Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - Monday, April 1, 2015 Trains reprise

Back in traveller mode with luggage packed, we head from Winchester to London to Paris. That requires a Brit-rail train, 2 subway lines, the Eurostar, and finally the RER. Simple, non? Non!

Start was easy. Chris and Ron escorted us directly to our track. We got seats on the train as it was the earliest off-hours train to London. However, the nearer to London, the more crowded the train became and we worried a bit that we could no longer see our luggage.  But all was well.

Eurostar was no problem as it's well organized with assigned seats.  Luggage is stored in compartments at the car entrance, but since our train was non-stop to Paris, that wasn't a worry.

Ah, but in Paris, Gare du Nord, rush hour and did I mention we're now in France?  Everything was difficult and took time. First, in typical French fashion, the escalator wasn't working to get from the train level to the Metro level. So we had to humph our luggage down the steps. Good thing I've been lifting weights.

Getting money from ATM was easy, but there was a line. Our pin still isn't working on our chip and pin card (even after several calls to Barclay bank) so we couldn't use the automated ticket dispenser to buy RER tickets - that's the regional train that runs from downtown Paris out to the airport. So I had to stand in line. The lady was extremely polite and helpful and the purchase was easy.

But to get to the RER was a trek and the elevator AND the escalator weren't working, so we had to humph bags down the steps again.  That's my workout for the day.

French turnstyles for people with luggage open from the back to let you in, then close behind you at which time you put your ticket in the machine where it is stamped and returned in a second slot. Then a few seconds later a door opens on the front to allow you onto the train track.  Works great once you figure it out.

Train ride was crowded at first but emptied out quickly over the 10 stops to Charles de Gaule airport. Finally a working escalator took us to ground level and the hotel was only about 50 yards away.

Only trick was a couple of gate-jumpers who insisted they get into the large luggage turnstyle with me (meaning they didn't have a valid ticket and only a lame excuse about it not stamping properly), I tried to shoo them out the back but they wouldn't go.  So I finally went through with the contraband guys behind me. Security was right outside and talked to them awhile but finally let them go with a smile that said she wasn't buying their excuse.

The Ibis hotel is a most basic hotel - spare rooms with miniscule bathrooms but a comfortable bed and the convenience couldn't be beat, nor could the price.

Best part of the night: Janis and Clark were already there, were starving like I was and it was 6:30 and the hotel restaurant opened at 7. So we met in the bar for our first bottle of French wine together.
Janis & Clark at IBIS hotel Paris Charles de Gaule

Dinner at the pizzeria in the hotel followed by an early night. Unfortuately Dave forgot to move his clock ahead to account for the time change from England so we were a bit late for breakfast in the morning. Oh, well, we're on vacation.

Time to get the car: The leasing company picked Dave up to get the car and he navigated back to the hotel where we were waiting in the lobby. The bags all fit in the car with one duffle acting as arm-rest in the back seat. 

The most difficult part of the trip was getting out of the parking lot. Dave got a ticket on entry but getting out proved most difficult - the machine to lift the gate was out of order. So Dave went inside to pay which seemed like it might be what was needed. A white truck manoeuvered around us and was able to get out, presumably because he had a valid ticket. Meanwhile, we were blocking the way out for another car, so had to back up to let this person through. He of course got stuck because his ticket also didn't work. So now we were stuck behind him. He finally pressed the button to talk to someone and eventually a fireman whom we'd seen patrolling inside the hotel lobby came out and lifted the gate for him. Dave put our now-validated ticket into the machine and we were out, with only a half hour delay. 

The rest of the trip went smoothly with only slight slow-downs as we skirted Paris. Tolls were a problem because our Barclay cards still do not work. Luckily the toll booths take paper money as well as coins, so we were able to pay cash for the tolls. We had A-roads (like our interstates, with a speed limit of 130km/hr -about 75 mph), Only the last 30 miles were on local roads. 

We spent about an hour with Paul and Jeri as they showed us around the farm. We are the first guests of the season and they had spent the day getting the house opened and ready for us. We left around 6:30 for a pizzeria (where are we, Italy?) recommended by Paul and Jeri. They joined us part way through dinner and we had great conversation.

Now home to unpack and crawl in bed. Dave has to be up to get croissants in the morning before they are all gone - We're finally here and fall gratefully into bed. We're finally settled in one place.

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