My platform was, of course, on the other side of station, so I resumed my role as the American madwoman and quickly walked down the ramp with my luggage. Gravity did not work in my favor, so my bags rolled out of control and I had to run to keep up. I found my platform and it had an elevator…that was not in service. So I ran to the other side, quickly hopped on the elevator and found my place on the platform. The train arrived late, which wasn’t a problem, except that I was concerned it would want to leave on time and that I may not get all of my luggage on the train before it left. When it did come, it went farther down the platform then was expected and there were long lines. After running between two lines, my luggage flipping over and dragging and my coat falling off, I finally made it into the second-class section of the train. Because of all of the confusion getting on the train (crazed Americans and French commuters alike), there were huge lines to get between the sections and store luggage. I was making my way through the aisle, my suitcases basically hitting everyone along the way until I hit a standstill. Three teenage boys were trying to get through and were giving me the “staredown”. No words were exchanged, but the gloves were off. I was not going to budge. This was mostly because I literally couldn’t, but I also figured that if I was going to be teaching teenagers in a week, I should develop the look of “I’m your elder, hear me roar” now. In the minute that passed (where they easily could have just moved to the side and let me pass), in their eyes, they seemed to be calculating what it would take to jump over me. Finally, one of them said to the other three that they should move and they did. Slightly. After two seconds, they decided that I was going too slowly (because there was still a huge line of people behind them) and they decided to go around me at all costs. After that I found a fold-down seat in a loading area and parked my luggage there. Again, this was an overbooked train. This area that was supposed to be clear for people to get on and off of the train. Instead, it was wall to wall with large luggage like mine. Any time that someone tried to pass our area or get off the train from this part, we had to play Tetris with the luggage. The conductor even remarked that every time he passed it looked different (or at least that’s what I think he said).
I should pause to say the ride was absolutely beautiful between Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand. Tucked away in mountains, we travelled from quaint village to quaint village. For all I know they were larger cities, but from the architecture to the landscape, they looked to me like idyllic French country villages.
When it was time to get off this train, I thought I had it figured out. I had everything attached and ready to go. Again, I struggled. Some guy walking by pulled one of my bags out. At this point, if he wanted to steal it, I probably would have let him. Now off the train, baggage in tow, I looked for a taxi stand. Naturally, the station was under construction so they moved the taxi stand. There was one sign for taxis that pointed towards the city in general, but not to a taxi stand. Dragging my suitcases in circles, I finally stopped a woman about my age and asked in broken, cavewoman French, “where taxi?” Luckily she knew and pointed me in the right direction. After that it was smooth sailing. The smoothest part of the whole trip. The taxi driver knew exactly where to go, drove directly there (and followed the rules of the road) and even carried my luggage up the steps of the hostel.
It was a long trip. Once I reached my hostel, I fell asleep immediately in my madwoman clothes.