David's Trip Report (long) Part 1

Oct 15th, 2002, 06:10 AM
  #1  
David C
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David's Trip Report (long) Part 1

Hi everyone. Since I made use of this community extensively to plan my trip to France, I thought it was time to give something back.

My name is David and my wife is Helen. We live in Hong Kong and began our trip to France on 27 Sep 02 and returned home on 6 Oct 02. This was our 2nd trip to France. During this trip, we went to Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Paris. On our first trip, we had visited Paris and the Loire Valley. Thus, we mostly shopped and hanged out for the Paris portion of the trip as we have done most of the touristy stuff before.

Now that the intros are out of the way, here I go¡K..
 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:11 AM
  #2  
David C
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Day 0 : Friday, 27 Sep 02

In Hong Kong, the Metro provides an in-town check in service. (You can also check in your luggage as well). We checked in at 8:30am in the in-town check-in service which took approx. 5-10 mins. Hopped onto the metro for one station to work and basically did nothing for 8 hours besides day dreaming. ;-) (Hope my boss isn¡¦t reading this).

At about 7:30 pm, we had a big Curry dinner with friends before leaving for the metro to the airport at about 9:45pm. The trip from town to the airport takes about 45 mins. (The airport metro is dedicated for people going to and from the airport and therefore is never full with people. Cost is approx. USD $13.)

Since we had already checked in, we simply went through customs and went straight to the departure gate for our flight. Our plane departed for London at 11:45pm

BTW, we decided not to check in our luggage and only packed for carry on backpacks as we did not want to lose our luggage (as was the case on our first trip to Paris) or wait for our luggage at the airport.

 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:12 AM
  #3  
David C
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Day 1 : Saturday, 28 Sep 02.

At around 12:30 am, my wife gave me a big kiss and wished me Happy Anniversary. Due to the time zone differences (6 hrs between HK and France), it was our longest anniversary day being a total of 30 hours.

We arrived at Heathrow at 5:45am (London time) and hopped onto our transfer flight to Paris. The weather in London was fabulous and we were getting really excited. After boarding and settling into our seats at 7 am, the plane started to move. Then the captain spoke and announced that the flight will be delayed for approx. 1 hour as Paris was extremely foggy. I joked to my wife that on this day, 6 years ago, it had rained during our wedding. Now 6 years later, it was foggy. Anyhow, close to about ½ an hour had passed, the captain announced that we were to be grounded for another 1 and ½ hours making it a total of 2 hours. I was starting to get really concerned as we had TGV tickets to Nice for 11:24am. I spoke to the Captain as he came to visit the passengers and he told me that I had little chance of making the train. I then spoke to the Flight attendant to see if we could move to the front of the plane.

Finally flew off and got of the plane in Paris at 11:20am. The Flight attendant moved us to the Business Class section (Many Thanks to British Airways) just prior to landing. Since we had no check-in luggage, we walked as fast as we could to find the TGV. I had looked at the maps of CDG from the internet and the route I was to take was to go down one level and head for Satellite 3. We saw a sign which pointed to Satellite 3 and headed off that way. When we got there we realized it was Satellite 3 for CDG Terminal 1. Doh!!!

Spoke to a person who worked at the airport for directions to the TGV but he could not speak english. I quickly “Mercied” him and backtracked. As we headed back, I said to my wife shouldn’t we go through immigration first. We then saw the exit signs and lined up behind all the people that flew over with us. After 10mins, we got through the EXIT (nearly everywhere else I’ve been, it is called IMMIGRATION. That’s why it threw us off!!! Last time we came to paris, it was with a tour group on a coach.) The immigration people had a very relaxed attitude and was not really concerned as to who they were letting into the country. Therefore, going through immigration was really simple.
 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:15 AM
  #4  
David C
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Finally got out, and saw yellow signs pointing to the TGV station. The area was packed and it was difficult getting past all the people. The signs all pointed to a lift, and you guessed it, the lift was not terribly big and each person queuing had their own trolley of luggage. Since it was a little past 11:24 and we knew we had missed our train, we still had hope that the train maybe delayed because of the foggy weather in Paris. So I asked a security guard if there were stairs leading down to the shuttles. He showed them to me and I got my wife and headed down the stairs. (If it might help someone, if you are facing the lift, which is on the left of automatic sliding doors leading out of the airport, the stairs are located behind a door in a corridor on the right of the sliding doors.) After going down maybe 6 flight of stairs which led right to the bottom of the stairwell, we bumped into another security person who pointed us to the shuttles. She mentioned to take shuttles 1 or 5. We took shuttle 1 and the shuttle took us straight to the TGV station. The TGV station was the 3rd. stop. The trip took 5-10 mins as the driver was extremely helpful and was answering everyone¡¦s questions.

