Thursday, June 2, 2011

Riding on the TGV Train No. 9321 to Brussels, Belgium

After celebrating May 1st with my cousins, we left in the evening to stay at a small Paris hotel near the Gare du Nord station. Our room in the Hotel Maubeuge was small, but clean, with a bizarre décor scheme. We were on the top floor and had a nice window where we could even see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I took several pictures as the sun went down.

click on collage to enlarge then on click on each picture

I forgot to take a picture of our room but found another one on the hotel web site. We stayed in this hotel because it is walking distance to the station which made it easy the next morning to catch our train.

In the morning it rained for about 10 minutes, which was the only rain we experienced the whole time we were in Paris. We stopped at a café for a small breakfast. I had the best croissant – very fresh, crusty and authentic – yum! I think the café was called “Le Chalet du Nord.” We then walked to the Gare du Nord, which I found a lot cleaner than I remembered.

When I worked in Paris I stayed at my parents’ apartment but on the week-ends I would walk to the Gare du Nord and take the train to the suburban town where they lived named St-Leu-la-Forêt (20 kms from the center of Paris or 12.5 miles.) . Before that I also rode the train when I went to school in Paris after high school. Even before that, when I lived in St Leu, I rode the train to go to high school. The train station was about 15 minutes from home and luckily it was a walk downhill. I remember many mornings when I could hear the train approaching (it was a steam train then and made much noise and would also blow its whistle) and I would start a sprint to the station. I have a postcard of the station. It looked pretty much the same when I went to high school in the 50s as in this vintage card – well, almost. I found another picture of the station on the Net showing how it looks now.

My high school was in Enghien-les-Bains, another suburban town from Paris - about 12 kms from my home or 7.5 miles, but the train took about 20 minutes. It is a very pretty town, with a large lake and the only casino close to Paris. My high school was bordering the lake – I found a picture of my high school in winter.

The trains then were slow and used steam. I think they changed over to electric engines in the late 60s. Below are the types of trains I would ride then.

Previous to all these times, when I was a child, we would take the train at the Gare St Lazare in Paris to visit my grandparents in another little suburban town called Courbevoie. I have used trains for many a year. I do not have a picture of the Gare St Lazare but Claude Monet painted it.

La Gare St Lazare by Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926

When I would come back from my high school I sometimes would have to wait for a train to return home. I would look at all the beautiful posters lining the station and dreamed of those faraway places. Many posters said “Visitez…” which means “come and visit… “ Apart from Poland and the Czech Republic, I visited all those pictured below.

I also visited all those below and some, like Italy, several times.

The first time I went to England, when I was 13 (December 1953), I met a small group at the station in Paris where we took a train to Dieppe, then a ferry to Folkestone, then boarded an English train going to London. The English train had more comfortable seats, in velvet, and attendants would come and serve tea.

A English Southern Railway boat train (courtesy N.E. Norman)

There are several other stations in Paris. One of my favorites is the Gare de Lyon with trains going south. It is a classic station built in 1900 for the World Exposition.

Vintage postcard of the Gare de Lyon, Paris

Starting in 1957, I went to Italy four times on vacation during the month of August. I would catch the overnight train to Milan then connect with an Italian train going to the Adriatic Coast. I had to get my ticket and reservation a long time in advance because a huge number of Parisians took the train to points south around the 1st August. Sometimes I would get a “couchette” which was a bench where I could lay down. If not I was in a compartment with 6 other people. There was a small corridor outside of the compartment, as shown below. I would also go to the dining car for dinner, usually the second seating.

During the night we would be awaken when we went through Switzerland. The train would stop and the Customs Agents would get in. If we had time and I saw some vendors on the platform, I would run and buy some Swiss chocolate. It was a long trip then but now the SNCF, the French Railroad Company, has very fast trains which they call TGV. This stands for Train à Grande Vitesse, or literally 'train with a very fast speed.' We took a TGV to Marseille in November 2009 and it took only 3 hours from Paris. It is a distance of 489 miles, or 783 kms, which is a little more than the distance between New York City and Columbus, Ohio - in 3 hours!

