Turns out train travel is worlds more comfortable than plane travel. Who knew?
So when we were planning this trip, we decided it would be neat to take the train from Frankfurt to Paris rather than boarding yet another flight. The chance to see the countryside, not having to worry about security checks … but even those pluses pale in comparison to the heavenly amount of legroom that comes on a train.
The legroom. Was. Glorious.
Funny part about the whole train experience though; we expected that, since our hotel is right above the train station that we can just board the train there. Nope. Gotta go to the main train station in Frankfurt. So we get on one train, along with all our luggage, and head into Frankfurt proper. There, we need to switch trains to get to another train station. I go to buy tickets. The machine won’t read my card. And you have to have exact change to get the tickets.
So now I’m scrambling around trying to find somewhere to either A) break this 100-Euro note I got out of the ATM the night before, or B) buy tickets from an actual human being. Fortunately I find B, and in the meantime, Bessie has figured out that the platform where I left her waiting with the luggage is not, in fact, the platform we needed to be on to catch our next train.
Don’t worry, the guy who sold me the tickets told me where we needed to go, so we ended up getting to the right platform about two minutes before the train we needed to be on got there.
So, another train ride takes us to our final station. However, I’m looking around for a big board that will tell me where our train will be leaving from. These big boards—you know, like the ones you see in airports—either don’t exist in Frankfurt, Germany, or are so cleverly designed and well-hidden that silly Americans like me can’t find them.
Fortunately, we find an information booth and the guy tells me our train will be departing from Platform 19. (A side note, and I’ll likely mention this later as well: for all the rumor that Americans are treated like dirt in Europe, we never experienced that, at least until we got on Air France to come home. But that’s another story for another day. Maybe it’s because we made the effort to speak the language while we were there, or we weren’t obnoxiously American, and maybe it’s because we were tourists going to touristy places, but we had no issues with rude service while we were there.
But Air France, ooh boy …)
Better watch your speed. So maybe you’re asking, “But, Andy, how did you and your lovely wife make it from Frankfurt, Germany, to Paris, France, in a matter of hours by train?”
Well, Dear Reader, turns out that once those trains hit the countryside, they are moving.
There was a display board in our train car that showed the next stop and where we were eventually headed, and once we got going, the speed was shown as well. At one point, we were doing 316 km/hour, which is about 196 mph.
I’ve never driven quite that fast, but I think I’ve come close.
Hey, there it is. Here’s the deal: visiting Paris has been on Bessie’s bucket list for a long, long time. And the Eiffel Tower has been THE thing she’s wanted to see in person.
I know, hard to believe for anyone who’s seen our décor.
So once we got to Paris and were picked up by our driver for the trip to our hotel, I’m sure we were both looking for our first view of the Tower. We were taking in the other sights along the way, of course, and we were wowed when we reached the Arc de Triomphe.
Then, there it was. The Eiffel Tower, peeking out from above the buildings surrounding the Arc.
I’m not sure Bessie’s been that smitten with something since she met me.
Needless to say, we didn’t spend a lot of time at the hotel once we got there. Drop off the bags, freshen up a little, let’s go get dinner.
We ate at a place called Café Kleber, which is on the Trocadero with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Our first meal in France was steak frites; I had a Heineken and Bessie had a mojito.
Then we walked around and waited for night to fall so we could get pictures of the Eiffel Tower all lit up. It really is a gorgeous sight in person.
I’ll never complain about driving again. We decided that we weren’t going to try to drive in Europe. Too stressful, too much anxiety.
We had no idea.
Our first experience at the Arc was eye-opening to say the least. There are no lanes, not really. It’s just a big circle around the Arc, with six or seven or 20 (I lost count) different “lanes” of traffic all going around and darting off when they can.
It did make some sense after our driver explained to us that vehicles entering the circle from the right had the right of way, so you were supposed to let them go. Considering the madness of the French streets, I’m amazed we only saw the aftermath of one accident in our week there, and that was a minor fender-bender at best.