By: Joseph Graham
Two weekends ago, I decided to leave Lyon for the first time since my arrival and visit the French Riviera.
For us, the best way to get down to St. Tropez with a group of 10 people was to rent two cars. In the states, I’m not sure how much a down payment on a rental car is — if we even pay one at all — but here one of our friends maxed out their credit card after putting down a deposit on both cars costing almost €2,000.
Taking the train to Barcelona, Spain last weekend was much easier and less expensive. Since I bought a Eurail Global pass, a pass that will let me travel continuously to over 20 countries during a three-month span by train, I only had to pay to reserve my round-trip seats for a little less than €50.
I’d say European trains are much more comfortable than Amtrak. It seems like they do a better job of making sure there is adequate legroom for tall people like me. Although the food selection at the café car was scarce.
When boarding my last train to Barcelona from Montpellier, I was asked if I could switch seats with a family who couldn’t sit together unless I moved. Since I’m a nice person and didn’t want any problems, I moved. I ended up sitting beside a quiet, elderly woman who preferred staring out of the window rather than greeting me as I sat down. Thirty minutes into the trip, she decided to turn her head away from the window.
After glancing at my passport while I showed it to the attendant she said, “You’re from the United States!”
We talked for what seemed like hours. She told me all about Barcelona — giving me advice on where to eat, what to eat, how to get discounts on tourist attractions and showed me how to get to my hostel from the train station. Although I turned the offer down, she even offered me a place to stay if I wasn’t comfortable in the hostel.
Maria José — one of the nicest people I’ve ever met — ended up being the best part of my journey to Barcelona and I wasn’t even supposed to sit next to her.
As I pulled back into Lyon’s train station from my weekend in Spain, I watched as a couple climbed out of the compartment where luggage is stored during the journey with their Chihuahua and everyone seemed to walk past them as if nothing was wrong.
Hopefully, I’ll have the privilege of dodging more beggars and meeting more people like Maria as the autumn in France is sure to bring more unforgettable moments.