The Romance of Trains


There are certain things one has to love about trains. Christopher says to me ‘you’re not a romantic. You don’t like trains.’ Actually, what I don’t like much are rows of train tracks for which men tend to have a greater fascination. Christopher has stopped to point out to our friend Huguette the train tracks on the Ocean exit from Montparnasse.

Then he stops just beneath the above ground Metro line that arches across Blvd. Pasteur.
“These trains were built over a hundred years ago and they still function. That’s incredible!” What I love are the departures and the arrivals on the train station quai.

In the evening, we take Huguette to catch her train back to Rennes in Brittany. The station has transformed into a mob scene where people and their baggage crisscross the Grandes Lignes platforms – everyone on a Sunday night is rushing home to someplace in Brittany. for Huguette, it will be Rennes where her daughter waits for her. I realized suddenly that Christopher is right. There is nothing left in the world as romantic as trains. We see dozens of people accompanying their loved ones, their sweethearts, their grown children, their parents along the platform to their specific wagons. Couples embrace until the last possible minute. You rarely see much kissing anymore at airports. Airports aren’t romantic. Train stations are. The sense of departure is palpable – you see all the gestures of endearment. Helping load the suitcase on board, watching through the window as the person departing looks for his or her seat. I see a father tapping the window on the outside. A boyfriend throws his girlfriend a last kiss. Then he watches for a long time as the train pulls out of the station. People linger – they are not in a hurry to run off and pick up their routines. A train departure is still an event in which the well-wishers participate as much as the voyagers. There are no security restrictions. No bag checking, people are happy. I realize that this is an uncommon fading luxury.

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Trains are romantic. Christopher is right.