Got to the TGV station at 11:45 (only missed the train by 20 minutes), went up (or was it down) some escalators and saw the SNCF ticketing office. We looked at the departure board to make sure that our train had left before queuing up at the ticket office. There were about 10 people in front of us in the queue. After 15 mins, we got to the counter and told the lady what had happened. I tried to change the ticket for new ones departing on the same day but since it was our anniversary we did not have much luck! She mentioned that the only TGVs left for Nice were indirect ones. That is, TGV to Marseille, wait an hour, then TGV to Nice. (I am still wondering why SNCF would schedule 2 direct TGV trains to Nice leaving both at the same time at 11:24. If they had made one leave 1 or 2 hours later, it would have been more convenient to travellers!!!) Anyhow, the next one to leave was at 1 pm and will arrive at Nice a little past 8pm and the cost for 2 was nearly 200 Euros. (BTW, our original tickets were booked thru the SNCF website for 80 Euros for 2 persons. The tickets were mailed to me and I had received them in less than 3 days of purchasing them!!!!) In order to get free replacement tickets for the indirect trip to Nice, we needed to shuttle back to CDG Terminal 1, find British Airways, get a Flight Delay Report, shuttle back to the TGV station, queue up and, voila, free tickets.
 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:16 AM
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David C
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I asked could I get a refund when we came back from Nice and she said No!. We thought about it for one minute and decided to end the frustration and gave the lady our credit card. Got the tickets, found a pastry shop and we shared a double hotdog, raisin pastry and 2 coffees. The hotdog was so delicious! You know how everywhere else the hotdog buns are soft, well in France, they use crispy on the outside and soft on the inside Baguettes!!! Even after being in France for 9 days, we still did not know how to order a long black coffee (except McDonalds where you add the milk in yourself!). I.e. regular coffee without milk. We always somehow got a small cup of expresso!! We thought it was called Café Noir but asking for one of those, we still got an expresso! Hmmmm! Can anyone set us straight. Maybe we’ve been conditioned too much by Starbucks. Finally got on the train. After finding our seats (which had a table), guess what, there was one backpacker fast asleep on the seat opposite us, and another one in our seat, eating on a big sandwich. When we showed the one that was munching away our tickets, he apologized, hurriedly gobbled the remainder of his sandwich and spent ages trying to wake his friend up. His friend was so out of it, it was like he hadn’t slept in yonks! Anyhow, they both got up, moved their humungous backpacks and vacated our seats. We finally sat down and tried to endure breathing second hand smoke for the next 7 hours as all the Non Smoking carriages were full! When you thought all our bad luck had dried up, a little girl (approximately 3 years old) sitting at the end of the carriage had started bawling her eyes out. She wanted something but her mom wouldn’t give it to her. Her mom made no attempts to stop her crying. She cried for close to 20 mins.

Finally got to Marseille after a little over 3 hours. Got off. Went outside to snap a few photos.
 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:17 AM
  #6  
David C
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Headed for the restrooms. In France, we spent a small fortune just going to the toilet. It was 0.40 or 0.50 Euro for using the toilets per person. However, the toilets were very clean. The 0.50 Euro toilets included 3 napkins to dry your hands.

Waited for the next train and got on. The scenery from Marseille to Nice was extremely nice but since it was getting dark, the scenery did not last that long. After another 3 hours, we had finally arrived in Nice.

We walked to our hotel, Hotel Durante (www.hotel-durante.com), which was 2 minutes from the station. It is a 3 star hotel and was only 70 Euro including tax. We were pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness, quietness and quality of the room we got. (Room 111) It also had air conditioning. The walk to the Promenade was approximately 15 minutes which was always a nice stroll.

For the price, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 as it was a really good deal.

After settling in and freshening up (as we wreaked of smoke) we decided to head off for a small bite to eat before going to bed. So much for our romantic anniversary dinner. We decided to celebrate our anniversary on our last night in Nice.
 
Oct 15th, 2002, 06:18 AM
  #7  
David C
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After 11 hours from Hong Kong to London, 3-4 hours from London to Paris (including waiting time), then 8-9 hours from Paris to Nice (including the short time in Marseille), we would¡¦ve had a reasonably comfortable trip if the plane was not delayed.

Why we chose this route was because we had free tickets from London to Paris, which we could not change for London to Nice. My wife was uncertain about flying Easyjet and Air France was way too expensive. We did not want to stay in Paris for 1 day as we would¡¦ve arrived at 9:45 am, had to have checked into a hotel, then check out the next day, back to the train station for another day of travel. We wanted to get rid of all the travelling in one go and then enjoy ourselves for the next few consecutive days.

Before the trip, I was always self-debating whether I should have bought travel passes instead. My suggestion for anybody else would be to do so as you would not be constantly thinking whether you will get a refund or not. Furthermore, if the time between the arrival of the plane and the departure of the train is a little dicey, make seat reservations for the next train as well (I think it¡¦s only 10 Euro per person) unless you are a smoker as there were quite a lot of empty seats in the smoking carriages.

BTW, after the next few days in the South of France, we thought that all the hassles from travelling was still worth it!

When arriving back in Hong Kong, I contacted British Airways and will get a refund for the cost of the new TGV tickets that I bought. I really didn¡¦t think they would, as it was more an act of God, Buddha, Mahhummed, Thor, Mars or Ra rather than BA¡¦s fault.

Anyhow, that¡¦s all (pheeeew) for day 1. Day 2 will be coming soon!

 

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