A Year Ago Today
A year ago today, August 12, 2014, we took our first European train ride from Paris to Lyon and got to visit some dear friends.
We got up at a reasonable hour but didn’t feel the need to rush as our train wasn’t leaving until almost 11:00am.
Rather than leave the hotel in search of a small café for breakfast, we opted to have some cheese and biscuits that we already had with us. That would just make it easier and then we wouldn’t need to rush back to the hotel to get our luggage and check out.
As it turned out, we found ourselves ready to check out at about 9:30am.
We were sad to be leaving Paris. We had no idea what a beautiful city it is and we are determined to return – for a much longer stay.
Dealing With the Tiny Elevator Again
From our fourth-floor room, we once again needed to deal with the ridiculously small elevator, but this time we managed to do it in only two trips.
I went first with our two pieces of carry-on luggage and my backpack. With some creative stuffing, we were able to get all of these things in, including me! But it was pretty cramped and the door was just barely able to close.
After wrestling everything out of the elevator on the ground floor, I sent it back up for Geoff who managed to fit himself and a very large, very heavy backpack in this time.
With our luggage all collected and our check out completed, we helped each other with our backpacks and grabbed our, thankfully, wheeled carry-on luggage and began the short walk to the train station, Gare de Lyon.
Gare de Lyon
As we expected (based on research and Google map in hand) it wasn’t very far to Gare de Lyon. It took us about 10 minutes without having to rush at all.
We discovered that it was quite a large train station with several “halls” and platforms.
We checked our tickets against the departure boards and found that we would be leaving from Hall 2, but the actual platform had not yet been assigned.
Check, Check, Double Check and Then Check Again
As I like to worry – about just about everything – I decided to seek out an agent to confirm that I was reading the departure board correctly.
I stopped one gentleman who worked for SNCF, the company we purchased the tickets from. He assured me that we had indeed read the departure board correctly and that our train would be leaving from Hall 2. However, the platform wasn’t usually assigned until about 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
As it was almost an hour before our departure time, that meant we had still had a while to wait.
We proceeded to Hall 2 and hoped to find a couple of seats, but for such a large station they had precious few seats and, currently, they were all occupied.
We settled in to wait and stood between two benches that had about half a dozen seats each hoping that someone would have to leave for their train soon.
After standing for about 10-15 minutes, one seat became available and I quickly claimed it. Geoff then moved our luggage closer to where I was now sitting. It was still several more minutes before another seat became available – right next to me, as luck would have it – and Geoff was able to sit and relax for a bit.
With us now seated side-by-side, that meant that Geoff was able to protect my seat while I got up to check the departure boards again. It was a little less than 30 minutes before our departure time so I thought it was worth getting up to have a look.
To my delight, our platform had been posted – #11. And, apparently, fortune was smiling upon us because that platform was directly in front of where we were sitting.
However, before getting back to Geoff, I went directly to the platform to double check that it was, indeed, the train we needed. Yes! I’m anal.
Boarding Our Train
It appears that rail travel in Europe, or at least France, is very organized. Our ticket told us the coach number (#8) and our seat numbers (#63 & 64).
Oh, by the way, we were able to purchase our tickets online and print them out at home before leaving Canada. We were able to do that with all of our train and bus tickets with the exception of our train tickets from Cologne, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark. Those actually had to be mailed and they wouldn’t mail them to Canada. Yikes!
We asked our friends in Lyon if we could have them mailed to their address and they said sure. It was only supposed to take a few days, but two weeks after ordering them, they still hadn’t arrived. We didn’t want to re-book because we got a great deal and any replacement tickets would cost a lot more – a lot!
However, just a week before we arrived in Lyon, our friends told us that the tickets had finally arrived and they were holding them for us. Phew! Panic over.
But, back to our train to Lyon.
This being our first train travel in Europe, we didn’t know how they would handle the luggage. We weren’t assigned any luggage tags. There didn’t seem to be a luggage collection place. So, we just proceeded to our coach and hoped for the best.
We needn’t have worried (but I do anyway). On each coach, both upper and lower levels, there were racks for storing luggage.
Our seats turned out to be on the upper level of our coach. It meant slogging our luggage up some very narrow stairs, but we figured we’d get a better view from the upper level anyway.
We deposited our carry-on luggage and Geoff’s large backpack on the racks, but I kept my backpack with me because it contained all of our electronic devices as well as all the tickets, reservations, etc. for the rest of our trip. That stuff WAS NOT leaving my sight!
Two Hour Trip
The scenery along the way was mostly rural with a few farms, some grazing cows and sheep and the odd small vineyard racing by our window as we rushed towards our destination.
The serenity was only broken, from time to time, by other high-speed trains whooshing by us, coming from the opposite direction.
Arriving in Lyon
It seemed like almost no time at all, certainly not two hours, before we arrived at Gare de Lyon-Part-Dieu and found our friends waiting for us at the crowded and busy station.
We all had lunch at a quaint French café and were then treated to a tour of Lyon including a stop at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which had an amazing view of the city.
A Real French Chateau
Our friends actually live about 30 minutes outside of Lyon in a stunning French chateau surrounded by equally breathtaking grounds. And that’s exactly where we were headed for the next couple of days!
Attached to their Chateau, they also have a small boutique hotel with various theme rooms. They had reserved the French room for us and to say it was opulent would be an understatement.