Living as I do in a place that is quite literally only a village, with its’ population of just around 5000 people, a trip like today’s leaves me feeling a little out of my comfort zone, and a little bit of a country bumpkin gawking at big city marvels.
I went on the TGV from Cannes to Marseille this morning, in connection with a visa application. While the train ride was of course very pretty, with breathtaking views of the Med, the verdant spring countryside and beautiful provencal-style homes all along the way, it struck me as I got off at Marseille’s St. Charles Station that it’s been a while since I was out and about in a true big city, especially one I don’t know.
I am used now only to the quiet, safer than safe little roads in Mougins le Haut and the placid trails in the Valmasque; so even a day of shopping in Cannes – yes, even on the famed Rue d’Antibes – can feel tiring, with the unaccustomed levels of noise and traffic (which is not to say that I am complaining about the shopping itself !!). And while I do occasionally travel on work, it typically involves only the cloistered environs of large airports and hotels.
So bustling Marseille, with it’s Paris-style Metro (the main train station for inter-city trains and the local underground terminus are all in the same buiding, a massive, extremely well-equipped complex with restaurants, a post office, a pharmacy etc.) made quite an impression on me. And I think I might have clutched my bag a little tighter, as I made my way to the information counter to ask about the connections to the address I needed to get to and spotted a couple of young men hanging about who appeared to be of the kind one sees only in the big bad city…
I was amused at my own reaction. In another life, a very long time ago, I traveled all over India, very frequently and by all means of transport available (including a ride hitched one afternoon on a vegetable truck in the interiors of Maharashtra, in the days when I was a foolish, rookie sales trainee – though I was accompanied by a smart young man who worked for my company’s distributor -and many trips on bone-rattling buses on trips across different parts of the country both when I was a student and then after I started working).
So I wonder at my little sense of achievement that I made it today to Marseille and back on my own. When in fact it could not have been easier- I went on the TGV to Marseille, on the metro all the way to the consulate office and back, then traveled back from Marseille to Cannes on another very comfortable train (that’s the other thing – having traveled all through my childhood and when I was in college by second class all around the country on those nightmarish Indian trains, the TGV and other European trains qualify for me as pure luxury).
Well, I guess this is what some years of being a stay-at-home mother – which does tend to make one less venturesome – and living in a small village has done to me; it’s taken the edge off me.