Dave is huddled over his Acer netbook at the dinner table, taking a grueling online tour through rail and hotel websites to find out how to get to a place only 60 miles away from us.
The trouble is that we are without car. Not that we could not have a car – we could buy one if we liked, but in the spirit of sparing ourselves the nuisance of making our presence known to more bureaucracies, we are doing without.
Bureaucracy-avoidance is paramount, because as we have learned in past international moves, bureaucrats live on the flesh of foreigners, and as proof of this, just yesterday I received a formal tersely worded notice from the Swiss tax offices demanding to know the name of my employer so that I can stop evading taxes.
I don’t have an employer – that has been clear on all our documentation, and was actually a condition of my admittance to this lovely country, but the tax people are raking about for more revenue, as is their custom. I will take care of that next week. In the meantime, challenges loom over our next trip.
This is the truth about public transport: It works beautifully between major cities, not so much for little French villages just over the border, and so a train ride to Besançon, France (53 miles) can take as long as one to get to Paris, France (250 miles), that is, about four or five hours. Dave has been wheedling away at the keyboard and discovered a 2.5 trip to Besançon, but it is an awkward midday journey, necessitating an overnight stay.
We’ve grown attached to our day-trips that have lapsed into a lovely routine where we laze through a pot of coffee and late breakfast, leave at a civilized hour on a morning train, that is sometime between 10 a.m. and noon, and return on an evening train. A four-hour afternoon stay seems to be about as long as we can stand to stay in one place, even if it is laced with cobblestone avenues flanked by 16th-Century stone buildings. There is only so much of that one person can take.
It looks like we will take that overnight trip to Besançon – a perilous venture on this four-day long weekend when Europeans flood the trains, highways and airports in an obsessive dash to get somewhere, anywhere but where they are. They are like Winnipeggers racing to their cottages on a long weekend, which is what we once were, so we fit in quite well.
We want to get somewhere, anywhere, but here, although really, here is very nice, although it has cobblestone streets, so naturally, we can only stand it in small doses.