TGV: Paris-Geneva

I may have mentioned in previous posts that I’m quite a big fan of trains. Whatever the reason for this (blame Dublin Bus), I’ve been looking for an excuse to take the TGV for a while. Paris to Geneva is a decent stretch of the legs, so why not.

The name must surely be a joke: “Big Fast Train”. But accurate! It’s double decker, goes at 300km/h and is about six miles long. The specs are impressive…train nerd heaven!

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We pull out of the Gare du Lyon (served by the very swanky, driverless, suicide-proof No. 14 metro line – deserving of a blog entry by itself) at 10.30.

By 11 we’re more or less fully accelerated and it stays that way for another hour when we make our first stop.

Still in France, we take off again but never regain top speed; soon we’re winding through mountain country and it’s not long until we’re into Switzerland. The Paris-Geneva line is scheduled for an upgrade to TGV standard but not for some years to come.

Full speed was fun (for one thing, I’ve never heard an electric engine make so much noise) and now it seems unbearably slow even though we’re surely still doing at least 70 miles an hour. Irish speeds!

Or not…for some unknown reason we arrive in Geneva about 20 minutes late. Swiss Rail or French Rail…? Not impressed!

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David Lynch: “The Air is on Fire”

Do you want to know what I’m really thinking?

A typical David Lynch line but this comes from a David Lynch painting forming part of an exhibition currently on display at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. This is the first time that his work has comprised an entire exhibition.

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I had the good fortune to catch this on last night’s CNN – unfortunately, I didn’t know where it was on display. A series of happy turnings (i.e. getting lost in this morning’s rain) led me happily to the details. Amusingly enough, Cartier turned out to be situated almost next door to the Montparnasse Cemetery where I was earlier this morning. Small world…

His work is, in summary, like his movies: frequently disturbing, but with a very sharp sense of humour. It is also packed with fabulous one-liners; I burst out laughing more than once.

Highlight for me were the ground floor series of large paintings – many of which concern Bob, a loosely defined character who assumes whatever role is needed (“Bob’s Anti-gravity factory”/”Bob comes face to face with an ill-defined abstraction”)- and excerpts from his notebooks. The notebooks are scrawled/pencilled/painted on everything from table napkins and post-it notes to memos from his shows (such as the opening page to the script for episode 24 of Twin Peaks).

Also notable is a life-size recreation of a colourful living room. This has to be seen…it reminded me of nothing more than Twin Peaks’ famous dream sequence.

I can still dream, can’t I?

Musee D’Orsay

Something of a late start, but no matter: today is the first Sunday of the month and both Musee D’Orsay and thte Louvre sport free entry. Reasoning that the Louvre would be unreasonably busy today of all days, I opt the Musee D’Orsay.

This advertises impressionist works, such as by Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Picasso. All good. I can pass away the afternoon here.

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It turns out the building was originally a rail station built for an exhibition; it more or less fell into disrepair and assumed a number of roles before becoming a musuem as recently as 1986.

It hardly needs saying, but this must have been some railway station.

Anyway, I start with the older works. These lie on the ground floor, either side of a central walkway which contains mostly scuptures.

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I skim through here before ascending to the top floor where the most modern (and famous, and popular, and crowded) works are displayed.

Highlights for me are the Van Goghs and – pardon my ignorance – the “dotty” paintings. I’ll eventually work out what they’re called. Examples of both follow… such as below:

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The only point I have to make is that having been to so many museums in America it’s only now I realise how excellent those museums/galleries really were – it’s so hard to follow the MOMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art even just for French art…even when you are in Paris.

Well, anyway – it’s still an excellent gallery. After a middling coffee and an excellent waffle, I leave.

Arrival in Paris

The flight to Paris happened without incident and in much less time than I had anticpated – 1 hour and 10 minutes. Forgot about the time difference.

After some very brief confusion (should I pick the TGV or RER – now I know the latter are the regional French trains) I discover it’s only €8.10 into the city centre, including a further metro journey from wherever I disembark from the RER. There is an accordion player in my RER carraige; I can only assume this is provided free of charge on every French train carriage.

Perhaps not, but nevertheless only 45 minutes later I’m at my hotel which is directly beside the Montparnasse-Beinvenue metro. And when I say directly…it’s about 4 steps away.

First impressions, therefore, are excellent: the metro is as efficient, all-encompassing and well-signposted as I could have hoped, the hotel is very convenient to it and at least two major sights are very close to me: Tour Montparnasse (which dominates the view from my window) and the Eifel Tower is not too far away, either.

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But they can wait until tomorrow.

I’m directly overneath something called the “Cafe Leffe” so there really is no decision over where to go for a late dinner. I get a huge plate of chips and an even bigger bucket of mussels; for €12 that’s incredible value. The accompanying glass of milk – at €4.90 – is not.

There’s an eclipse underway up there when I’m ready for bed. Unfortunately, I can’t find the moon – stupid buildings. Hopefully, I ask the hotel reception,

Em, where can I see the moon?

The what?

Er, the moon – la lune.

I point upwards.

Ah….the moon. Em, what do you mean?

There’s an eclipse! Tonight….un eclipse.

A what? Tonight? The moon is there every night!

Ah, never mind.

He’s right – it’s there every night. But I miss the Eclipse. Ah well.

Off to Paris

I’m off to Europe tomorrow evening for a week; the main reason for travelling is to visit family in Geneva but I’ve had a hankering now for a while to take the TGV from Paris to Geneva and that’s what I’m going to do…three days in Paris and then three days in Geneva with a spin on the TGV on Wednesday.

Can’t wait. How’s my French…