So we'd been travelling for just over 24 hours and it was time to collect our luggage at Charles de Gaulle and begin our first adventure, joining our canal-boat-owning friends for a few days of leisure and camaraderie. Food, wine, friendship. Just what we needed to alleviate jet lag.
Those who have been to Charles de Gaulle will know it's not the most modern airport in the world, nor is it the most convenient airport for luggage collection. One and a half hours later, Mickey is finally visible on the carousel, but getting to him means MLP must use his size, physicality and elbows to drag poor Mickey between the throng of travellers who are glued to their spot at the carousel refusing to move an inch from their precious, front row position, their luggage seemingly nowhere in sight.
The next step is easy by comparison. Train to Châtelet, walk across platform, Metro to Gare de Lyon. Now the tricky bit … finding our canal-boat-owning friend.
"Just come straight upstairs and I'll find you."
Okay, we're upstairs … …
"I can't find you."
"We're in Hall 3."
"Oh, I didn't know there was a Hall 3. I'm in Hall 1."
Okay, a sign to Hall 1?
"Yep, we're on our way to you." Luggage in tow.
Some petite déjuener, a much needed café and it's time for the next train.
We have now been travelling for around 27 hours.
My canal-boat-owning-friend has used the French trains before and knows the system … so, I think.
First to the yellow ticket machine, but it does not provide what we need.
She quickly runs to the information desk.
"Use the blue ticket machine."
We go to the blue ticket machine.
It does not provide what we need. We aren't going to where the blue ticket machine trains go.
Back to the yellow ticket machine for another try.
Okay. Okay. Yep.
We have three tickets .. and about three minutes to get us and our luggage onto the train.
We're on. Our luggage is on. We can relax.
Suddenly, my friend grabs our tickets and runs … off the train.
I hear something about … validation?
One minute till the train leaves.
Thirty seconds till the train leaves.
Just as suddenly she returns.
"It's okay. We don't need to validate them because we've purchased them within an hour of the train leaving."
Yep, we sure did. Like within three minutes of the train leaving.
Not only has my friend had a lot of experience with French trains, but she has had a lot of bad experiences with French trains. So much so that her husband is extremely wary of going anywhere with her on a train.
Trains cancelled. Wrong train. Wrong direction. Ticket not validated. Fined by the inspectors. Train strikes.
Yet we, trusting souls that we are, long overdue for a good sleep, forge on, towards Montargis, on a French train, with my friend … until, the train stops at Moret, a lovely little French town … but not where we want to be.
We have now been travelling for around 28 hours.
Not only does the train stop at Moret but it remains stopped at Moret … for 10 minutes … 20 minutes … 40 minutes …
The train ahead, at the next station, has broken down, it seems.
… 60 minutes, a garbled announcement in French and everyone is off the train. A lovely French woman who takes pity on us says, "Le bus."
Okay, we have to get on a bus … with our luggage … and a train load of people.
So, we stand in the car park at Moret station, in the sun, waiting for the bus for … 10 minutes … 20 minutes … 30 minutes.
Another garbled announcement in French and everyone is back on the train. Like lemmings, so are we, with our luggage.
And the bus pulls into the station car park. Just one bus … for a train load of people. Thank goodness the train is on the move.
We have now been travelling for around 29 hours and in much need of a shower, sleep and a final destination.
A hurried phone call to the waiting husband who was expecting us for lunch to alert him re our arrival for dinner.
And finally, it is over. We pull into Montargis. We crawl into a taxi and arrive at our boat.
Who knows how long we've now been travelling,
but we need a drink … desperately!
And, as you can hopefully tell from the photos,
canal boating was wonderful.
But more on that next time.
Any train stories you'd like to share?