A holiday memory from a few years ago.......
In these tough times when pressures are all around us and genuine delights seem to be few and far between, my wife and I discovered, as part of our summer holiday to Perpignan, the wonderful, cheery joy of the Little Yellow Train, a proper locomotive with several carriages, painted brightly and ready to go on its slow climb through fabulous scenery up into the Pyrenees. Unlike many modern trains, this little gem has the ability to make everyone who sees it for the first time, smile broadly and believe that, in spite the world’s traumas, there are reasons to be cheerful.
For nearly 100 years, Le Train Jaune has gained fame as one of the treasures of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. We hopped aboard at Villefranche, after paying about 40 euros for two return tickets to Font-Romeu, about halfway along the track towards journey’s end, Latour de Carol. The outward haul is mostly uphill and, therefore, slow but all the better for that as passengers have time to absorb the beautiful landscape and breathtaking views of mountains, farmland, churches, hamlets and viaducts.
As we moved, we could see how being on this charming train was a happy experience in itself but, occasionally, we witnessed how others reacted to it as it passed them. A farmer paused his digging and gave us an enthusiastic wave and further on a group of walkers called out greetings. Car drivers, waiting patiently at level crossings, saluted as we glided past - an antidote to aggression and bad manners, we thought.
After an hour’s pause at our stop for a cup of coffee, we caught the next yellow train for the return journey, this time downhill and much faster. Yes, it was the same scenery but from a different perspective, benefitting from changing light conditions and the wind in our hair. Pure delight.
We ate some great food and drank some great wine in and around Perpignan and we remember the Thursday night in the town for its fantastic music, street theatre, acrobats, rock music, jazz, flamenco and salsa. Artists and performers provided free entertainment for local people, visitors and diners in this Thursday evening summer ritual. The streets and squares were alive with fun, colourful costumes, sounds and rhythms, providing an atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.
But, assessing all the wonders of this trip, the Little Yellow Train is the prominent memory because of its simplicity and I maintain that the sight of it makes me think that it is the only locomotive, since Thomas the Tank Engine, to make people feel truly happy and that, in the end, all can be well in the world, if only we choose the right track.