Le Sud Express : Lisbon to Paris

There was an excited buzz in our corner of L’Entre Deux Mers one morning, when the local newspaper announced that a sleeping car that once belonged to the The International Company of Sleeping Cars and The Great European Express was parked for a few nights just outside Sauveterre de Guyenne, only a few kilometres from home.International Carriage Beds and the Great Europeen Express. This crest is valued at 20,000 euros.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the owner of an old wood yard, many curious locals were able to visit, and spend time exploring the inside of the carriage, take photos, and ask questions of a local railtrain enthusiast.

We learned that this particular sleeping car was made in the late nineteen fifties for one of ten trains made to run on the Sud Express between Lisbon and Paris. Only three of these trains are left, and this car is destined for restoration in a workshop in Clermont Ferrand, to eventually be exposed in a railtrain museum in Moulhouse.

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A little history

It was Georges Nagelmackers who created the most legendary mode of transport that has serviced travellers throughout Europe, Siberia and Asia, for well over a hundred years. His inspiration came from witnessing  the Pullman night trains in North America. He envisaged the same for Europe, a service that was fast and comfortable for business men and travellers across the countries of Europe. On his return to Belgium he founded The International Bed Cars Company (Compagnie International des Wagon-Lits) in 1874. Ten years later came The Great Europeen Express (Le Grand Express Européen), followed by the Sud Express, the Nord Express, the Orient Express, and the Trans Siberian, and so the legend unfolded..

I invite you to climb on board and explore a sleeping car of Le Sud Express..

“Letter to Adéle from Victor Hugo”. (a rough translation)

“It takes little effort to see that the Iron Horse is a true beast. We hear his sigh at rest, his moan on departure, his gasps on route; he sweats, he trembles, he whistles, he blows, he throws sooty dust all along the way and urinates boiling water, a great racket comes constantly from his wheels, or feet if you wish, and his breath goes over our heads in beautiful clouds of white smoke that disperse through the trees alongside the route.”

Referenced Wikipedia

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Rues et Ruelles : Streets and Alleys

The village has not changed that much since 1265, when she was founded by Éléanor de Provence, Queen consort of Henry III of England, also Duke of Aquitaine, in south west France.

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The escarpment on which she was built, and the fortified walls still enclose her to one side, while offering views over the Dropt river, and valley. But the towered gateways have disappeared, and the straight roads are now paved, and lined with cars.

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The wood timbered market hall has been replaced by a magnificent nineteenth century cast iron and glass structure. But the arched arcades still run around the squares perimeter, and are still busy with merchants and customers.

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The Hotel de Ville occupies the same place on the square, proudly protecting the ‘Esclapot Charter’, a precious document detailing the architectural plans, and building regulations of the new village.

The tall Church dominates a corner near the square, although never as important as commerce, continues her duty to ring hourly, for evening Angélus, and Sunday Mass.

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The alleys sculpt corners between streets and houses, where cats loiter, flowers grow in pots, and open doors and windows cast light into dark back rooms.

The safe mount, from the latin Mons securus, or Monségur to the inhabitants, is an old soul, surviving the times with character and charm. A Bastide (fortified) village of streets and alleys for everyone to explore.

Le Tilleul : The Lime

The Lime tree is a dozen decades old. Despite being lopsided and unelegant, he is a popular fellow for he gives shelter to the flowers that grow at his feet, a place for the birds to perch, and the spider to weave..

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Wonderful web of spiders grace,
Sparkles reflective colours of life,
Crafted crystalline light.

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Mid April and a very special visitor arrives, the exotic Huppé. I dream of Africa when I see his dusky pink colour, and zebra stripped wing. His closed crest and curved beak remind me of a pick axe, and he uses his beak just so as he digs for bugs in the soil. From time to time his crest flares open like a fan. His name ‘Huppé’ means ‘crested’, and the locals call him ‘Hoopou’ as does the english language, mimicking his call.

The most lovable characteristic of the Huppé, is the comportment of his young. Each chick in turn presents himself at the entrance of the nest. When he recieves his portion of food, he returns to the back of the queue to wait until he moves to the front again for his next meal. A more civilised creature there could not be.

Here the Huppé is perched in the Lime, while a Bullfinch flits from branch to branch in an agitated manner, clearly protecting his nest.

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Under shade of Lime,
A pungent odour rises,
Tis Springs herb,
Wild garlic.

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As leaves unfurl, I feel,
The Limes promise,
A somnolent Summer shade.