Anne Mei and I have traveled on trains in Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, England and now southern France. Except for France the coaches were all modern and comfortable, and the systems well organized. Not so in France. On Monday, July 27, once we left the Spanish train from Barcelona to Montpellier, we were in a different world. The coach from Montpellier to Marseille-St. Charles was old, worn-out, hot and lacking enough space for luggage. This was supposed to be first class. We never saw a conductor, and no one checked our tickets. In the heat we both fell asleep.
The information desk at Montpellier told me that we would stay on the same train from Marseille to Nice. Wrong! We had to get off the train and fight our way through the crowds on the Marseille platform to find the sign indicating the train to Nice-Ville, which was boarding. Luckily there had been a lot of time scheduled between trains because the Montpellier-Marseille train arrived 30 minutes late. We fought our way on to the same car we had been on from Marseille only to find that it was second class, hardly air-conditioned, and packed in the aisles. Everyone was sweaty and the smell of the smokers was so strong I thought we’d boarded a smoking car. Fortunately a young Englishman heard Anne Mei and me talking and told us we could go to the next car for first class. Even in that car, there were no assigned seats. They looked to be all filled. There was more room in the aisles, however, and the air conditioning worked. We finally were able to find a single seat for Anne Mei. After about half an hour, a young Frenchman offered me his seat. I was not too proud to accept. Being seen as old takes getting used to.
A young conductor came charging down the aisles two or three times during the trip, but never checked tickets. After Des Arcs-Draguignan we could see more and more of the coast and the brilliant Mediterranean. It is little wonder why they call this the Blue Coast, La Côte d’Azur.
We were surprised not to find a line of taxis outside the train station in Nice, but the group of waiting passengers eventually cleared as single taxis appeared. Our hotel Massena is down near the beach and the old city. We walked to the beach and then ate supper at one of the many restaurants on the plazas nearby. The beach is stony with a quick drop-off. Long late walk down the promenade above the beach. Three-quarter moon reflecting on the sea.