Take the TGV-Med

photo: le rendez vous, denfert

Sunday's cool but summer-like face of Paris.

Bac Stress and a Fax Escape

Paris:- Monday, 11. June 2001:- The SNCF's new Paris-Marseille train service started yesterday, and the first train of the day was shown on TV-news with empty seats. But it started from Paris before most people were awake.

Last night's TV-news explained in great detail what sort of strain this new service will put on the national rail operator. It will be running the superfast trains a bit like a suburban service, controlled from a centre somewhat more complex than an air traffic control tower.

The SNCF's engineers and planners hope they have foreseen every eventuality - because the SNCF wants these trains to be on time all the time.

Today's Le Parisien compares the TGV-Med with air services and a private car. The trip starts from the paper's editorial offices in Saint-Ouen, just outside Paris, and ends at the Hôtel de Ville in Marseille.

The taxi to Gare de Lyon takes 15 minutes, and to Orly, it takes 22 minutes. The train leavesphoto: helicopter, hotel de ville the Gare de Lyon at 9:20 and the plane leaves Orly at 9:45. The train arrives in Marseille's Gare Saint-Charles at 12:20 and the jet lands at Marignane airport between 10:45 and 11:00.

Aviation is parked all over town for the current biannual air show at Le Bourget.

The train rider smells the Vieux-Port from Marseille's métro, but keeps on going to the Hôtel de Ville, arriving at 12:40. With a taxi from the airport, the flyer gets to the same destination at 11:15.

For the train, the time from point to point is calculated as three hours, 55 minutes. For the plane, the elapsed time is three hours and 20 minutes.

Counting taxi rides, métro tickets and the main fares, Paris-Marseille costs 745 francs by train and 2426 francs by plane. Getting there 30 minutes sooner costs 1681 francs more.

This was done on a non-holiday Sunday. On a weekday, the train's time will be about the same but cheaper - because instead of a taxi, the rider will choose the métro to get to the Gare de Lyon. Subtract 179 francs.

On a weekday, getting from Saint-Ouen to Orly airport will be no picnic. Air traffic control isn't 'on rails' so check-in times will be longer, loitering will be longer, and so on. Add on some time for this trip.

For comfort, the train beats the crammed-in jet. The worst way to do it is by car through. The car leaves Saint-Ouen at 8:00 on Sunday morning and has the best traffic conditions to clear through the Porte d'Orléans in record time - without speeding!

The trip costs 839 francs in a sub-medium-sized car. Included are gas, tolls, snacks, more gas, more tolls - rain, sunshine, passing caravans, more rain - and after eight hours and 800 kilometres of this, the driver arrives exhausted at the Hôtel de Ville in Marseille.

Parisians are reading all of this avidly, and are planning on spending weekends beside the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the SNCF is planning its advertising to include London and Brussels as candidates for weekends down south.

The train and plane fares mentioned above are what the newspaper reported. Both the SNCF and Air France have full fares, and a great variety of reduced fares, so the amounts travellers actually pay can vary by factors of several hundred percent.

Bac Stress

Today, 650,000 students in France are going to sit down somewhere and take an exam in philosophy. This test begins the 'baccalauréat,' which is France's equivalent of the tests to be passed as a requirement for entrance to an university.

This series of exams are very stressful for parents. They do not 'know' what their kids do know. For kids writing the exams, the most stressful aspect of them may be their parents' stress.

Therefore Le Parisien's advice is forphoto: batofar night club parents, for them to get a bit of 'zen' and give their kids some room to breathe. Rather than run out and buy big bottles of cool-out pills for their kids it might be helpful to get some for themselves.

After the 'Bac,' students might want to kick back at bit at the Batofar - ex-lightship and actual floating party-palace.

Some parents accompany their offspring to their oral exams, and annoy everybody by walking back and forth in corridors during the tests, chewing their fingernails.

This is probably the reason why I've seen so many students in unlikely cafés recently. These havens are sanctuaries for studying in peace - or, as is more usual, in teams of two.

For today, the subject of the exams may be law, justice or democracy - requiring a knowledge of Kant or Machiavelli. In France, 17 and 18 year-olds can't know too much Machiavellian philosophy.

Some students are extra relaxed because they believe the tests will be easier this year - because the Minister of Education, Jack Lang, wants everybody to get a good score - which is in itself is a sort of a lesson from the Bac-Philo.

Fax You Out

For Paris, Corsica is a pain in the neck. The pain is partly self-inflicted - a result of Parisian reluctance to let regions be more autonomous, combined in Corsica with a small independence ovement that has existed since France acquired it in 1768 from the Genoese, who had grabbed it from the Pisans in the 14th century.

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