Trains, Sometimes Planes and Buses

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Gare St. Lazare

A short while ago a good friend of mine told me that Mega Bus had began operations in Europe. This he told me shortly after a train crashed outside of Paris on July 13 killing six people and the Spaniard who achieved fame on July 25 by converting his train into a plane killing 78 people.  Nevertheless, I am a train man. Besides I can’t quite get my mind around Mega Bus. A for-profit company with large expensive-diesel-guzzling-luxury buses offering to take passengers to distant places for one dollar doesn’t make economic sense to me.

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Exterior, Gare St. Lazare

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Ceiling, Gare St. Lazare

When I was six years old our family moved from New Orleans proper to the suburb of Metarie.  We lived at end of a street which dead ended into a shell “gravel” road that ran along side a railroad track. The tracks were less than one hundred feet from my bedroom. My mother complained of the noise as trains passed twice a day shaking the house. Often after school and on week ends my friends and I jumped aboard slow moving freight trains riding for several blocks before jumping  off again furthering my later friends suspicions that when brains were being passed out,  I was on a train to the French Quarter.

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Claude Monet, 1877

It so happens that the train crash outside of Paris was on the route to I frequently take to Orléans, my favorite French city seventy miles south of Paris. One hour 17 euros gets you there from Paris Gare (Rail Station) Austerlitz. Orleans is permanently on my list of venues whenever I am in France. After last year’s rental car wars I swore never to rent a car in Paris again. Car rentals in Orleans are not only less expensive but are easier to pick up and drop off.  A further benefit is that I can better understand the citizens of Orleans than the Parisians. They only speak at 2,900 words per minute whereas the Parisians achieve three times that rate with slang and truncated words.

Besides nostalgia, one of  the major reasons I prefer trains are the stations. Many French rail stations resemble romantic nineteenth century opera houses. Bogart reminiscences. The older French train stations are imposing structures built in time when public building were decorative. Conversely bus stations look like 1950 gas stations. District 9 reminiscences.  They were built when traveling by train meant a holiday to somewhere special from somewhere special. French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, celebrated the station Saint Lazare in his famous painting of 1877,  Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare.

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Museum d’Orsay/Gare d”Orsay

A former railway station, Gare d’Orsay, built in 1898, is now one of France’s most important and popular art museums. Musée d’Orsay is home to numerous French sculptures, furniture, paintings, and photography produced between 1848 to 1914.  The highlights of Musée d’Orsay’s collection are its impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by high-acclaimed painters such as Monet, Van Gogh, Ingres, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Cézanne, Sisley, Delacroix, Seurat, and Gauguin.

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