French TGV train Marseille-Paris

To return to our trip on that Monday 2nd May, 2011, we reached the Gare du Nord with almost an hour to spare. Our train was listed on the sixth line below, 10:01 to Bruxelles-Midi, train 9321 (Brussels, Belgium, Midi station.)

We walked around the station, bought some magazines and I took pictures. My husband bought the New York Herald Tribune to read some news – it said that Osama Ben Laden had been found and killed, which we did not know.

But we finally boarded our train and sat in our comfortable red seats.

This TGV train was going quite fast. I tried to take some pictures but they did not come out sharp at all. We were going through fields and small towns. We passed several rivers and lakes.

We left Paris, France at 10:01 am and arrived at the Midi station in Brussels, Belgium at 11:20 am, or a trip of 1 hour and 20 minutes. If we had taken a flight, when you consider going to the airport in advance, boarding the plane, the flight, then deplaning, it would have taken much longer.

On an another note, we had been considering taking the train from Atlanta to New Orleans. I checked this week and found one train, called the Crescent, leaving Atlanta daily at 8:38 am and arriving in New Orleans at 7:38 pm, or a trip of 12 hours. The distance is about 469 miles – 754 kms – which is less than the distance Paris Marseille (489 M/783 kms) taking only 3 hours on the TGV. In addition, there are many trains going to either Brussels or Marseille during the day. There is only one train going to New Orleans in a southern direction and then back to Washington, DC and on to New York City going north. Just one train for a population in greater Atlanta of 5,475,213 (2009 census.) The whole country of New Zealand has a population of 4,315,000 and more than one train. There are no other trains in Atlanta going anywhere else, that's it.

In my next post I’ll explain why we went to Brussels and who we met there (we had a great time!)

Arriving at the Brussels train station


Z said...

I love travelling by Eurostar, leaving London and arriving a few hours later in the centre of Paris or Brussels.

Kay L. Davies said...

What a wonderful post. We were in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Switzerland in March and April, and travelled a lot by train, but just once or twice on the TGV.
It was fascinating to see pictures of the older trains and stations. I do miss the train whistles with the new electric trains.
We have one Trans-Canada train. It goes from the west coast to Toronto and then back to the west coast and takes three days each way, but I can't imagine new tracks and electric wires going all the way across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. LOL
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Lonicera said...

I love travelling by train. I get organised, take plenty of reading matter, and something to write on in case I get one of those seats with tables. And what happens? I get mesmerised by the view, the hum and the rocking of the train, and gaze out the window without a thought in my head. ("Must read in a minute"). And suddenly I've arrived.

DJan said...

What a great adventure, VB! I also love to ride the train but haven't spent enough time in Europe to take any of these myself. I have ridden overnight trains in China with a cot for sleeping in a room with many others. I also took a very slow train from Bellingham to Seattle! Good for sightseeing. Love your pictures taken from the train, which are quite good actually.

Anonymous said...

I really like your photographs.

Kay Dennison said...

What glorious photos of your world!!!

Olga said...

I can compare some of your posts to reading an encyclopedia or watching documentaries. It's so enjoyable.

Vagabonde said...

Z – The Eurostar is great – I have taken it several times but I dearly remember also crossing the Channel in the ferry and love to watch the sea.

Kay L. Davies – I know all about the Trans-Canada train and would love to go on it. Since I have not, I bought a video of its trip. The landscape is out of this world.

Lonicera – England has great trains and as you, to watch the scenery, is enthralling to me.

DJan – a train in China? Did you make a post on it? That must have been an adventure.

Honest Abe and Kay Dennison –thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Olga - Thanks for the compliment, but if my posts are close to be like watching a documentary they may become boring, no? I better get some life into them.

