April 13-14, 2000
The bus passengers get dumped here. Not much around except a train station and a hotel/bar/restaurant between some mountains. Typical train set configuration.
It's cold and French kids are running around acting French. It's culturally different already. They are loud, well dressed and kicking soccer balls all over the parking lot.
After freezing an hour for the train, I figure the last hour would best be spent sleeping in the hotel. I'll take the morning train, which was a good move, since my ride would dump me lost in a French town after 3am anyway.
The theme in this place is dead animals. The wild boar head is worth a look at in the restaurant and my key chain is more of a leg than just a hoof of a dear.
I slept well and was on the morning train on my way into France. The appearance is more quintessential Europe, like you'd see on television, travel agent hand outs and rail pass video advertisements.
The whole day would be spent on the train. By now I'm well out of this town. To Toulouse, then Nice, my hiking boots, mud and blood covered clothes and packs, no longer are in style, but I can hide most of that while sitting down with the day pack on my lap. A woman sits next to me for a section of the ride to Toulouse, but is a language snob. She points her nose in the air, makes a strange look and turns away in disgust when I use 'guidebook' French to pay the conductor for the ticket.
When on neutral ground, back in Morocco, I asked a French woman about the reputation of the French and their language snobbery (but using more gentle terms). She agreed, but said that this act of correcting and wanting well spoken French was an act of compassion, that this meant that people cared about you enough to make sure you spoke with perfect grammar and pronunciation. That's a nice thought, but it certainly doesn't feel that way this side of the border! More observations in Nice...