I went to my favourite outdoor seating area to wait for the platform number to appear on the departures screen (normally 20 minutes before departure), where I changed the SIM card in my phone to the SFR SIM, checked emails and Facebook and then texted Rita in Bern to let her know that I’d arrived OK and that the trains were indeed running.
After a 2 hour wait, which went surprisingly quickly, I went down to platform 4 and caught the TGV to Lyon. I had intended to do some work on the laptop on this trip, but the train was very crowded (probably because everybody was travelling on a non-strike day) and others were already using the table between the facing seats. There were lots of travellers with large suitcases, so the large luggage rack was full and everyone else just piled their suitcases up in the entrance way at the end of the carriage. This posed some interesting challenges for those leaving the train and wanting to retrieve their bags, especially after someone boarded with a set of skis in a bag and propped it up against the wall in the entrance area. They then went and took their seats at the far end of the carriage, and probably missed all the fun when the train went round the first bend and the skis fell over and created a steeplechase hurdle for anyone wanting to move through the entrance way!W
We had a change of trains in Lyon from the TGV to a regional TER train for the trip to Geneva.
Friday 15 June - cattle class, 8 hour sleep, TGV to Bern, connection, sleep
The next leg of the flight from Singapore to Paris (Charles de Gaulle) saw me returned to cattle class, where I had a window seat in the last row before the toilets. Many travel websites warn about these seats because of the noise from the flushing toilets and from people standing around in the aisle waiting to go. The latter problem didn’t worry me, being in the window seat, and I must say I rarely heard any flushing noise (possibly because it was an overnight flight and everyone else was asleep). The good thing about these seats is that you can recline your seats whenever and how much you want, without having to worry about people behind you (even the hostie doesn’t ask you to raise your seat to the upright position at meal time!). As a result, I was able to get a good 8 hours sleep, and before I knew it we were preparing to arrive at CDG.
We arrived at Terminal 1 a bit early, but the customs procedures at CDG were a bit chaotic, with very few signs to tell you which way to go, and then a long queue which wound it’s way back through the shops in the duty free zone. But nearly everyone took it in good spirit, and the upside was that, with the number of people in the queue, it was the quickest customs inspection of passports I have ever experienced. When I got to the agent, I greeted him with a friendly “bonjour” and literally within 3 seconds he had stamped my passport and I was away. The total opposite of my departure from Zurich last year when I checked in early and, with no queue, they had plenty of time to nitpick about me being a day over my 90-day limit. A good lesson to remember.
Given the long customs queue, my bag was waiting for me when I arrived at the baggage carousel, so I immediately headed for the elevator hidden in a short corridor behind the exit from the baggage claim area, and took it up to Level 2 where I then walked to the Shuttle Station. A train was already waiting, so I hopped aboard and shuttled off to Terminal 2 at the other end of the shuttle line, where the TGV railway station is located.
This was a spectacular trip along the upper Rhone through the valleys between soaring mountains of the lower Jura. Even though I was starting to get a little tired, the scenery kept me well and truly awake. Unfortunately the train windows were very dirty (not uncommon for French trains) and so I couldn’t get any good shots of the mountains, so I borrowed one via Google of a scene near Tenay Hautville. Although this scene was taken of the valley from the top of a mountain, and I was down in the valley, you can get an idea of what it might have looked like. I noticed lots of landslide protection netting above the train line as we went along, so I imagine it can get a bit hairy here at times.
The scenery must have been mesmerising, because the train driver lost track of time and arrived late in Geneva. My 12 minute transit time became 2 minutes! As the train doors opened, a horde of people dragging luggage were seen to burst from the carriages and start running for the nearest exit ramp. Down the ramps we charged, then left turn into the customs area (only then did I realise that we were technically crossing a border). The customs officials stood back and waved us through, so on we charged till we got to the passageway running under all the platforms. A quick look showed there were more platforms to the right than to the left, so not knowing which platform the Bern train was leaving from, I gambled on the probabilities, and turned to the right checking each departure board as I ran past each platform entrance. Soon, however, I got to the end of the passageway without seeing a Bern train. But there was a departures screen just ahead for all platforms, and as I got to it I saw the line for the Bern train disappearing. Naturally, it left from that one platform to the left of the incoming train! As Maxwell Smart would have said, “I missed it by that much!”.
So I headed back to the ticket office to see what to do, and luckily met a courteous railway staffer who informed me that I could use my existing ticket on the next train to Bern, due to depart in 15 minutes. So at 3pm I was on the next train to Bern. I texted ahead to let Rita know I had missed my train, but that I was on my way. She met me on the Bern platform, and then we grabbed a taxi to her mum’s place.
After 39 hours on the road from Taggerty, I was happy to catch up with a little horizontal sleeping, before getting up for some dinner and chatting with her mum, before returning to bed for a proper night’s sleep.