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Paris and Normandy Trains

Old Mar 27th, 2015, 09:02 AM
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Paris and Normandy Trains

I have a couple questions,

I land in Paris around 11 on a Saturday in early July and then will be travelling by train to Caen. Will trains be sold out? Will I be able to buy a train ticket at St. Lazare. I can buy now but with possible delays or if I want to spend an extra hour or two in Paris I was just wondering if waiting til I'm there is a better idea.

Second, on Thursday I am leaving Normandy to go back to Paris, am I better off driving back to Paris or taking a train. At this point in my trip I'll be up near Le Havre. Should I train from Le Havre or Rouen? I don't mind driving but I'm assuming there will be lots of traffic getting back into Paris.

Thanks!
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 10:15 AM
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You will have no problem getting on Saint-Lazare to Caen trains as reservations are not required (unlike TGV trains) and with a ticket you can always board - even if th rare chance there are no empty seats - they will free up after a few stops and first-class is always always IME of taking zillion of French regional trains like these half empty.

If landing at CDG simply go to the airport train station in terminal 2 and buy a thru ticket from CDG to Caen - it will include an RER ticket to Paris Gare du Nord and an RER E ticket from there to Saint-Lazare and an open-ended ticket to be used on any train from there to Caen - ho on the first of about hourly trains.

Noneed to buy any ticket now - better to buy at CDG train station because it will TMK include the RER tickets as well to get thru Paris to Saint-Lazare. Not sure this can be done online and there are little or no savings on this line to Caen that can be gained by buying in advance - they may be some minor ones on some trains but then you are plugged into a specific train at a specific time - like you say when landing you never really know what train you can really be able to catch from Saint-Lazare.

As for coming back from the e havre-rouen line the same thing applies - these are mainly regional trains you can just hop on and have a fairly flat-fare structure with very limited if any savings on discounted in advance tickets I think. Just buy those tickets before the train - going back to Paris anytime after the morning commuting rush hour will be fine.

If you are staying in Paris once you go back I'd ditch the car in say Rouen and take the train - cars are a liaibility in Paris - simply not useful for sightseeing and parking can be hard and expensive and many hotels do not offer parking, etc.

However you could hit Giverny and Monet's House easily on the way back to Paris - maybe you could return the car in Vernon - the larger city a few miles from Giverny if Giverny is of interst to you.

Forlots of great stuff on French trains in general and tickets (full-fare tickets need to I think be self-cancelled before boarding) check out the following sites: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Again no need to advance purchase, which is not always a snap in any case for novice users of sometimes fickle European rail sites. www.capitainetrain.com apparently is esier to use than www.voyages-sncf.com - the official French Railways site that flummoxes many first-time or even veteran users.

So best just go to ticket counter at CDG train station and ask the sure-to-be English speaking clerk 'what's the best way by train from here now to Caen and he/she will give you the best fare and explain it all IME.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 11:51 AM
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PalenQ, fantastic info thank you so much.

I will definitely wait to buy the tickets until I'm there.

As far as the second question, the reason I'm even debating is because once I get to Paris, I'm taking a TGV to Provence. I have a car booked and returning to Gare de Lyon. But then I thought about traffic and it possibly taking me 3 or more hours to drive. So I guess the main question is, if you had to go from Le Havre to Gare de Lyon by 12pm-1pm at the latest, how would you go about it.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 12:01 PM
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If youhave to return the car at Gare de Lyon I would drive of course - at that time of day traffic going to Paris will not be so bad - in the Paris area - take the ring freeway - peripherique to the Porte d'Italie exit and then drive straight on broad avenues to the Gare du Lyon - not sure that is the best way but from what I know that is what I would do.

If renting a car in Provence why not drive there from Normandy via the Loire Valley?
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 12:35 PM
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I've heard in summer traffic is crazy on the way to Provence/Riviera. Also with a limited amount of days I just wanna get down there as soon as possible.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 02:53 PM
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We enjoyed the train ride. We rented a car in Caen to tour Normandy and returned it there. If given the choice I would always choose the train.
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Old Mar 28th, 2015, 05:35 AM
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<because once I get to Paris, I'm taking a TGV to Provence>

If just going to Paris and right away taking a train out by all means try to return the car in Caen or Rouen, etc and take the train into Paris - having to return a car can take time and yes driving in Paris can be slow - see if you can return the car elsewhere - should be able to and then take the train to the train.
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Old Mar 28th, 2015, 06:11 AM
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Or for even making it easier drive from Normandy to say Rennes, perhaps via Mont-Saint-Michel - return the car there and see MSM too!
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Old Mar 28th, 2015, 08:18 AM
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Palenq, while in normandy I'll be staying in bayeux, MSM and etretat
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Old Mar 28th, 2015, 02:33 PM
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While driving to Mont=Sain-Michel from Bayeux be sure to stop in Avranches where from the garden of the fancy Bishops House there is a famous view of MSM looming far in the distance across the usually dry and always flat bay - we went down to the sea here and say this visage from afar at water level - I put myself into the worn shoes and aching blistered feet of medieval pilgrims whose long arduous journey was nearing their completion when the finalls saw their goal - they still had a ways to go but it must have given them a shot of adrenaline.

Many groups walk across the sands here to the Mount bugt a guide or knowledge of the area is needed to avoid quicksand that in days of old I guess devoured more than a few en route - guess the devil got em!

I enjyed the Mont even more at night when they have some kind of sound and light show in the old abbey rooms - rooms which are elbow-elbow with tourists on guided tours in the daytime but sparsely fullat night - lots of special effects bring the place to its medieval life.

if not staying in the gaggle of motels at the end of the old causeway on the mainland be sure to cross to the mainland at night to see the awesome spectacle of the whole Mont gloriously illuminated at night - a view you cannot of course appreciate from the island itself!

cheers!
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Old Mar 29th, 2015, 06:54 AM
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Etretat has no rail service so if wanting to return car there you have a much slower overall trip to Paris involving bus and train - better to drive to Rouen, ditch the car and enjoy a few hours in that really nice place with superb famous cathedral whose facade was painted incessantly by Monet - commuting there often from nearby Giverny.
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