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A week in London, then a month in France - all by public transport

A week in London, then a month in France - all by public transport

Old Oct 26th, 2018, 03:00 AM
  #21  
 
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You can often get by with smiles and gestures. Occasionally Id get so flummoxed that Id even forget my English.
When we returned from China my wife would point and gesture at things at store counters instead of speaking for a few days.
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Old Oct 27th, 2018, 08:26 PM
  #22  
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I learnt it’s not simple understanding train tickets in France. Some trains don’t show up online if you start looking months ahead. There are different types of trains, with different booking rules and tickets become available at different times. It pays to book a TGV as early as possible as prices go up a lot but TER (local) trains have the same price no matter when you book (so no point in booking ahead). I found out there are also IC trains which are sort of in between TER and TGV and you can book those early to save heaps.

It helps to have a good look at the same day (e.g. a Monday) but different weeks and months to get a feel for what may become available closer to your date of travel. I was waiting for about a month for train tickets to become available for my dates but it was worth the wait. The departure time suited us and it was Euro10.00 each for a 2.5 hour trip. Great value.

I also found out, via helpful Fodors people, that if you can wait until 48 hours before your trip, fares may be offered at a discount. Of course, you may miss out if the train is full. TGV and IC trains come with a reserved seat but on a TER train you can sit in any empty seat. We bought TER and bus tickets at manned ticket offices, the staff were helpful. I wrote down what we wanted and showed the staff as I wasn’t confident of my French.

I noticed with some trains first class tickets are only a couple of euro more than second class. We always travel on a budget but for a few euros I thought we’d try first class. Even travelling first class on trains is no guarantee of comfort. In one instance the second class seats were much better than the first class on the previous train. The TGVs we travelled on were all different, some old and worn, others had all the mod cons.

Carrying heavy or large bags on to trains and over your head to the luggage rack is difficult. Often there was very little luggage space and a couple of steps from the train down to the platform. My best advice is try and travel lightly.

The best overall website I’ve found for all train information is www.seat61.com

I used www.trainline.eu to book our France train tickets. It was easy to use and we printed out the tickets at home. I found this German website the best to find intermediate train stops on a journey https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml

From Rennes to Dinan the bus is direct but you must transfer if taking the train. Bus is cheaper, it takes 1 hr 15 mins and drops you in Dinan closer than the train station. Use Illenoo bus website. Can buy tickets at station or on bus. Luggage goes in compartment underneath, just open it up yourself to put bags in.

There were long queues at Gare du Nord for the ticket machines and the manned ticket office. It took us half an hour just to get metro tickets. Also in Bordeaux we had tremendous trouble trying to buy tram tickets to get from the train station to our hotel. All sorts of problems, it took us over an hour and I was about ready to have a meltdown. Thank heavens my husband is calm and supportive.

We found the restaurant hours to be very inflexible (12-2 and 7-10) and wondered why – is it just the law and no one minds? Is it tradition? Sometimes we could find a place that was open all day but not often. We found it quite annoying to be honest. Also Sundays and Mondays it pays to plan ahead for your food/meals.

It was really lovely seeing pets everywhere. In France you are allowed to take your dog into shops, cafes and markets. We even saw a woman at CDG boarding a plane to Canada with a guide dog. In a shop window in Vannes there was a cat sitting in ‘her’ spot amongst the shoes for sale. There are super strict laws in Australia and we love animals so that was really nice.

Hopefully some of this will help someone else on their travels.

Kay
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Old Oct 27th, 2018, 10:23 PM
  #23  
 
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Parisians are often annoyed by meal times in the provinces, because they are used to eating whenever they feel like it. Particularly when they are on holiday, they would like to have lunch later in the day and then... oops! Frankly, the meal times in the provinces are just common sense. In smaller cities, there are just not enough customers to warrant keeping kitchens open at odd hours, the same way many small shops close two hours for lunch, too -- people don't go shopping when they are eating lunch.

