Monday, March 5, 2012

31 stops.

This is just in case you don’t ever get to ride the tram around Clermont yourself. Read this and you won’t have to.

11:07 La Pardieu Gare. Southern end of the line (or the eastern end, depending on if you think of the tram line as a north-south thing or an east-west thing. Your choice.) in an area of businesses and light industry. Departure in 3 minutes. Departure after that in 10 for those of you who are not quite ready for all the excitement of the adventure. One other person gets on, and sits near the middle of the tram.

11:11 Lycée Lafayette. Three women with their shopping from the nearby grocery centre, two with wheely carts, one with just sacks. I used to snigger at the wheely things, but now I have one myself. Useful for stocking up on cat litter. Or if you need to carry home more than one case of wine. Nobody from the Lycée gets on here, but later they will flood the train.

11:13 Fontaine du Bac, between a cluster of cheap apartment blocks and a football field. Two more women board. A fat old man watches the empty playground from a bench in the unexpected sun.

11:15 Margeride. Another handful of riders board, having left their cars at the park&ride lot. Nothing else is here except a connection to the number 13 bus. We’re filling up.

11:16 Campus, where a handful of college students wait. This is my stop when I’m done with classes in the fall.
They’re whacking down all the old pampas grass along the railway today. A shame to cut down the golden fronds that catch the light so well, but they’ll grow back soon enough. As a bonus now we can see all the trash that’s accumulated on the ground over the year. It isn’t all that much, really.

11:18 Cezeaux Pellez. The other campus stop, right next to the physics and math buildings. Another handful of people get on, and finally some get off.

11:19 La Chaux. The railway passes under a bridge here, and the sides of the cut lined with concrete are covered with graffiti. A real canvas for the spray-can set, though not many of them seem to have much talent. Near the train station is where the real artists tag. The other interesting thing about La Chaux is the section of track that is also a residential road. There isn’t room to have a tramway and a road, so cars and tram take turns. Parking must be an adventure sometimes.

11:21 Léon Blum. If when I get off the bus on the way to work, there’s not more than 3 minutes to wait, I’ll wait for the tram. Otherwise just walk. Unless it’s raining.

11:22 Saint Jacques Loucheur, the closest stop to work. Not much else to say.

11:24 CHU Gabriel Montpied. The most popular stop that isn’t right downtown, there’s a park&ride lot, and of course the University Hospital Centre.

11:26 Saint Jacques Dolet. Another stop in the shadow of subsidized housing towers, some of the older ones in town. From here we leave the St Jacques plateau, down the viaduc and into the bowl of the city. In the middle of the long bridge the tram always slows to a walking pace, then speeds up again. Who knows why. Just for that one section. There’s a nice sharp turn at the bottom, but we’re allowed to gather speed again for that.

11:28 Université. The other campus, or part of it. Law and the humanities here. A crowd gets on, laden with notebooks and computers.

11:29 Maison de la Culture. The stop is right in front of the old bus station, still boarded up but not torn down after several years. What, 7? More? Still a few seats left on the tram, but most of the new riders stand in the aisles.

11:31 Lagarlaye, at the foot of the dental school, the last bit still open of the old old complex formerly comprising the main city hospital. The rest is all boarded up and barb-wired. They can’t tear down the historic old buildings, but it would cost millions to make them usable. So there it all remains.

11:33 Jaude, the main square with its shops and restaurants and theaters and bus connections. The most popular stop on the tramway. We’re at the edge of the historic center of Clermont and its pedestrian district, so we snake slowly to the next stop, sharing the path with bikes and pedestrians.

11:34 Gaillard. More shops and eats. There’s a new tapas place just around a corner here I’ve been meaning to try. Maybe on the way back.

11:35 Hotel de Ville, with its terraced park and Renaissance period fountain (am I the only one to find it ridiculous and rather hideous? I don’t care if it’s authentic) and statue of local boy Blaise Pascal, bird shit on his buckled shoe.

11:37 Delille Montlosier. We’ve made a big C around the hill that is the center of Clermont, and have passed through most of the points of the compass.

11:38 Les Carmes. Stop for the Michelin Tires headquarters. Any Michelin people getting on or off? Nope. Nobody gets on or off. This stop is the reason why the tram does not go to either the train station or the new public hospital, like any normally-planned public transportation system would. It’s already a big squiggle, but it would be a ridiculous squiggle to hit those other places and this one.

11:40 Première Mai. The French love to name things for dates. I should remember that tomorrow is the first Saturday of the month, and that means the monthly flea market will be held at the big parking lot here in the morning. Treasure!

11:41 Stade Marcel Michelin. Rugby! Also going on here tomorrow, though I have a date to play bridge instead. The tram gets so packed on game days you can’t get on (or off, sometimes)

11:42 Gravière. Kind of a nowhere stop. I guess no stop between the stadium and the townlet of Montferrand would have been a pretty long gap.

11:44 Montferrand La Fontaine. This used to be a separate city, and still retains its ancient center, a beautiful place to walk for admirers of architecture and history.

11:46 Musée d’Art Roger Quilliot. Not much of an art collection, but it’s all we’ve got.

11:47 Les Pistes. Michelin’s factories are close by, with the strange-looking enclosed ramps for testing tires. Steam rises from the complex, but it seems half of the huge walled grounds and buildings are no longer in use.

Stop for a convoy of trucks heading to the Bank of France’s money-printing facility on the west side of town.

11:50 Lycée Ambrose Brugière. Nobody around. Must not be lunchtime yet.

11:51 Les Vignes. Get off here to go to the indie movie theater the Rio. *cough* *gag* The guy who just got on isn’t technically smoking, but he reeks so badly it makes me ill.

11:53 Collège Albert Camus. Here it’s lunchtime, and we’re flooded with junior high-schoolers (“college” is grades 7-9 or so in France; lycée is high school).

11:55 Hauts de Chanturge. Another huge subsidized housing project. Most of the kids who just got on now get off. Why didn’t they just walk?

11:56 Croix de Neyrat, more of the same.

11:57 Champratel. End of the line. Everybody off.

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