Sunday it was time to step out on my own. I am glad I’d made the decision to start in England with friends. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start and it was nice to not have to worry about moving around too much while it got sorted out. I deeply appreciate Chris and Mary’s hospitality, and I look forward to getting some more time with them before I return home.
My adventure began in Reading where Mary dropped me off at the train station. Learning an important lesson a few days earlier (the train I needed was temporarily suspended at the station I arrived in) I checked my route for potential issues and discovered I was needing the same train. Fortunately google was kind enough to tell me the train could be found at a nearby station. Glad I checked!
I got myself to St. Pancras station. Always forgetting how to say it correctly I’ve defaulted to calling it the Pancreas. Collected my ticket to Paris, navigated border control, and made my way into the departure area to await my train. I was greeted with a sea of green. I had forgotten the Euro2016 soccer championships had started in France a few days earlier and a TON of Ireland fans were making their way by train. Later I was told all of the flights had been sold out. Suddenly my green luggage didn’t seem out of place.
We made an uneventful journey to Paris. As we got off the train all the Ireland fans broke out into what I can only assume was their footie fight song. The sound echoed throughout the station as we walked toward the main terminal (here is a video that should have just been audio to give you an idea). It caused quite the stir, everyone stopped to look. It was like the Irish had invaded France. Of course that thought gave me a good laugh. In 2014 I spent some time in Ireland and crossed paths with several tanks on one of the back roads. When I mentioned it to a co-worker he was sure I was wrong (he didn’t realize they had tanks) and wondered if they were being invaded. Makes me wonder what kind of artillery France has available.
It wasn’t until I got off the train that I realized my train to Avignon left from a different station. Oh shit! I was not prepared for that. Lesson #2! With eyes as big as saucers I stopped for help at the Information booth. Between her limited English and my even more limited French I was able to get a ticket for the connecting trains and make my way to the correct departure area. I got a bit confused trying to figure out what platform I needed. Fortunately, I found another kind person to provide some assistance. Two short train rides later I was in the right place with plenty of time. Whew!
The journey to Avignon was uneventful with the exception of the woman next to me and her hoarse cough. She kept her mouth covered with a scarf so I wasn’t concerned about getting sick at least. The clouds and rain gave way to sunny skies as I drifted south. I don’t know what to compare the French countryside to. It was kind of like Ireland, but with more trees. Big, rolling hills with lush green grass and leafy trees. I attempted to take a few pictures, but its hard to get a good shot when you’re traveling over 100 mph.
5 trains and 750 miles later I was in Avignon. Full day of travel but still got to see and experience some interesting things. I took a cab to my Airbnb, settled in a bit, then went out for a little walk.