Bloganuary #14

What is your preferred mode of travel?

When I was a child and even into my adult years, my preferred means of travel for long distances was by train – but it is so expensive in the UK (unless you manage to avoid London and take some of the smaller lines).

When I was very young my parents gave me the choice of going on holiday by flying or by train. I immediately plumped for the train option, because it gave you the chance to look out of the window and see all the countryside, towns and villages flashing past you. We travelled to Austria by train (I don’t remember how we got across the water between the UK and mainland Europe) and even though I managed to fall out of 1/3 story bunk during the night on that holiday my love of train travel did not diminish – I must be mad!

When I was much older, my partner and I visited the Montréal Jazz festival (in 2004 & 2009 I think). On our first holiday we visited the capital of Québec (Québec city) and I still remember how shocked our hosts were when we said that we were planning to travel back to Montréal by train. However, having taken the journey I began to understand their amazement, because the trains were SO slow and the journey seemed to take forever.

The holiday was great, but my memories are of the great Jazz that took place all day in the streets and the amazingly hot temperatures. The first time we saw Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard ensemble perform “Officium” was in the Montréal Cathedral. Coming from the UK where Cathedrals are usually very old and often quite cool, I was perplexed when the organisers of the concert wouldn’t let anyone into the Cathedral and were advising everyone to get themselves some bottles of cold water – our tickets were high up in the Cathedral and the temperatures were really hot and I mean ‘out of this world’ HOT to someone coming from comparatively cool and temperate UK.

However, in the intervening years my life has changed considerably due to MS and I now find it quite stressful when travelling by train. Actually, that isn’t quite true because the train journey itself is still as fascinating as ever, but the waiting for, getting on and off and trying to change trains gets harder and harder. Now that I use a wheelchair, my travel habits have had to change. Walking/wheeling is sometimes all right, but in most places the pavements and the dropped curbs (which often aren’t very dropped) make wheelchair travel quite a drama (I mean that literally, having fallen out of my wheelchair at least 4 – 5 times!) Flying is something I avoid at all costs as the waiting around is even worse than for trains and the horror stories of wheelchairs being destroyed or not brought to the aircraft for disembarkation is something I’ve experienced and now just choose not to do. You might think that this is quite difficult when living on an island, but I still visit continental Europe just not by plane or train. Instead I find it much more relaxing and pleasurable to take a little longer journey time and travel by car and Ferry. At least on a Ferry, you can sometimes get a very nice meal and there is always the option of travelling overnight.

So now I travel quite regularly (less so since Covid) back and forwards to North West France (near Mont St Michel) – hence the photograph – to visit my parents who now are French nationals and live in this lovely rural part of France.



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