Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The treno tour - Part 1

For our summer tour this year we decided on a train trip in France, Switzerland and Italy. Starting in Paris, finishing in Venice.
Part One: France
We arrive on Air Transat at Paris CDG early morning for five nights in France. A Concorde aircraft is on display. This dated airport relies on a coach transfer to the terminal.
We were quickly on our way on the RER train to Chatelet-Les Halles, in the centre of the city, for transfer to St Germain en Laye to the west. As advised we waited for our destination to appear on the indicator panel on the platform. It never did, so we finally boarded a train to Le Vésinet-Le Pecq, one stop down the line, where a shuttle bus was waiting. A veritable herd of railway employees were supervising at the bus stop.
After a quick breakfast of coffee and croissants in St Germain and consulting with the tourist office, we caught the #4 bus to Chambourcy. A short walk from the bus stop to the Campanile Hotel, Routes de Mantes, RN13, 6 Allee de Pomone, 78100 St Germain en Laye, Tel: +33 1 34 51 59 59, for early check-in, cheap and cheerful. After shopping at Lidl we are watching the Tour de France on TV, and crashing out. Reading an obit for Johnny Winter in the bar in the evening.
First morning in Chambourcy we walk into the old village and on to the modern shopping centre. I finally hit Duralex paydirt - the hotel in Chambourcy has the glasses in the bar, and they are for sale in Carrefour, first time I have seen them for sale in France.
After lunch we walk on to the Desert de Retz, a folly garden outside Chambourcy, for a guided tour lasting about 1½ hours. As we start to walk back we are offered a lift to the hotel, by an English-speaking couple. Supper at Maotai, 78 route de Mantes, 78240 Chambourcy, Tel: 33 (0) 1 30 06 09 75. Trip Advisor: “Desperately needs a restaurant make over. Food is very tasty and well priced but dining room, printed menus and service are in need of critical up-grades." 3 of 5 stars. Reviewed 23 July 2014.
Next day fellow-researcher Emmanuel Tilloy picks us up for a splendid lunch at Chesnay and a tour of the gardens at Versailles. We are discussing the history of the coalfields in the Crowsnest Pass. On this holiday I am reprising many places visited when a youngster, for example staying in the Paris hotel where I stayed in 1960, Lugano, Venice etc.
So next morning we take the bus to St Germain and RER train to Auber, for early check-in at the Hôtel Saint Petersbourg, 33-35 rue Caumartin 75009 PARIS, Tel: + 33 1 42 66 60 38. Comfortable but the wifi isn't working at this three-star hotel. We haven't been on the street ten minutes, near the Opera, before a woman, who looks like a witch, tries to work the 'gold ring' trick on us.
Next day we walk to the Parc Monceau, a folly garden, notable for being the site of the first parachute jump. Bought a dozen cheap coffee spoons, in a hardware store, as found in French cafes, after years of searching.
On departure we are waiting for the crowded RER train to leave for Gare de Lyon but it fails to leave the station. We scramble onto the metro, changing at Pyramid. Fare dodgers jumping the barriers are a feature of the Paris transit system. Also avoid young ladies with clipboards, working in pairs, who intend to rob you. Paris is living up to its reputation as a 'scam city.'
With some relief we board the TGV Lyria train 9211, bound for Dijon, Mulhouse, Basel and Zurich. A splendid lunch is served before we reach our destination in Basel.

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