Vendée region to Rhône-Alpes region

Steps: 13,334

Today we said our good byes to our friends, new and old, and made our way from Nantes to Paris to somewhere on the way to St Gervais.

This morning, I saw lots of people sleeping in, at least in the dorms, but brunch was pretty busy by the time I got there.

There were savoury crêpes with ham and cheese and a runny egg on top.

There were also sweet crêpes that you could fill with whatever filling you wanted. I, of course, went for the Nutella. The groom is French and I studied with him at Virginia Tech. Once when I asked him what foods he missed most from France, he said Nutella. I was flabbergasted, but he insisted that the Americans don’t have the big sizes and that it tastes different. So I felt I had to lay on the Nutella. To be honest I’m not enough of an expert to judge any flavour differences there might be.

During brunch we sat down with a couple of guests whom we hadn’t met before. They had excellent English and we had a very enjoyable conversation. It made feel that I really should’ve done a better job mingling. It’s just a little hard when the prevailing language is French and you’re not quite sure how good anybody’s English is; after all, I didn’t want to force them to speak English if it was going to be painful for them.

After brunch I tried out some of the lawn games that had been set up. I hadn’t seen any of them before, and it was fun learning a bunch of new games that didn’t involve ridiculous numbers of rules and strategies and record-keeping.

Unfortunately too soon it was time to leave. I had really enjoyed myself at the wedding and I wish now that I had decided to stay a few extra days at the château, which was an option. Instead, I just drew out the experience by waiting with a few of the other wedding guests for their train.

Then, we were on our own again.

I wanted to grab some more pictures of the castle in Nantes that I had failed to get last time, and show Hide the castle, so we walked halfway around the ramparts. Between that and dinner at the train station (fun language dance, but it worked out fine), it was time to get our luggage (we had used the left luggage lockers, which cost far more than we thought they would – we’re very quickly burning the euros we traded for from a kind wedding guest) and board the train to Paris.

I hope I wasn’t planning to take any more pictures of the TGV experience, because I passed out pretty hard for most of the ride and didn’t take pictures of anything. I hardly looked out the window, even.

We arrived into Gare Montparnasse, but our connection was from Gare d’Austerlitz. We transferred stations via Metro and RER. This was my first time taking the RER service, which is a suburban commuter service which runs through Paris. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The rolling stock is typical of commuter lines, double decker heavy rail. I wish I had gotten a picture of the locomotives, because they didn’t look so new. (Once, I had taken Amtrak to the DC station with my Swiss American friend. While we were leaving the platforms, we passed by the locomotives for the VRE, a local commuter rail service. In shock, he asked me, “Clara, these aren’t really in service are they? They… They belong in a museum or something!” Well the locomotives for the Paris RER didn’t look much newer than that!) But since the RER doesn’t just stop once it gets to the city, but actually keeps going through the city, the stations are more like Metro stations, with fare gates and everything. Passenger volume must be very high, since the service runs on frequent headways below 10 minutes.

We made it to our connection despite all the walking between various services. Our connection was an overnight train from Paris to St Gervais, known as the intercités de nuit service. We had gotten couchettes, as they call them, in the sleeper cars. (We were attracted by the novelty factor, the small price difference with seats, and most of all by my father’s insistence that sleeper cars are the best way to do overnight trains.)

The couchettes in second class are six to a room, three bunks on each side. The mattress is by far the most comfortable I’ve had the pleasure of sleeping on since being in Europe. I think it might be more comfortable than the mattress we have at home! Each mattress comes with a sleeping bag and a pillow sealed in plastic. Because it’s the summer, I spent most of the night sleeping on top of the sleeping bag rather than it.
Luggage needs to be tucked away, rather, above the door or behind the ladder. I hadn’t realized that our bags would be so difficult to get to, so we ended up not brushing our teeth or changing into pyjamas. That was probably the most uncomfortable part of the overnight experience.

I had been worried about falling asleep with other not-Hide people in the same room (it’s been a long time since I’ve had to do that), but actually it was no problem. I couldn’t really hear them above the background noise of the train, and I think Hide was the only one snoring.

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