Pat said...

The roof tops in Paris are so evocative and I love Monet's Gare de Nord. Thank you for a most wonderful trip. One's horizons get ever closer and tomorrow we depart for our holiday venue - just 50 odd miles in the next county. Heigh Ho!

Ann said...

my goodness.. such a wonderful trip!! the views from the train were a trip in themselves. To be able to travel and see the places you've been..I can only dream!!, I can go through your posts!!!!! Really!! I feel,through your words and photos,like I am there! My heartfelt thanks for the time and effort you put into your posts, which allow me to visit places I probably will never get to go to. THANK YOU!! I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME!! :)

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Vagabonde. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment today. I am thrilled you have found me as I now have a new blog to add to my list of favorites. It sounds you and I have a lot in common. We both love to tell stories about France, and our favorite travel destinations. My husband is a Parisian whose family lives in Enghien les Bains. All these pictures looked very familiar, as did La Gare St Lazare, and the other train stations you showed. I agree with you the European train system is unparalleled! A bientot, Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful pictures, as always.. I do wish we had a railway system like Europe.

Cloudia said...

A dream of a trip to me!

thank you :)

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral




Pierre BOYER said...

J'aime le bel hommage à Claude Monet...
Belle journée,


fly44d said...

Despite being a pilot, I've always enjoyed riding trains! :-) Thanks for opening the memories.

Pondside said...

I love to ride the trains when we're in Europe. In Canada we have one train, once a week. My parents come west by train each year, and it is rarely a uneventful trip. The rails and the rolling stock are old. Here on the Island we have always had a train, but in the last month the last train was taken away. It's such a good way to travel, but we seem determined to tear out the rails and depend on cars and planes.

Jenn Jilks said...

I do so love your travels and your information. I'm content to visit virtually through folks like yourself.

Thanks for visiting my blog.
Have you read the book that is a compilation of children's diaries from WW II? It is heartbreaking but educational.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Love Monet's painting of La Gare. Trains have certainly changed since then. I would love to ride on the TGV.

Your photos of the roof tops is outstanding.

Unknown said...

That was a sleek looking train at the beginning of the post!

Dianne said...

I always think of train travel as so romatic and exciting and these photos foster that image

I love how sleek the train looks!!

and the Monet is heaven

Ruth said...

Ahh, the romance of trains, all here. I long to ride on a train like the old steam ones you traveled in in the 50s. I would love nothing more than a trip on the Orient Express one day. We had a very nice trip from London to Edinburgh on the Flying Scotsman, with a sleeping room and bunk beds. I loved falling asleep to the rocking and click-clack of the train.

You write the best posts, always including things I am interested in. Like the room decor! Was it pink and red?

Fennie said...

Love all that railway history - especially steam trains and crossing frontiers - what an adventure. The TGV's are wonderful, but I am thinking have you been through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar - you can take the express from Brussels Midi and be in London in 3 hours. Amazing.

Helen said...

This is a magnificent post! I have taken a train from Bruge to Paris and back ... trains in Europe are so different from those in the US. When my children were small, I would take them from St. Louis to Chicago by train. My sister lived there. Quite the adventure ... I have the great urge to travel abroad again .. your blog is fueling that urge I must say.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I LOVE seeing all the pictures of those BEAUTIFUL Trains! I cannot get over how fast they go...! The miles are similar to from Los Angeles to San Francisco....If we had such fast trains, that trip would be a snap! And I cannot get over how incredibly sleek and special some of those trains look!
Our trains here in the states really cannot compare in any way. We are Soooo far behind, ir is crazy!
I love how you document everything in such great and wonderful detail, my dear....I always feel I learn so much coming here to read your blog.

BTW: I have another "Jacaranda" post up....!

Oh I LOVE this---my word verification is!

Reader Wil said...

Merci pour prendre nous en voyage. Vous avez voyager beaucoup ! J' aime aussi la peinture de Monet! Les couleurs sont formidables.

zaloette said...

