Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Arrivederci Italia, Vive la France ! - Day 15

Apologies in advance for the very train oriented post today, I'll be on the train all day with almost nothing to do, so I'll be letting my inner train spotter out for a little bit and blogging into this entry as I go :-)

I was at Turin (Turino in Italian) over night, so I had to walk across the road to the station after breakfast and coffee. Turino Porta Susa station is actually really impressive, more like an airport than a train station. High speed and international trains are on the first underground floor, the metro under that. It's also really close to hotels and shops etc outside with easy access. I had a choice of stopping here overnight or Milan. I'm glad I chose Turin, I was only here for a few hours in reality and took an instant liking to the place.

In the end I did like Venice, it's very interesting place at least from an engineering and historical point of view and totally different to anywhere else I've ever been. Glad I've seen it, and we had an awesome apartment, but I was still really glad to be out of the place, three days was enough for me.

The station roof at Porta Susa is actually a massive array of solar cells. I'm taking in the massive size of the place just sitting down for a while and just after 9:40 in the am's, my train platform appears on the departures board so I head down to platform 1.

Close up on the solar cells

Train 9244 to Paris is in the stack

As this isn't a terminus, the trains only stop for about 2 minutes and I'm instantly concerned as two trains arrive before mine and they don't display the car number as to where it will be alongside the paltform. Operating kind of a lottery, I'm in car 3 and it can be at either end. Thankfully for my train it does appear on the board a few minutes prior to the train arriving.

The next event pretty much sums up hundreds of years of relations between European countries, as the TGV is French and I'm still in Italy, so where the Italians tell me the car will be and where the French actually put it, don't match up. So I end up getting on car 2 and sort it out once I'm onboard.

Travelling first class again so the carriage is actually pretty empty and I have no issue finding my seat. Still keeping a hawk eye on my stuff but the SCAM-O-METER can safely be reduced to DEFCON level 4 at this stage. As I said I really like Turin, wasn't accosted by beggars or Gypsies once (didn't even spot any). Sitting just opposite me are a British family returning home from Italy after a holiday and their kids are about Emma's age.

My train arriving

I finally find the in seat power at my feet, and as its a French train, it's a French socket. 

Me on the train, the man in seat 31.  It's ok, but actually a little disappointing compared to what I expected it would be like. Still spacious, but the "red arrow" Italian trains were way more luxurious with leather seats, I guess the french were channeling their concept of "Equalité" when designing it. Its also showing its age a little. Not complaining too much though, I'll take this over a domestic flight any day, and it as only a few pounds more than standard class.

I don't have any issues with my ticket like I did with ItaliaRail, the SNCF guard just scanned the QR code on the ticket and all was ok. With ItaliaRail it would take a few minutes before they actually realised we had valid tickets.

A better look down the carriage. 

The scenery is way more amazing on this trip, and we just passed thorough a massive tunnel, I'm not sure exactly what point we cross the border but I expect I'll find out when the phone switches from an Italian network to a French one. Here is a super steep mountain jutting out.

Google maps will tell me of course. And we are now only a few KM from France 

Snow on the mountains in the background

Last little Italian town before we hit France. 

3 police just went through the train. We might be in the Schengen common border zone, but they are still on high alert. Now in a tunnel descending downhill quite rapidly, can feel my ears popping.

They have a full food service on the train, menu below :-

We just exited a massive tunnel, and we are now officially in the French Republic, phone went berzerk with SMS messages about the rates in France, and the guard announced we had crossed the border. Westpac app on my phone also noticed I'd crossed the border and told me about ATMs in France.

Welcome to France!

Checked Google Maps, were are in France alright.

I get some texts messages warning me about rates, on both my phones.

First stop in France.

Lunch was served, just had a chicken sandwich "triangle". €6 ($9.50) ouch. Not the value we were getting at the shops in Italy. Great views, even on a dull wet day

Another stop in France

The trifecta, Motorway, River and Mountain all in one shot.

Water is moving pretty quick

Traveling through the alps is pretty much exactly as I hoped it would be, towering snow capped mountains all around, rapid flowing streams and beautiful little towns with gorgeous houses hugging the sides of the hills. The train is doing a modest speed of 100kph. Spring has set in, outside its still only about 10c but the trees are turning green. This would be a cold spot in winter. Just wishing the train Windows were cleaner so the photos would be better

The train has gone pretty slowly over the alps and we are now passing a large lake. We just went round a really tight bend and could see the front of the train

Now down on the plains of central France, and the train has picked up speed a little, Up to 160kph. Quaint French villages, rolling ultra green fields, cows and farmers driving tractors,as well as the odd wide river and multi lane motorway chucked in for good measure.

The train had been sitting on 160kph for quite a while, and we still had about 400km to cover to get to Paris, and I'm thinking if we don't go faster then we wont make the 16:11 arrival time. A few minutes after that thought, our driver put the pedal to the metal and we were suddenly doing about 300kph, and I had no doubt we would reach Paris on time.

Its 15:45 now and just outside Paris, and the rain has stopped and the sky is clearing a little that I can see blue sky.

We arrive at Gare de Lyon Station exactly on time, I offload luggage with no issue (although bag handle is broken and I'll be shopping for a new case in Paris). First issue is I can't find my pick up driver. He is supposed to be waiting near the exit from the platform with my name on the sign. After a while I call, explain exactly where I'm standing, even send them a selfie with pic of a land mark in the background. The manager tells me "look for the tall black man in a blue jacket", at this stage I doubt the guy I'm speaking to has ever been to Paris, as I look around and black guys with blue jackets make up about 20% of the people walking around the station. Eventually the driver does find me, get in a nice large Merc van and head up to the apartment. As i'm waiting outside I'm amazed at the number of people around, its a very very popular area. A few minutes later the apartment manager shows me around the apartment, I sign a few documents, pay some more money and the apartment is ours for the week.

It doesn't disappoint, the view from the lounge room window is spectacular 

We are on  the 4th floor. Thankfully there is a lift.

I go for a bit of a walk

There is bike share everywhere here in Paris

I head down to the supermarket to get some supplies, and OMG, its just amazing, about 1/4 the size of our local Woolworths or Coles, but packed with about three times as much stuff. 3 or 4 entire shelves of just mayo. The food looks so good I decide against getting takeaway, and what could be more french than steak and fries (yes, I know what you are all thinking, but I'm not going near snails and frogs legs)

Don't ever ask anyone in Paris to "hold the mayo" they already have a back log of the stuff

Found this pepper steak sauce, its just the BOMB!

At about 8pm, the gates across the road close and the streets get quieter.

View from our bedroom window

whilst i was travelling to Paris, the rest of the family were having a great time in Venice, they spent some time in the Magnum store making custom icecreams

and they are now in the sleeper carriage of the Thello train hurtling across Italy.