 

I get the index finger in the air - the universal sign of "wait just a minute". He makes a couple of phone calls and tells us our train has been cancelled. He says we are to take a local to Brussels South and then catch another Thalys that will wait for us. 

I'm thinking "Uh Huh - Like they will hold a 200 MPH train for Miss M and I". In the words of Judy Tenuta "It Could Happen!"

When we get on the actual train, the ticket taker says when we get to Brussels Midi we need to make haste since they will be holding the Paris bound Thalys for us. I am now getting a bit impressed. I do however, point out that the last agent told us to get off at Brussels South. He shakes his head back and forth and says "No Midi!"

When we get to Midi he is there hustling us off the train and telling us which platform to go to. 

When we get to our platform there indeed is an announcement that the "Thalys is being held five minutes", and lo and behold our assigned seats from the earlier train are waiting for us.

We settle in, get served a lovely breakfast, and doze off in our big comfy seats. The rest of the smooth and blazingly fast trip to downtown Paris goes by unnoticed. 

Of course, instead of snoozing we could have plugged in our laptops to the power outlets at each seat and used the on board wi-fi.

Then like I said, when we arrived in Paris we were dropped right in the heart of the city, not way out at some outlying airport. 

So, I say to all those folks that preach that rail travel "can't work in the US". You may well be right for long cross country trips. But you are totally and completely wrong for America's high density corridors.

We are just flat out behind the rest of the world when it comes to fast, efficient, rail service for corridors like SF to LA, or LA to Vegas, or PHX to LA, SEA to PDX, Florida to DC, and all up and down the Eastern shore.

So. as you sit stalled in daily traffic on I-5, or I-95, or I-405, or I-15, or I-10 one person to a car, think about it.

If I even had the option, which I don't, and certainly won't in my lifetime, I'd sure rather take a train to LA and have a zipcar waiting for me on the other end.

Tomorrow, we will go to France's huge Comics Exposition in Angouleme. Angouleme is more than half the way from Paris to Spain.

We'll get up and go get on a TGV train. It'll be fast. And we'll have nearly all day at the show. We will then return to Paris in time for a late dinner. Neat!

Till tomorrow.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

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