I recently took a train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Dijon in Burgundy and had a brief encounter in Paris!
It was an easy journey, taking a little over an hour and a half. People often ask me why I don’t drive but I love taking the train and the chance to people watch in the stations, I’m amazed by the staff in their swish uniforms who greet you on board or on the platform, I love the welcome on board announcements from the “Captain of the train” and it’s a rare day when a French train is late so I know I’ll be there on time and relaxed…
First of all I arrived from Calais to Gare du Nord, an effortless journey. I then took a metro to Gare de Lyon which is just 2 stops and much quicker and very much cheaper than a taxi. On the platform were lots of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club supporters on their way to Clermont-Ferrand for a match against ASM Clermont Auvergne – they were all in a jolly mood. One of them informed me that the French team had not lost in 74 games but the Tigers were hoping to break the run – good luck with that then! We all squeezed onto the train and almost literally burst out at Gare de Lyon – they to trundle over to the Gare de Bercy next door. Me to await my carriage to Dijon. I had to wait over an hour for my connection so I nipped into Costa Coffee to sit and check emails on my iPad.
The staff are really friendly, the Wi-Fi connection effortless, the coffee was pretty good. It was lunch time, I think that’s why I had to wait so long for a train, I’m fairly certain all the train drivers stop between 12.00 and 14.00! Even the station was quite empty, so I sat in Costa Coffee, surrounded by mostly free tables, working away.
Ten minutes later, a man walked in. He was wearing an overcoat and fedora hat, very affluent looking, nice smiley face. Despite the café being filled with empty tables, he came and sat right next to me. I mean right next to me, his leg was almost touching mine. I shifted over a bit and he turned his head and stared at me..
On my Facebook page I typed to my friends: “Sitting at Costa Coffee at Gare de Lyon in Paris waiting for a train… Loads of empty tables but a strange man has just squeezed into the chair next to me and is staring intently at me… I certainly do know how to find ’em!”
Back came my sister, asking if it might be the waiter and perhaps I had forgotten my glasses, then she instructed me to “DO THIS”:
My other friends offered various pieces of useless advice: “Brief encounter… so French”, “French lover”, “nothing changes”, “stare back” etc.
My French friend Frederic protested that the man might in fact not be French at all, how could I tell? Well by this stage he had started chatting away to himself, in French, whilst continuing to stare at me.
Finally I couldn’t concentrate and moved to another table. The man didn’t move, he carried on staring at the spot where I’d been and mumbling away to himself. Just as I packed my bag to leave, a beautiful woman entered Costa Coffee, impeccably dressed in a fitted black skirt suit with black patent high heel shoes – heads turned as she went by. She walked past my table and the perfume she was drenched in made my nose tingle – she was oblivious to everything around her. Her blonde hair was piled high, her lipstick was deep red and she sashayed straight over to the man as if she knew he would be sitting there. His face lit up as he caught sight of her, he pulled the blue tooth I hadn’t seen from his ear, turned to her and they kissed deeply. I realised he had mostly likely been dictating something, concentrating intently and that that table was probably where they met for their regular rendezvous!
I watched as they talked animatedly together for a few minutes and then they got up and left, hand in hand and I went to catch my train…
ps. I book my train tickets through SNCF/Rail Europe London who send them in the post so I don’t have to queue or stress!