Thursday, February 5, 2009

TGV: The Train to Awesometown

A funny thing happened when we started telling people that we were going to be living in France for a year.
"Really?! Can I come visit?"
"Oh, and can I bring my [boyfriend/girlfriend/mom/gerbil]?"
"I am so totally coming to visit you in France! I am so excited!"

So here we are, now halfway through the year abroad. Guess how many people have come to visit.
No, even less.


Either this is proof of that whole "out of sight, out of mind" thing (though that seems unlikely if you are reading our blog), or it's an economic issue.

To those of you for whom our absence has made your heart grow fonder, but whose wallets are waning, we'd like to emphasize that overseas travel is often much cheaper than you'd think. And with our help, much easier, too.

We still believe there are a few of you out there who may brave the unfavorable exchange rate and unpredictable airlines to come visit us in Poitiers. To you we offer you this guide to navigating Charles de Gaulle Airport and the associated TGV station.

Bathrooms in the airport terminals are free, but are 50 cents at the train station.

Assuming you want to leave Charles de Gaulle Airport (aka Roissy) and you are not Leon Logothetis (who would hitchhike to his destination) or Daddy Warbucks (sorry, I couldn't think of a real person who is still rich) you have a few options.

1. You could take the Air France Shuttle Bus to one of the train stations in Paris.
2. You could take the RER train to Gare du Nord in Paris
3. or you can take a TGV home, like the 60 million non-parisien French folks who come through Roissy.

As we mentioned previously, the ease of transferring between methods of travel is a breeze in France compared to most airports in the U.S. Of the airports we've been to, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is perhaps the only European airport that makes the transfer easier. You can catch a train to Paris directly from the Schiphol Airport any day of the week, and the train station is directly underneath the entrance hall; pretty cool.

If you decide to take the TGV from the airport in Paris, it's best (i.e. gloriously cheap) to book ahead of time. If you live in the U.S. you can use and look for tickets departing from Paris CDG Airport (or ask us, and maybe we'll even do it for you). If you live in Europe (or just know someone who does), you can use and look for trains departing from Aeroport CDG 2 TGV. RailEurope is either as, or more expensive than

If you use RailEurope, they will mail your tickets to you. If you use the voyages-sncf site, you can pick up your tickets at the ticket counter; remember to bring the reference number and the credit card used to make the reservation. Bonus: if you have a European smart credit card with a chip you can pick up (or exchange/get a refund for) your tickets from one of the automated kiosks.

Standing at the station, ticket in hand, you look down and see this:

Note the train number. When you get to the train station, look at the giant board with all of the departure times. Your train's track (voie) number will show up on that board 15-20 minutes before the scheduled departure. Once you know your voie, head to your platform. Very Important! Don't forget to validate (composter) your ticket at one of the yellow boxes before boarding. Some tickets are exchangeable/refundable even after scheduled departure, and validating them ensures you can't get a refund later for a ticket you actually used.

Stick your ticket in to validate (barcode end first):

Once you find your platform, you have to find out where to stand. The train cars will be divided by numbers. The platform is divided by letters. Look at the electronic map listing the composition des trains, determine which car (voiture) you are on, and find the closest corresponding platform letter.

Standing at F on the platform:

Train with cars numbered and letters underneath showing where each car will stop on the platform.

This is where you should be standing so you don't have to run across the platform when the train arrives. You only have around 3-5 minutes to board once the train arrives, don't start daydreaming about cured sausage, goat cheese, and paperwork.

Once on board, when you find your seat, you will be whisked to your destination in quiet and comfort (cell phones are allowed only in the baggage area between cars, thank goodness).


Josh said...

The planets have aligned, Im coming!

Trevor said...

Nicely done you freaking blog-o-philes. I am coming as soon as my indenture is fulfilled. So pump up those tubes Jefe... and Rebecca put that gluten-free assemblage in the oven. I should be there easily before the end of May. You will still be there right?

jefe said...

Nice to here from folks. Yes, we'll still be here. We won't be leaving til August-ish. As for the blogging, as I've mentioned to other people, we (me mostly) have more free time than we've had in a long time, thus blog posts.

Trevor said...

I love the blogging, I know more about your lives than when you lived in CU! I particularly like the rational, seemingly objective posts about France's delightful quirks AND it's shortcomings. There are too many exuberant francophiles in this part of California. Lots of love, cant wait to see you two.