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meant to fly? hardly, but we have the train ride

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.” ―Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on. Track usually consists of steel rails installed on sleepers/ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves.” —Rail Transport

The train service in France is good, generally reliable, and cheap. I have no need for a car there when I visit. The Metro and RER in Paris and the PACA service on the Côte d’Azure will take me where I would like to go. One must wait sometimes for the train or bus to arrive; timing a trip with public transportation can sometimes be tricky; and setting a destination for a small village nestled in the mountains somewhere might be impossible without a car. However . . . the train or bus and both can add to the adventure of a trip. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

All train routes along the French Riviera between Cannes, let’s say, and Menton pass through Nice, France. A train to Grasse, the perfume capital, for example, which cuts inland at Cannes, starts in Nice. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Two other commuter and tourist trains, which run inland, start and end in Nice: Le Train de Merveilles and Les Chemins de Fer de Provence. Le Train de Merveilles goes to Tende; Les Chemins de Fer de Provence ends at Digne-les Bains, the town where Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables begins.

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I have taken both trains to their final stops, and on other occasions I have left the train and walked through the medieval villages along their routes. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

In Seattle, Washington, women who sit on men’s laps on trains without placing a pillow between them would face an automatic six-month jail term.

What is it like to take inland a small commuter-tourist train from Nice through a valley and into the mountains? The Chemin de Fer de Provence is a bubble-like train with lots of windows. If you sit in the first car, you can look out the front window and see what the driver sees. Wait, you do not need to sit. You can stand right behind him and look over his shoulder.

The series of photos (above) show some images of the terrain and the track between Nice and Annot. The head shadow belongs to the driver. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

One does not need to look at the driver’s head. The countryside to the left and the right of the track is varied and gorgeous. Villages perchés are atop mountains or nestled into mountain sides. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

In Wisconsin it was once illegal to kiss on a train.

And, of course, the train must enter a train station. Most of them are shuttered, however, suggesting stories of another time when the train served to transport goods to be sold in the Nice markets. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

To thine own selfie be true.

A stop offers also an opportunity to prove that the photographer was there, really. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

In West Virginia, it was once illegal to sleep on a train.


“On which side of the platform is my train?” asked a stranger in a Jersey City depot the other day.

“Well, my friend,” replied a gentleman, passing, “if you take the left you’ll be right; if you take the right you’ll be left.” —Weekly Mountaineer, The Dalles, Oregon, January 6, 1877

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