Yesterday I drove CHM up to Onzain. We've figured out that that's the best nearby train station for passengers going to Paris from here. Onzain is on the Loire River just downstream from Blois toward Amboise, and about 30 to 35 minutes from Saint-Aignan by car. The drive to Onzain is on a scenic country road and is very pleasant.
Of course you can take the train from Saint-Aignan all the way to Paris, but you have to change trains in either Tours or Vierzon. Depending on connections, that takes extra time. And you can drive to Blois to get the train there, but that takes longer than driving to Onzain. You can drive over to Tours and get the TGV there, but that takes even longer and the TGV, while faster, is more expensive than the regular trains.
The ride from Onzain to Paris Austerlitz station takes 2 hours on the regular train. The full price second-class ticket costs about 25 euros. In February and in April, W. and I were able to get discounted tickets at 10 euros each by purchasing them on-line well in advance. CHM's first class ticket, with a senior discount (which I now qualify for too, because I'm 60), was a little less than 20 euros.
Anyway, Onzain is now our gare of choice for the train ride to Paris. The little town is right across the river from Chaumont, which is the site of a famous château up on a bluff above the Loire. Yesterday, we left far in advance of the time we needed to get to Onzain for CHM's train. I told him we could stop and take a walk (not to mention some photos) in the park of the château at Chaumont. The weather was beautiful.
When we got there, however, we found big changes. The park is no longer open to the public for free. You used to be able to walk in and walk right up to the château and to the edge of the bluff it sits on, which gave you great views out over the river. You always had to pay to get into the château itself, and you had to pay to get into the gardens. But now you have to pay to get into the park.
For us, because we only had 20 or at most 30 minutes, it just wasn't worth the price of admission (8€ per person) yesterday. So we drove on over the bridge and then along the river road across from Chaumont to get some views of the château in the distance. I took pictures from over there, using my zoom lens.
As we were stopped off the side of the road, a big tractor trailer truck roared by hauling two pre-fabricated homes on its flat-bed. There's a vacation park — a big trailer park, basically — located between Onzain and Blois a few miles from the river. It's owned by a British company, and we know somebody who works there. I figured the truck was hauling those "mobile homes" to that park.
When we drove into Onzain, we needed to go under an overpass to get to the train station. It turned out that the tractor-trailer had taken that same road, and it was stopped under the train tracks for some reason, blocking all car traffic. Luckily, we had plenty of time.
It's always a good idea to allow extra time when you are going to catch and train or plane. You never know what might happen. In this case, a dozen or more cars were lined up behind the big truck and had been there long enough that a lot of the drivers were out of their vehicles, standing in the middle of the road looking to see what the problem was.
I told CHM we would try to go around the traffic jam. We drove west toward Amboise on a little back road, though green fields of corn and sunflowers and barley. The road was lined with ditches filled with bright red poppies. After two or three miles, we found a road going north that went over a bridge across the railroad tracks. Then we backtracked to Onzain, headed for the station. By the time we got there, the stuck truck was gone and traffic was flowing normally. It didn't matter — we weren't late and we had had a nice ride in the countryside.
CHM got on the train at 11:30. At about 2:30 he called and said he had arrived back at home and was making lunch. The trip had been easy. I think he took a taxi from the Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris to his apartment. He had been here for just short of two weeks and we did a lot of touring around during that time. W., Callie, and I are going to try to get up to Paris to see him later in the summer, before he goes back to the States.