Good morning,

I love travelling by train and I love Paris. It is great to read about you!

Have a nice day


lorilaire said...

J'ai pris dernièrement le train TGV départ du Havre 8 heures arrivée Marseille 14H30, en voiture cela aurait duré environ 12/13 heures avec la fatigue, et des frais beaucoup plus onéreux.
En réservant suffisamment en avance on bénéficie d'un tarif très attractif !
Nous sommes allés aussi à Bruxelles cet hiver au moment des fêtes c'était féérique !

Shammickite said...

I used to go to and from boarding school by steam train. I usually had to take 3 trains, changing twice, and I thought myself very grown up and sophisticated travelling on my own!
I love the lamp posts on the street leading to the station at St Leu! Very elegant.

Ginnie said...

I am totally in love with trains, Vagabonde, especially from Europe, so I loved this post from beginning toend. I still have memories of looking down at the trains from the CDG airport every time I flew in/out of Paris to AMS or Hannover.

Before we bought our car when I first moved to The Netherlands, we did everything by train, just a short 10-minute walk from our apartment. And yes, sometimes the train makes much more sense than flying! No doubt about in Europe, that is. I do hope it's not too late for America to get their act together and figure out train transportation for its future. It would make so much sense!

Diane said...

Great post. I still love the old steam trains despite the fact they may not be good for the environment. Wonderful memories. Diane

marciamayo said...

Vagabonde, I can't imagine how long it must take you to put together these gorgeous posts, but I'm so glad you do. A few years ago, I took a TGV train from Paris to somewhere in Province and back. What a treat!

PeterParis said...

As usual, such a long and complete post, where so much is said and there could be lot to comment... , but if I start I will make it as long as your post - and without illustrations - so I will just state that I liked this post a lot! :-) ... and that I like trains! (I will take the Transsiberian in September!)

Frances said...

Bon soir, Vagabonde. I so loved reading this post of yours, with its comparison of trains here and there, then and now. Truly, there is nothing quite like a journey on a train.

I am so lucky to have been able to have done some European traveling on trains with wonderful compartments, and with a great cast of ticket-holding characters. When you show that photo of the Atlanta train station, I am reminded of what the current Richmond train station looks like. More like a gas service station. No architectural inclination at all.

And I am also a fan of vintage travel posters and postcards. Your collection is fabulous. I have treated myself to a trip back into your archived posts and have seen many beautiful Parisian post cards, learned much about the House of Worth, the jazz age, the tango, and The Farm.

Gosh, if we ever would get the chance to be in the same place and time (unlike Dr John's right place, wrong time) I think we would be able to talk for hours and hours. And that would just be the beginning.


Vagabonde said...

Pat, Ann, Vicki Lane, Cloudia, Fly44d, Pondside, Sam @my Carolina Kitchen, Tim, Dianne, Helen, Old Lady from the Hills, Markosy, Shammickite, Ginnie, Food, Fun and Life in the Charente, marciamayo - Thanks everyone for leaving such interesting comments. They add a lot to my posts and I always look forward to them.

French Girl in Seattle, Pierre Boyer – Bienvenu sur mon blog. Merci d'être venus et d’avoir laissé des commentaires. J’espère que vous reviendrez souvent.

Vagabonde said...

Jenn Jilks – No, I have not read the book you talk about – what is the title? Thanks for stopping by.

Ruth – our room at the small hotel was blue-grey and black with silver decoration like a couple or ornate mirrors. I should have taken its picture. Thanks for the comment.

Fennie - Yes I have taken the Eurostar to London, but from Paris, not Brussels. It was fast and comfortable – I think I went on it at least 3 times. Thanks for commenting.

Vagabonde said...

Reader Wil, Lorilaire - Merci chères amies pour vos aimables commentaires. C’est toujours un plaisir de vous lire.

