Aix and Back

Still flowers in October down here

When I last left you with my continuing saga of foiled travel plans, I had not yet made it down to Aix-en-Provence due to a cancelled train. (Rule #1 during a strike: prepare to change original itinerary at a moment’s notice).

I was able to get on a train easily the next day (along with the entire waiting area of Gare de Lyon apparently). However, 5 minutes from pulling into Aix’s train station, we stopped abruptly. “A man on the tracks,” we were informed. A half hour later, the conductor further explained that the man was “putting himself in danger.”

Authorities from first the SNCF, then the police, then the firemen were called “to reason” with the man (wow, the euphemisms!) An hour and a half of reasoning later, people on the train were starting to lose it, too.

“I can’t take it anymore,” a man next to me said. “Not to be mean, but if the guy’s really trying to off himself, it shouldn’t take this long.” The nervous man went to smoke (illegally) in the bathroom.

Now I was not at all going down this line of logic, but I did wonder why after that long one of the strong firemen didn’t simply escort the distressed man from the tracks.

You’ll forgive me if by this point I am not posing the question whether travelling during strike-heavy periods is such a good idea.

As usual, though, once arrived, I was delighted I came:

Me, far, far away from public transportation

Quiet courtyard behind my friend's apartment

Fried green tomatoes, anyone?

Garden behind my friends' apartment - yeah, they have a nice place

For all the scenery, though, I’m staying right here in Paris until the strikes are over. (My original train back was, of course, cancelled). I’m happy to have safely returned.


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18 Responses to “Aix and Back”

  1. 1 Tanya in Transition October 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Glad you made it south Sion! The photo of the tomatoes is lovely; did you sample any?

    Like you, I’m not leaving home until the strike is over. D had to fly to Paris yesterday; he returns on Thursday. Thankfully, he’s travelling outside what I call ‘strike hours’.


    • 2 paris (im)perfect October 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Tanya! I was busy taking photos and my friend buying the produce. Didn’t actually sample the tomato, just snapped the photo πŸ™‚

      Glad D is travelling outside of “strike hours.” Smart man. I’m just going to stay home for awhile period, though. I’ve had enough adventures for a bit!


  2. 3 Linda October 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Ok, for those of us less knowledgeable, what *are* the normal strike hours and periods? I take it there’s an accepted autumn season for strikes? And an accepted shift? If there is and I’ve understood you both correctly, then I could plan any non-essential travel with a modicum of predictability? I’m fine with ‘slow travel’ until I absolutely, positively have to be somewhere…like at a wedding.:-) Maybe I should Fed Ex myself?


    • 4 paris (im)perfect October 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Haha. I think Tanya might know more about that as she termed the phrase – heck if I know!

      I wouldn’t say there’s an “accepted” autumn season for strikes. Yes, there have always seemed to be strikes in the fall as long as I’ve been here (just about when it starts getting cold – that you can count on), but this is the longest and most heated I’ve experienced so far. I’d hesitate to predict anything!

      But with the trains, you’re allowed to get on *any* running train the day or next day of your ticket if yours is cancelled. I’ve had a morning, afternoon, and evening train all cancelled, though, so, um, yeah, not sure which hour I’d suggest going. That’s why I say, you’ll eventually get there, but you have to be prepared to leave at a totally different time than you originally planned.

      It can be worth it most of the time, but after 3 cancelled/revised itineraries in a month, I’m a bit tired of it all. Needless stress.

      I would *definitely* advise you to FedEx yourself if you can πŸ™‚


  3. 5 PigletinFrance October 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    oh those tomatoes look just like the ones I’m desperately trying to ripen in my garden before it gets too cold! Shame you didn’t get to try any.

    Sion, France has a wonderful public transport system it’s just such a shame that it cannot be relied on anymore due to constant need to strike. I will not comment further as I can feel my blood pressure increasing and I’m having a bad, stressful, hormonal day!!

    I am glad you had a nice time despite the trains…


  4. 7 Paris Paul P October 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    That was me on the tracks outside Aix. Sorry about that. I wasn’t trying to harm myself, I was just bored because I realized they didn’t have any beaches in Aix-en-Provence, even if everyone says it’s in the south. Go figure.


    • 8 paris (im)perfect October 21, 2010 at 12:10 am

      Oh, Paul. Too funny. (And I’m glad *someone* at least mentioned the whole suicidal guy part of my story – sheesh!)

      To be honest, I actually didn’t see much of Aix myself. I have good friends there and I was also using it as a bit of a writing retreat. Apparently it’s a popular place, though πŸ™‚


  5. 9 Geary October 20, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Returned from a great 2+ week trip to Spain yesterday. Everything worked great until yesterday. We had scheduled the return flight to SFO from Madrid with connections in Munich to avoid any possible problems with general strikes in France.

