Trip to Europe revealed world travel in scribe’s blood
Even though this was my first overseas journey, world travel is in my blood, however, sometimes the pre-trip hype doesn’t live up to the actual experience.
That’s why my thoughts on Paris may not be what other readers have experienced in the past.
Our 17-day excursion to Germany, Austria and France was an overwhelming success and it only spurred us to try again as soon as possible.
One thing is certain; I could make trips overseas three or four times a year and never catch up with my great aunt, Bess Malone Benson, or my mother, the late Mary Ellen Malone Goodman.
I remember the thrill of taking Aunt Bess to Will Rogers World Airport back in the late 1950s and early 1960s to travel abroad on one of those amazing old TWA Constellation jetliners with the familiar tri-tail.
Mother loved to travel even more and was more daring. She once rode an ostrich, she flew over the African wilds in a hot air balloon that had a rough landing, she rode the Orient Express and even the Siberian Express.
My trip was much tamer; the escalator episode from Munich that I documented in last week’s first column about our journey was probably the most daring thing I faced.
As you gathered from last week’s column, train travel is much easier in Europe and getting from Munich to Paris was very easy as the French SNCF train we boarded was the best we had on our trip.
My handicap seat was in the first carriage, that’s what they’re called overseas, and was very spacious. And, there was no little lift that service assistants had to pump up with their foot to raise me to the level of the train door.
No, this time the conductor opened a lock box, pulled out a folding ramp and then proceeded to raise the floor to level with the platform to allow me to drive straight into the car.
Once inside they lowered the platform and I moved a few feet to my table.
The rest of the crew – wife Brigitte, son Russell, daughter-in-law Tanya and grandson Jordy – had spacious comfortable seats right next to my area thanks to a stroke of luck.
We hadn’t asked for First Class when booking the trip, however, because that’s the car I landed up in, the rest of the crew got to tag along.
This leg of the trip started on time and we proceeded to make several stops in Germany before making our last stop in Germany at Stuttgart.
There we unloaded a host of passengers, most of them from the upper level of our double-decker car.
That’s when things got much more exciting. We made the dash northwest to Karlsruhe, Germany, then turned southwest to parallel the Rhein River and avoid the Black Forest mountains.
Finally, just south of Strasbourg, France, we crossed the mighty Rhein and headed towards Paris. That’s when the TV screen with our route started to show the type of speed we had expected.
Soon we hit 300 kilometers an hour and eventually we reached 317, which equates to nearly 195 miles an hour.
That was something Jordy had been waiting to witness for weeks and he was impressed to say the least.
However, there is a problem with that speed, you miss much of the scenery but what I was able to see plainly was rich farm country where combines were cutting wheat in almost every field.
These weren’t the big combines like the 30-, 32- and even 34-foot headers we see around these parts because most of the fields were severely slopped. Instead they were using headers that seemed to be maybe 18 or 20 feet, plus the smaller headers could be tilted to match the terrain.
It’s wheat farming, but more like Montana and North Dakota than the Plains states with flatter fields.
With our speed almost constant at 190 miles an hour we quickly found our train pulling in Paris Est Station.