My frequent travel status by air is seriously into precious metals but trains are my 1st choice anytime. So when I go to Paris, I take the TGV, which stands for Train Grand Speed and don’t ask about the V. Geneva-Paris, 3 hours. That’s exactly the same time and cost as by plane except you don’t get strip searched for liquids and nor do you have to run the security obstacle course.
It’s very civilized. When my boss is rich, I travel first and get a newspaper and a breakfast tray. When he is not, I travel in the back with a newspaper and my own breakfast of choice. Strangely enough, most people prefer 1st class so that if you pick your time, you get the 2nd class carriage to yourself. It has something to do with status conscious herd mentality.
Geneva station is relatively simple. There is just one platform to Paris so as long as you don’t get lost in the building works and end up in a concrete pillar (one-way only), you’ll find your place on the train easily.
Arriving in Paris is a little more, ehhh, vibrant. People are running in all directions in a confusion of platforms, shops, scary corridors, other trains like metro or regional, buses, taxis and building works ( in case you missed your chance in Geneva). I can’t recall if it is noisy because most of the time my mind stops functioning in the mayhem and my autopilot takes me a metro ticket machine that is out of order. Oh Paris, j’adore! I really do.
So I went to Tokyo last week. First time. Biggest city in the world. All I had were my preconceptions and a vocabulary of 1 word: Thank you. ありがとう. In spite of the jet lag, we found our way to a train that took us downtown. I think it must have been this train’s maiden journey because all the stainless steel was gleaming with joy and floors were so clean that you could almost smell the glue still drying. People had been to told to be quiet as we were new to Japan and the electronic screens above the doors spoke to us in English. Just like in trains in Paris. Not.
But ultimately, I had to go on the Shinkansen fast train to Kyoto from Tokyo station. Here is how this works. Buy ticket from English speaking agent. Tick. Consider buying one of those gorgeous looking bento lunches for 5 bucks but buy a coffee instead. Tick. Go to right platform helped by English sign posting and kind people. Tick. Queue up along yellow lines at the precise point where your carriage will pull up. Tick. File in quietly and arrive at seat with enough leg space to step in with luggage and let the rest file past. Tick. Sit down totally amazed at the organization and cooperation of it all. Double tick.
The carriage was a 1960’s design, straight from a manga. Most of the commuters got out their laptop (with in-seat power) and juggled 3 smartphones on average to finish a good days work. Bento boxes appeared and the only discernible sound came from seats 1D, 1E, 2D, 2E. Us.
I love Paris, it really is the romantic dream that Hollywood makes of it. I love London which is the capital of a ghost empire. New York is great, like its cousins, it lives up to its own stereotype. But if I need some peace and quiet, I’ll go to the biggest city in the world. ありがとう. By train. ありがとう. Triple tick and out.