We'd been talking about riding Le Petit Jaune (http://www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/fr/0/0/1/2283/actualites/d/0/train-jaune-en-hiver-saison-2017-2018) -- the Little Yellow Train -- to get a view of the Pyrenees Mountains in winter ... and give Sherlock his first snow experience.
We never got on the train. And Sherlock threw up. Twice. Once each on the inside of the two car doors.
It would have helped if I could read a train timetable. Or a Google Map.
First, I thought it would take us about two hours to drive from Argèles sur Mer to Villefranche-de-Conflent, from whence the train departs. Apparently I had Google Maps set to public transport, not driving. So it wasn't really necessary to get up at 5 am to catch the 830 train. We arrived at the station at 7. But managed to salvage the 90 spare minutes by wandering into the thousand-year-old city (http://www.francethisway.com/places/villefranchedeconflent.php) to find a boulangerie for a fresh pain au chocolate.
That was after the first vomit comet.
Back to the station, sit in the car for awhile, then head into the ticket office when a tourism bus pulled up at 8:15. No one exited the bus; maybe they were keeping warm. Bought two tickets, aller et retour, to Fort Romeu (https://en.france-montagnes.com/resort/font-romeu). We didn't want to take the train to the end of the line, Latour-de-Carol (https://www.france-voyage.com/cities-towns/latour-de-carol-26236.htm) because friends told us there's not much there and it's a hike from the gare to the village. We also did not want to spend the whole day riding the train up and back -- it was our plan to get off at Fort Romeu, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, then catch an 11-something train back down to Villefranche.
Ticket and dog in hand, we went across to the dernier platform to await the train, which was parked on a siding about 100 metres away. A couple of railroad workers passed us as we waited. No other passengers joined us in the queue. The tourist bus departed the station. 830 came, and no movement of the train. Well, we know the French trains are not as on time as the Swiss.
After waiting a few more minutes, something seemed amiss. And the dog was getting cold. So back into the station to inquire. Apparently the train's first departure was not until 930. Another hour of waiting. But worse, once we got to Fort Romeu, the return train did not leave until almost 4 pm, arriving back around 6 in the evening. And, no, the tickets were not refundable.
It was go home ... or go on. We decided to drive up to Fort Romeu. After all, we are already halfway there. On the way out of the station parking lot, we gave the tickets to a couple who was heading into the station. It took a bit to get them to understand we were not going to use them ... hopefully they did.
Beautiful, beautiful drive up into the mountains. Through don't-blink villages such as Serdinya, Jujols, Olette, Fontpedrouse. Under the magnificent Pont Séjourné. Very winding road, sometimes a grade of 10-degrees. Slight delays at a couple of construction projects where they seem to be widening and straightening the curves a bit.
Only a few more kilometres to Fort Romeu, but hey, there was snow right here beside the parking area. So we let the Pukey Little Puppy out of the car and walked him over to the small mound of snow. Demonstrated for him that you could actually walk on it. Well, not quite, it was soft and he sank. Donna-Lane remarked in her best Sherlock voice, "Why are you people torturing me?"
We walked around a bit, took a few photos to justify bringing my good camera, buckled up and headed down the mountain. We've been to Fort Romeu before, more than once, Sherlock didn't much care, and the roads might get slipperier the higher we want. (We were seeing several signs advising "chaines.")
D-L slept most of the way back down the mountain, nearly to Perpignan. Which we decided was not going to work on the long drive to Geneva later this month, as Sherlock would slip off her lap if she was not holding him. Then he would want to sit in my lap, which is not conducive to safe driving. So we stopped in Cabestany to buy a cage/bed for the pup. Which turned out to be much too big for the back seat. So we'll take it back and hope he'll sleep on his bed without being confined.
Despite the frustration of getting up way too early, NOT riding the train, and NOT getting to Fort Romeu, we had a good time. Much better than, say, when I vac and scrub the mushy kibbles out of the car.
Since I won't be posting photos or video of Le Petit Train Jaune anytime soon (the 830 am train does not begin until 1 April), here's someone else's video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_8byr_la2g.
BTW, you can find D-L's version of events on her blog: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.fr/2018/02/oops.html.