My new stock phrase, especially for today as I make my way to the final leg of my journey aboard the TGV.  Of course it’s mad crowded with vacationers–I tried to switch my reservation to the 10:30 train when we got to the station early, but no luck there. At least I knew to reserve my seats in advance. Your Rail Pass is useless without a reservation.

Anyway, about my stock phrase, “sorry to disturb  you!” … it comes from my frantic efforts to actually board this train. Talk about “hurry up and wait,” after sitting at the station for about two hours, on the platform for the last 10 minutes or so, the train arrives but my coach is nowhere near where I was standing. Off I go through this crowd, “desolee,” etc.  Finally I see my coach and board. I breathed only a half a sigh of relief though, because where the hell was I supposed to put my RIDICULOUS valise? Well, I found my seat and there was a little luggage platform  nearby. Fortunately the people with bags there were also going to Lyon, where I change trains to make my destination to Villars-les-Dombes. Where hopefully my hotel room awaits. So I rearranged the luggage to put mine on the bottom–rather embarrassing to have this enormous suitcase, but no one told me how small the luggage storage was on these trains!

Hopefully I can find some sort of duffle  bag to put my overflow in, since my souvenirs and gifts are creating problems for  me. I am getting better at organizing everything though.

Have I mentioned the fact that I kind of look like hell? Not too bad, but my choice of attire was perhaps a bit regrettable considering my farmer’s tan from riding all week–I only noticed when I used the WC at the station and realized that a short-sleeved shirt might have looked a bit less ridiculous than this tank top. Not just the tan lines, but my numerous scratches and bruises from being smacked silly along some heavily wooded trails. Plenty of stickers (ATTENTION LES EPINES!) too. Oh, and my dear horse decided to leave me with a souvenir yesterday as I was putting him away: I turned my back on him for a second and he casually reached over and nipped the back of my arm! Now the opinion on this behavior is a bit mixed, whether they are being affectionate or attempting to express dominance. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but I figure if he wanted to hurt me he could have, but it  was just a harmless little nip that left a bruised bump.

OMG, people are boarding the train at the next stop from Aix–e-P and of course there is nowhere for them to put their things now that my suitcase is hogging all the room…

I knew it was only a matter of time before I learned why I don’t find the French to be as rude  as I was warned–I keep thinking it could be because I’m the rude one. Oh! this morning at breakfast I thought I might have encountered my first rudeness here, but it turned  out they were actually from another country in Europe. So… the jury’s still out. Besides, I am  awfully thick-skinned and pretty “live and let live” about things. And since I’m traveling, nothing is ever permanent. Good lessons in liminality and Buddhism both. How about humility too, since I feel like I’m incurring some sort of karmic debt with this luggage debacle on this train.

The countryside from the train is beautiful of course, past the countless farms of Provence. I’m torn between looking out the window and writing, but  since I have had almost no time to write all week, I’ll do my best to catch up a bit. At least I took plenty of photos so I have a journal of images that I can hopefully piece together eventually.

As for the trail ride… it was even more spectacular than I imagined it would be. The horse they had me ride was named Escudo, and he  was a strong, solid, very good-natured gelding. So capable, and thank God, because some of these trails were absolutely terrifying! Straight up or down, often with loose soil and/or stones, but he managed to carry me through all this without incident–I couldn’t care less about  the bruises and scrapes. Oh, but there was a time he sort of bolted through a section of trail and almost knocked me off when he went under a low hanging branch…  this was the first day I think, the “test” day, when he wanted to see who was boss (horses do this, test a new rider). I did hang on to the reins, fortunately, or I would have gone down. Instead I gave him quite a yank on the bit AND a talking to in English–this after I’d been speaking to him in French, using gentle words and tone. But when he suddenly heard me barking at him in an entirely different manner, it was like turning on a switch and he was much better after that. I forget what exactly I said, probably the usual, “listen, Mister, I’ve had about enough of your shit! KNOCK IT OFF!”

So yes, he was a very good boy for the rest of the week, unless you want to count the souvenir bite. Who knows, maybe he was saving that up for the last day, his last chance to be bossy. Anyway, with horses, you take the good with the bad. All the horses I have known have been wonderful creatures with good hearts and I’m convinced we don’t deserve them by half. If the average human were half as good as the average horse, we’d be living in a paradise here.
Well, I’ll be approaching Lyon shortly, with the dread moments of assembling my monstrous assortment of luggage in time to disembark. These windows don’t  open, so there will be no escape like that time in England when I got stuck on the train and climbed headfirst out the window–people in my group helped me down and it was quite the spectacle. BUT! ever since then I’ve always been scrupulous about schedules when I travel.

Meanwhile, many miles since I decided to enjoy the views from my seat on the train, I find myself settled in one of the most charming villages I have ever seen. Perhaps my enjoyment of this place is increased because I thought it would be bland and tired. But it’s lovely, and the people have been very kind so far: first at the Gare, where the lady was very helpful in giving me directions to my hotel, along with a little tourist map; then at my hotel where the desk clerk was very welcoming and kind. AND NO ONE EVEN BOTHERED SPEAKING ENGLISH! My assimilation is nearly complete. More to come, but now I must clean up and explore. A light rain just started but I am actually really happy about this because it means I did not pack full rain gear in vain–I have so much crap in my luggage, but much has turned out to be essential after all. IT’S RAINING AND I HAVE RAIN GEAR IN THIS ENORMOUS HEAP OF STUFF 😀


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