    Alas, upon arrival at the Madrid airport we were told that due to the French general strike, our flight to Munich was delayed and we would not be able to make our SFO flight. Following heroic efforts by Lufthansa/Madrid to rebook the return thru Frankfurt for a later SFO flight, they sent us on our way. They were unable to print a Frankfurt/SFO ticket and told us to get it at Lufthansa in Frankfurt. Since our Frankfurt flight was leaving we had to run.

    All our careful plans to book aisle seats and get boarding passes in Madrid had been to no avail. We arrived in Frankfurt with nothing but a promise that we had tickets on United Airlines to SFO and a Lufthansa flight number(?) and time(17:25). We had a very short time to find out where to go.

    We found a flight arrival/departure sign with no Lufthansa/SFO flight, but an SFO United flight at 17:25 with a gate #, but a different flight# then given us. Since we had been told that we should go to Lufthansa for a ticket, we had a problem. The Lufthansa area was the opposite direction from the United gate and they were too far apart to visit both.

    Fortunately, we decided to head for the United gate and hope for the best. Upon arrival, we found that the United flight was also our Lufthansa flight (flight partners). They had seats and gave us a boarding pass.

    We got the worst seats available, of course, on a 777. I got a middle seat in a row of five. Most miserable flight in my life. Twelve hours stuck in the middle. Who could have conceived such a seating plan for the 777. I had to ask two people every time I had to go to the toilet, which is often for a 70 year old. Food trays had to be passed to me.

    The French welfare system is approaching bankrupcy and their general strike is an irresponsible reaction to this reality. Why should the French complain of retiring at 62 anyway? Keep this up and tourism will continue to decline making matters worse for them. Pretty disgusted with the French for their total disregard of disrupting other people’s lives.



    • 10 paris (im)perfect October 21, 2010 at 12:14 am

      Hi Geary. Oh my gosh! What a nightmare! I am definitely going to stop complaining about my travel woes after hearing that.

      I’m glad you got home safely, but sorry you had to go through all of that. Yes, I don’t think the French are making many friends right now. I agree that the general strike is not in keeping with reality. An engaged citizenry is great – but a reactionary one masquerading as revolutionary? Not so much. I’m not sure what kind of math they’re doing to think that everyone can retire at age 60. Some sort of pension reform is necessary – and jeez, 62 still sounds like a dream compared to the States!

      We shall see what happens…


  6. 11 Buffy October 21, 2010 at 3:46 am


    Being a “fireman” myself, I am not one to be politically correct enough to say firewoman, I would have to say I wish we could just pick suicide patients up and move them somewhere else. It is more complicated than that at times. We have to be psychologists at times.


    • 12 paris (im)perfect October 21, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Buffy. Wow! You’re a fire(wo)man? That’s amazing! Yes, I definitely can see that you’d have to be a psychologist at times. And I think that’s good that you would talk to someone in that condition first. I can only imagine how destabilizing it would be for them to have someone come simply “move” them. But…after that much time, it seemed like *at some point* that might just need to happen. I mean, there are probably deeper psychological issues than can be addressed in just that moment. Anyway, it was definitely interesting. My hats off to you for your service!


  7. 13 Parisian Fields October 23, 2010 at 5:12 am

    The story reminds me of the one about British Rail and the “wrong kind of leaves on the track.”

    Once, when trains had been delayed, the bureaucrats at BritRail said that the delay was due to “leaves on the track.” Somebody pointed out that this happens all the time, so the bureaucrats elaborated: “They were the wrong kind of leaves.”

    I gather from my U.K. relatives that this is now a standing joke. When a train is delayed anywhere for any reason, people immediately start to ask if the problem is perhaps the “wrong kind of leaves” on the track.

    Perhaps there is a similar sort of thing in France.


  8. 15 Ann October 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Your transport saga convinced me to stay home this weekend, but looking at your sunny photos on this grey Saturday morning makes me long for Provence warmth. One day the trains will run again. I hope!


    • 16 paris (im)perfect October 24, 2010 at 1:29 am

      Hi Ann. Oh, I’m so sorry I dissuaded you from going to Provence! If it helps, though, it was cold in Provence, too! I’m sure the trains will run again reliably again soon. (Though at this point the pension reform bill has passed and they’re still calling for strikes. Gotta hand it to them for perseverance πŸ™‚ )


  9. 17 Kasia Dietz October 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Ah, the unpredictability of travel! Especially during a strike in France!? Crazy story about the ‘man on the tracks’. Not that you needed any more drama to add to the strike troubles! Happy you made it safely to Aix (a place that I love!! Next time you must visit Cezanne’s atelier if you haven’t yet…and drive around the mountains, gorgeous!)

    Home sweet Home: Paris. (No travel for me for a while either, believe it or not!)


    • 18 paris (im)perfect October 24, 2010 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Kasia! Yep, I had Cezanne’s atelier on the agenda, but just didn’t make it. Next time – nice perk of having good friends who live down there πŸ™‚

      Wow, really? No travel for you for awhile? Seemed like that’s all you were doing for awhile! I’m holding tight til Christmas. Thanks for stopping by!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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