Peter – You will take the Transsiberian? How exciting – I’d love to take that train too – I’ll be watching your blog for updates and photos.

Frances – Thank you so much for taking the time to go back to my old posts. I am pleased that you liked the posts on the tango and about the ex commune The Farm – I had fun writing them. It’s always nice to read your comments.

snowwhite said...

Oh, delightful story of train trips, history and wonderful photos! I love to travel by train, prefer rather slow trip. Enjoying views and eating Ekiben(train box lunch in Japanese) is a lot of fun. I enjoyed wonderful tours with you.
Thank you for sharing.
Have a great day!

claude said...

Tu es une grande voyageuse, dis moi !
Moi aussi j'ai des souvenirs des gares de Paris, quand j'étais enfant, on prenait le train à vapeur à la gare de Lyon pour aller dans le Berry.
Cela fait un grand contraste avec le TGV que je prends quand je vais à Paris.
Entre les deux il y a eu le Corail qui marchait à l'électricité.

This is Belgium said...

Hi, glad to discover your blog !!
Greetings from Brussels, looking forward to your next post !

ruma said...

Awe inspiring your works...

Thank you for your love and sincerity.
Have a good weekend.

From Saga, Japan.

Anonymous said...

What an evocative post! Those big steam trains of my youth.

I especially love the large stations in Paris with all those destination boards. Gare du Nord is my usual station but I love the Gare du Lyons, with its Ligne Bleue Restaurant and the palm trees. I get thrills down my spine at the possibilities they encompass, and want to jump on a train, any train, to somewhere exotic. The TGV to my mind is fantastic: I think these frequent, fast trains in Europe put us to shame in the UK with their comfort, cleanliness and speed. I remember years ago in Frankfurt being amazed that the trains always stopped with the doors at special places on the platform, indicated on the ticket, so you knew exactly where to wait, and there was no last minute rushing up and down the train. That happens with Eurostar in London but otherwise nowhere else in the UK that I know of.
Hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip.

sweffling said...

That last comment was me, I did not mean to be anon. but pressed the button too soon.

Wild_Bill said...

For those of us not traveling it is a lot of fun tagging along with you as you tour Europe! Vicarious thrills for all of us who join you. Thanks.

Vagabonde said...

Ruma and Snowwhite – Trains in Japan are also very fast. When in Tokyo I just took a city train but I’d like to go back and take a long trip on a train there. Thanks for stopping by.

Claude – Ah oui, j’aime tous les voyage, en bicyclette, en train, bateau, autobus, avion, enfin tous les moyens de locomotion. Amicalement VB

This is Belgium – Welcome - I am pleased you found my blog. I hope you’ll come back when you have some time.

Sweffling – The UK trains are all right – you should come to the US and take a train - you would see. In the Northeast trains are good but in the rest of the country they need to improve. Thanks for commenting.

Wild Bill – I am pleased your enjoyed the train ride. Thank you.

Elaine said...

Very interesting!

Snowbrush said...

Gosh, I enjoyed your pictures. How I envy Europe its trains. Trains are so superior to flying in some many ways, but Americans don't care to explore them, and it's too bad.

Sandy said...

I have an overwhelming hunger for some moules-frites and a beer now! Yum!

ruma said...


 Lovely your works...
 The interchange of the artistry brings the peace of the heart.

 Thank you for your visit.
 Have a good weekend.

Greetings, and Dear hug.
from Japan.

Jeanie said...

Well, I have been waiting to dig in and read such a wonderful post! Have I told you lately how much I love coming here, hearing your wonderful stories and narratives mixed so perfectly with beautiful photos and those vintage cards? Perfect in every way.

I took the train for the first time in a long while this past weekend to meet blog friends in Chicago. It was about the same amount of time as driving, but so nice to relax, read, watch the world go by.

My verification word is "unacked" -- I think they left out a "p" and meant "unpacked," which by now I am quite certain you've accomplished!

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