5:10.... As I dragged my sleep deprived body from the warmth of my cocoon, I could feel the excitement starting to seep in however, it stayed at my toes until I was safely aboard ICE train #71 because our wonderful farewell dinner, celebrated last night at Copperwood, was being felt as I dragged myself and bag through the darkness and rain ......!!
Excitement hit big time....as we raced through the countryside...through Luneburg...(It had only taken 20mins to get there compared with our trip to the country with Travis and Twilla 3 weeks ago...an epic 2 ½ hr drive!!) Between Hannover and Gottingen the flat northern plains of Germany changed into undulating hills covered in lush greenery and chequered with the bright yellow Canola crops. Its appeal was made greater by the small but regular clusters of typical German houses with their pointed rooftops. Tunnels appeared; short to start with then longer and longer....especially through the Swiss passage from Basel to Geneva! After Kassel, I moved to the restaurant car and enjoyed crunchy muesli and OJ only to discover later, that if I had gone to the cafe it would have cost me half as much.....learning...learning....!
Returning from Breakky, I realised that I had sat in the wrong seat so moved all my gear so that the rightful owner could occupy it! The grey, foggy morning gave way to snatches of sunshine and clearer skies and as I warmed up and relaxed, I fell asleep....something I had resisted as I hadn’t wanted to miss a thing!
An announcement woke me...fortunately 2 stops before Basel. My powernap had given me enough energy to take on the dreaded 8 minute changeover.....I was off the train and hurling along the platform to discover that #14 wasn’t too far away and was easy to negotiate....With 3 minutes to spare I chose a seat and then.... got the shakes!!....anxiety...tiredness...relief.....not sure....don’t care.....I had done it!
I thought maybe I could be hungry so when the trolley lady came by, I bought a baguette and water....but my change was in Swiss currency....!
I am writing this on Word as we wind our way through the Swiss countryside....so far the most breathtaking I have seen. Laufen- Liesberg- Delemant- Grenchen Nord- Biel/Bienne.....I stopped writing the names down mainly due to the fact that the scenery beckoned me to capture it ...but, going so fast...video was the best option! Mountains, rivers, tunnels, flat luscious pastures with backdrops of2 toned, forested hills with quaint houses peppered along their sides, cows grazing, grape vines lining the edge of a large very inviting expanse of water......It is spectacular and I will sign off until later to sit back and absorb it all....relax before the next changeover...a whole 12 minutes this time and I don’t know the platform this time!!
I have a confession to make.....Saturday morning, having arrived bedraggled at Hamburg Hpf starting our adventure to Berlin, we discovered that our train left ONE hour LATER than Gary had led me to believe! This was an innocent oversight but one I could have done without as another hour in bed would have been heaven....so I didn’t give him much room for excuses.....
.....anyway just before I packed up ready for my mad dash from one train to another at Geneva, I read my ticket again to discover that I had ONE HOUR 12 minutes between trains....not the 12mins I had anticipated!....Yes, I had done a GAZZA!....So I have forgiven him as now we are even!!
Geneva: mmmmm.....wasn’t sure what to do as the girls had warned me it wasn’t quite their play spot....but my walk around the park nearby was pleasant and I found some fresh tomatoes and crunchy bread to munch on as I waited back at the station.
There seemed an awful lot of people standing and many more arriving until the platform was very crowded. Someone informed us that the two previous trains had been cancelled. The next day was a public holiday in France and many people were on the move taking an extra long weekend. When my train arrived it was bedlam trying to get on so I grabbed the first seat I came to. I was in the area between the doorways and eventually shared this small space with 11 other travellers and their luggage...It was a bit different from the 1st class scenario I had enjoyed this morning! I didn’t mind as the scenery was stunning and atleast I did have a seat. We snaked our way through the Rhone Alps....tunnels....stunning views...tunnels....more breathtaking scenery....tunnels.....stations....confusion....rain.....people getting off then back on again.....Not to worry...I arrived in Lyon exhilarated by the countryside and the fact that I had arrived! Only one more train to catch....sign saying St Etienne: retarde 10 mins.... so I waited and waited.....
Dad once told me your own name is unique and sacred to you.....and that if you are somewhere foreign and unexpectedly addressed by your name, your response will be emotional due to this fact......
......Out of the blue....a French man approached me and said “Fran?”.... Well Dad, you were right.....
I was so excited to hear my name and then to recognise Maryvonne’s husband, Jen Lucien! He had been to the dentist in Lyon and come to travel to St Etienne with me. He thankfully hurried me to the train I had decided wasn’t my train, and we settled into an easy ride. My grasp of French is Year 8 level (done many years ago) and Jen Lucien’s English is marginally better. Although we were challenged with this, we managed to communicate....both thinking we had understood what the other was saying.....It didn’t really matter what was said as I immediately felt a warmth towards him and was looking forward to getting to know him better.
Maryvonne met us at the station wearing her mauve Australian merino wool scarf which I had given her when she left Australia 3 years ago. She hadn’t changed a bit....still young looking, vibrant and wearing a wonderful smile....I like her new hair color ...she didn’t think I would recognise her!!!...It was so lovely to see her again.
The drive home was via the scenic route but with local tour guides. Maryvonne and Jean Lucien had lived in this area most of their lives, so my mind was racing as I tried to absorb the amazing history and wonderfully significant landmarks....where they had married...lived...worked.... historical events and occasions....
...Until we arrived in St Priest, was welcomed into their beautiful home and treated to quiche...terrine....wine and cheese....all French and local produce of course! Bon Appetite!
After lots of chatting I crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep not even allowing myself time to reflect on my wonderfully exciting adventure.