Probably long over-due, I thought I would write a little post about the trains here in France. Just because they are so awesome!
In Canada, we have Via Rail. Which is ok, I suppose, but nothing like the speedy, efficient, and vastly networked trains in France. Last year, I wrote a final history paper on the effects of the railroad in my hometown, Port Elgin, and the surrounding area. Sadly, today all that is left our of train is a little ice cream station at the main beach with a kiddy train that takes you around North Shore park very slowly. But once we were quite well connected!
In France, you can basically get anywhere you want to go by train. There are still problems, like strikes and people jumping in front of trains, but besides that the travel is always smooth. The TGV trains (trains de grande vitesse=really fast) rock me to sleep like a baby. It is beautiful. It also keeps you quite connected, and especially for a foreign student without a car it gives you some freedom. I have used the train to visited friends in other cities, to visit different sites, to go on trips with friends, etc.
One thing I love about the train stations is that they remind me a bit of the past. People leave on the train and have their loved-ones waving goodbye to them on the platform. In addition to leaving there is also the returning, when I get to see people being reunited again. There is something more... I don`t know, classic about waving goodbye/hello from a train window than from a car one. There are also always people running to catch their train, which I find amusing unless I am that person...
Sometimes I meet really friendly people on the train, and sometimes I don't talk to anyone. The French trains are often really quiet, which allows you to read/write/sleep in peace. It is quite a great way to travel.
Canada is such a huge country, and you almost need a car in order to travel anywhere. I have never taken the GO train or bus, but I've heard it has its flaws too. And you can really only use the system if you are in the GTA. Doesn't work so well for Bruce County. Now if only we had enough people using the trains to make it worthwhile... I could see it being difficult to get people to give up their cars. We also have less people... Who knows, maybe if gas prices continue to rise a better rail system could be a possibility! Would cut down on pollution too!
Whew. Anyways, sorry if that was scattered. In short, if you come to France, take the train! It is a lot of fun and a little nostalgic.