As Miss Expatria’s gentle readers well know, I don’t love France. But just when I start to think there’s nothing fun about this existentially-shrugging, chain-smoking, c’est-pas-possible country, they turn around and surprise me!
My discovery of Beaujolais Day was one of those times. Held on the third Thursday in November – making it a delicious alternative to Thanksgiving Day for American expats – everyone in France who’s healthy enough to raise a glass heads to their local bar and samples the year’s new wine, which is arguably best when drunk as soon as possible after it’s been bottled. (Many oenophiles insist on waiting a month to get the true flavor, but that simply means more room at the bar for the rest of us.)
Another fun thing is Fete de la Musique, on the summer solstice. Once again, all of France shuts down and takes to the streets – not to strike, surprisingly, but to walk around town listening to live bands, DJs, string quartets, and anyone else who wants to make some noise on this day. Unfortunately for music fans, there’s been an alarming trend toward almost exclusively reggae and reggaeton, and much of the Fete’s international or even traditional French fare has fallen victim to booming Honda-sized speakers growling about Jamaica. Although, last year I heard a live reggae band segue from Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” into “So Lonely” by the Police, and was blinded by the brilliance.
And now I hear of France’s newest scheme to get people riding the rails.
That’s right. Starting this summer, SNCF is booking overnight trains from Paris to Biarritz, Montpellier and Nice – three towns very familiar with partying, even without the government’s blessing – complete with bar cars, DJs, dance floors, video game and talent competitions, and low-lighting cars for chatting up fellow passengers.
What the articles I’ve read don’t cover is what any of these three towns plan to do with a trainload of drunk 18-30 year-olds spilling en masse into the town center between 4 and 5 AM. If it were America – well first of all, it would never happen, but if it did – there would be some enterprising young group who’d be set up at the end of the platform with greasy breakfast sandwiches and strong coffee. At the very least, companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks would be in on the fun, and would probably tie in with return ticket promotions so everyone gets back home in one piece.
As a resident of one of these destination towns, I seriously hope that SNCF has come up with some sort of plan, and that they’re not depending on the foresight of the type of kids that would say, OMG PARTY TRAIN ALLONS-Y to realize ahead of time that they’ll be arriving in another city, hundreds of miles from home, in the bright summer morning sun without an exit strategy.
I have half a mind to rent a hotel room overlooking the station entrance for the inaugural trip. It should be, well… FUN!