Monday, April 30, 2012

Le Petit Train and the Funicular

Lourdes has the same problem as any other destination tourist attraction.  Once you have seen the basic attraction and shopped for souvenir, what apart from eating does one do?  This has been a conundrum for years in coastal towns in the United States and the reason places like wax museums, miniature golf courses, interpretative centers and a host of other "things to do when your kids our going crazy" places have sprung up all over the place.  Lourdes is no exception.

To get you around historic Lourdes, there is Le Petit Train, which is a silly little train designed solely to embarass tourists as they are ferried around town for the local's amusement.  Fortunately, they don't make you wear funny hats or blow Duck noise-makers, but that may be because they haven't thought about it.  The one saving grace is that there is a driver, who is a young local man trying desparately to be cool.  It is impossible in a shirt that has the logo "Le Petit Train".  The only thing it lacks is the label, "Hi, My Name is Jacques" on the pocket - I'm thinking of writing in to the company and suggesting that.

The train does drive you around historic Lourdes, but it also has a series of stops at various entertainment opportunities.

There is a waxworks museum dedicated to religious events.  This appears to be the place where waxworkers start their training and they must move somewhere else fairly quickly.  Here you can see "storefront manequins with beards" reenacting such scenes as the "Last Supper", "Jesus Entering Jerusalem", "Bernadette at the Grotto" and "Star Wars, Episode IV".

There is the Musee du Petit Lourdes, which is a little miniature city of what Lourdes looked like when Bernadette was around.  You feel just like Godzilla as you are near it (unfortunately, they don't let you stomp through the streets).

There is also the Musee de la Nativite de Anime, which is a display of storefront mannequins with beards which actually move just as if they were mannequins which could do one thing all the time, showing what it would have been like if Jesus was born in a town like Lourdes filled with zombies in the 19th century.

Finally, there is the funicular which is a cable-driven train which goes three thousand feet up a steep mountainside so that you can get a panoramic view of Lourdes and the Pyrenees.

I am not crazy about heights, but I love views and it is an unfortunate fact that in most places outside of Florida and Kansas views are associated with high places.  As a result, I have found myself on cliffs, towers, rooftops, mountains, chair lifts and other things over the years.

Karen is also not enamored of heights and when combined with questionable equipment she becomes even more wary.  She wasn't sure about going up the thing, but I suggested we just check it out and see.  We got off Le Petit Train at the funicular stop which promised a bar and a restaurant.  I thought we could have a drink at the bar and stiffen our resolve to go up.  It wasn't until the train left that we realized that the bar and restaurant were at the top of the funicular, not the bottom.

Karen looked up the steep mountainside and said, "You go up and I'll wait" to which I replied, "Don't be silly, I have no idea how long it would take and it is sure to be an outstanding view!"  There was a mental tug of war which went on for several minutes and eventually Karen gave in and agreed to go up.  I purchased the tickets and we boarded the front of the train, which tilted a bit precariously upward.  After we got on board, an army of French bicyclists started to board the car behind our seat with their bicycles.  Apparently, during the off-season, the funicular makes money by taking mountain bikers up the mountain and they go screaming down the mountainside, with any survivors reboarding the train for another fun fall.  The noise and apparent weight of the additional passengers started worrying Karen and she thought we could wait for the next train, to which I confidently but unwittingly replied, "There are more riders coming all of the time, the train will always be full.  Besides, the train says it takes 80 passengers and they can't fit more than 50 bicyclists with their equipment at the same time."  This did not sooth her mind, nor did my next attempt at comfort, "This French train has been going more than 100 years, we'll be fine."  Apparently, the reminder that, not only was this train French, but it was very old, just enhanced her fears.

However, as I was completing that statement, we were off, so there was no turning back.

There are three basic looks I get from Karen when I have done something wrong.  There are a lot of variations and subtleties, but three general categories.  The looks vary depending upon the nature of my error.

The first category is where I have shown one of my typical male traits like my inability to find things, anywhere.

Gary:  "Karen, have you seen the car?"
Karen:  "Did you check the garage?"
Gary:  "Of course I checked the garage, it's not there, did you put it somewhere?"
Karen:  "I haven't touched it today, check the garage again."
Gary:  "Fine, it's not there, but I will.  Well, what do you know, ha ha!  It WAS in the garage!  It was on the left side and I thought it was on the right!  Thanks, Honey!"

At that point, Karen rolls her eyes and shakes her head as if to say "Why did I pick a man to be with?  Wouldn't a pet or a turnip have been more sensible?"

The second category is when I've done something that probably any other male would have done, but it shows a distinct lack of thought when viewed by any female.

Karen:  "Why isn't my Grandma's desk in the bedroom?"
Gary:  "Oh, I needed an extra sawhorse in the garage and it was the right height.  I covered it with an old tarp, it won't hurt anything."

At that point, with eyes wide and mouth open she gives me the look which I have labeled, "You Did WHAT with the Puppies?"

The final category is real trouble.  This is where I either know or should have known that something was wrong and I did it anyway.  Should have known is a very broad area paricularly when, being a guy, a barely notice most things.  With this, I get the Glare which basically says, "I don't know what I'm going to do to you Buster, but if you don't sleep with one eye open for the next three nights, you'll be sorry."

I got the Glare.

I have a theory that the wife of the captain of the Titanic was angry with him and glaring from the port in England as he sailed off and that was why he was racing across the Atlantic - "If I get back in ten days, I can bring her flowers, buy some furniture and repaint the interior of the house."  Then, Whack! An Iceberg, "Oh great, now I'm really going to be in trouble at home."

The trip up the mountain took several years.

When we arrived, I reminded Karen how beautiful the view was, encouraged her to take photos and bought a bottle of the most expensive wine they served up there.

The view was lovely. 

When referring to this portion of our trip, Karen refers to it as the "F***nicular" - not in a good way.

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