It might be a cultural chasm, but it is no different from respecting meal times that your parents set when you were growing up.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 09:29 AM
  #24  
 
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<<Also in Bordeaux we had tremendous trouble trying to buy tram tickets to get from the train station to our hotel. All sorts of problems, it took us over an hour and I was about ready to have a meltdown.>>

I'm really wondering what the problem was here. There is a dedicated office right in the Bordeaux St-Jean train station for buying tram tickets/passes (and offering maps and general tourist information). It's well marked and right on the ground floor. There are usually a couple of people in line ahead of you, but the wait is never more than a few minutes. Everyone who works there speaks English as well as other languages. We are there with some regularity to buy tram and other tickets, and it would never occur to me to warn tourists that it is a problem.

As for restaurant hours, outside major cities it's not a matter of law regarding the opening and closing times as far as I know, it's just what normal French (and most other people, IME, except Americans) people expect - there are times to eat and times when you don't eat. It also spares restaurant owners from having to be fast-food cooks all day and night long. If there are set times to eat, which everyone knows and respects, the food is always freshly prepared. It's the same with shops - they are open for X number of hours in the morning and X number of hours in the afternoon/evening. In between, the owners eat and relax. It's the same in most every European culture. Why should there be an expectation for everything to be available all day long? Maybe we're just used to it, but we don't find it annoying in the least. A lot less annoying than visiting parts of Spain where you can't eat dinner until past 10 pm. I don't understand the allure of wanting to eat outside normal eating hours anyway. And if you do want to, there is almost always a boulangerie or superette where you can grab a pre-made sandwich.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 12:03 PM
  #25  
 
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>>We found the restaurant hours to be very inflexible (12-2 and 7-10) and wondered why – is it just the law and no one minds? Is it tradition? Sometimes we could find a place that was open all day but not often. We found it quite annoying to be honest.<<

That would seem just normal to me . . . In the UK, in France, in Italy - all over. Many restaurants have very set hours either noon-2 like you seem to have found, or something like 11:30 - 2:30 or 3. And even in London except for early 'pre-theatre' set dinners, dinner service starts at a set time.

There are always places that are open straight through the day (fast food, casual cafes, chain restaurants, etc) but otherwise set meal times are the norm.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 12:30 PM
  #26  
 
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I am sorry to hear about your toilet experience in France. We were lucky we didn’t experience any gross situations, even the paid public toilet was clean and well stock with toilet paper. Some did not have toilet seats but clean.

I hope you enjoyed Dinan, I wish we made time to stay there this trip.

Thank you for writing a trip report, looking forward to reading more.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 03:55 PM
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Kay, thanks for posting.
Xcountry - we just got back from Japan and I can't stop bowing. I'm getting funny looks.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 04:47 PM
  #28  
 
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Treesa - lol. You are bringing civility back to us when it is badly needed.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 07:53 PM
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Thanks for this informative report.

I think it is harder to adapt to the mid-day closures of shops and the afternoon closures of restaurants when you are traveling than when you are living in a place. I find it much harder to keep regular hours when traveling, and it would be nice to be able to have a late lunch many times. If you dont know ahead of time how difficult it will be to find an open restaurant in the afternoon, I see how it could cause difficulties. This report could help others to be prepared.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 10:25 PM
  #30  
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Bordeaux patisserie. I'll have one of everything
I haven't posted photos before so here goes...
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 10:29 PM
  #31  
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Amazing speeds on the TGV.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 10:34 PM
  #32  
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La Rochelle at dusk.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 11:02 PM
  #33  
 
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Nice! Stuck in the office and feeling envious.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 08:10 PM
  #34  
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La Rochelle - one of the three 14th and 15th century towers you can climb for wonderful views.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 08:13 PM
  #35  
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Nantes - the amazing mechanical elephant. It squirts water so watch out!
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 08:18 PM
  #36  
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Vannes - beautiful buildings and gardens.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2018, 06:28 AM
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Thank you for posting! I am enjoying your report!

@xcountry: I keep telling my husband that we should try youth hostels, that way we can travel even more often... he does not seem enthralled by the idea.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2018, 12:14 AM
  #38  
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Cute cat. Does she come with the shoes?
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Old Nov 3rd, 2018, 12:16 AM
  #39  
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Picturesque old town in Rennes.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2018, 12:21 AM
  #40  
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Dinan early evening.
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