So, let’s get this story underway…
We arrived in Paris on Wednesday morning, August 21 after an overnight flight from Toronto. I must say the “Arrivals” area of the Paris airport is horrendous! With a very small area for baggage and people from several flights crammed into the space – and I must say very little to no air conditioning – and an apparent common problem of bad B.O. from an awful lot of people standing around, I was already thinking Paris had no charm. Thankfully our bags finally showed up on that one (yes one) conveyor belt after the flight from Dubai cleared out. It took almost an hour to get our bags! I used to complain that the baggage area in Toronto was slow – uh uh! Never again! At least there is tons of room to move around! Not so in Paris. So my most humble apologies Toronto YYZ!
Next, we had to find our train information. I had cleverly purchased ahead of time a France (Europe) Rail pass and seat reservations on all the trains we would be needing. The only issue was that the EuroRail pass had to be validated at the ticket counter IN the train station IN Paris CDG. So, again, tired and in a long line, we waited. Finally made our way to the front of the line where the attendant was very good at explaining what we needed. She validated the pass and printed all our tickets for the entire trip – this turned out to be the best thing ever as we didn’t have to stand in a line up ever again (at least at a train station!). But our train didn’t leave for another several hours. Now what?
We realized there is very little in the way of food in the train station part of the airport and since we were lugging luggage with us did not feel like lugging it all backwards into the airport area again. So, too tired to do much else, we noticed a Sheraton Hotel (It was the Paris Sheraton Airport Hotel) right inside the airport/train station. We were lucky enough to (a) get a seat and (b) be served by our first snobby server. We were hungry and wanted some breakfast but he said no, that time had passed. Okay, early lunch? No, too early. We could get no food, none. What we COULD order was coffee or other beverages. Fine, we will have some Perrier please! He left to get our order. It came. We drank very slowly! Finally when he had gone on his break (we presumed) we had a delightful female server. She asked if she could bring us anything else – we asked for lunch after all it was 11:45 a.m. and surely they would give us food 15 minutes ahead of sched! She said no problem. We ordered lunch. I had gazpacho, Scott had a club sandwich. Grateful to have food in our bellies and still sit in the only quiet place we could find in the airport! Thank you Sheraton. We stayed probably close to 2 hours trying hard to stay awake!
When the time was close, and by close I mean within an hour or so, for our train departure we moved it over to the track area and waited, again. The only seats we could find were outside, in the sun. And so we sat, in the heat, in the sun, sleep deprived, and we waited. Finally it was time to move to track level and get on our train. This is where I thank myself! (Thank you self.) I had pre-booked all first class tickets. We had great seats from Paris to Lyon where I drifted in and out of consciousness. At Lyon, we had to change trains to Chambéry, and this is where I was not happy with myself (bad self.) We jumped on the second class car and were subjected to a guy who did some nose fishing, and general snoring. When the ticket man (what DO you call those guys?) came along he told us we were in the wrong seats on the wrong car. How was I to know? They all looked the same. But by that time we only had 1/2 hr to go, so we stayed put. Argh.
Arrived in Chambéry around 6 p.m. Our hotel was directly across the road from the train station. We checked in, crashed for a bit, and then went in search of food. Found it – a little food truck called “Pizza Chic” with THE most amazing types of pizza I had ever heard of! We got to practice our very poor French language skills at the pizza truck and ended up with an amazing paper-thin crusted pizza and 2 bottles of water. We took the pizza to a park close by and ate it there. However, looking around at the ‘characters’ in the park we arrived at the conclusion that this wasn’t the best part of town at night and we should probably move along shortly! We did. We walked the streets of Chambéry for a bit before heading back to our hotel – truth is, we couldn’t find the hotel! Had to really figure it out and without a map, follow crazy direction signs to the train station; we know if we found the station, we’d find the hotel! It worked!
The next day, we set out to find a tourist information place (we spotted one the night before) to get some local information about this town. Heading into the old, historic, part of town is where we spent pretty much all our time. We loved the cobblestone streets, the old buildings (which were now used as exclusive shopping areas… heaven to me!) and the myriad of cafes. One of the landmarks of Chambéry is the Elephant Fountain – I had seen it on line and was determined to find it. We did. Took pictures. Hmmm, now what? We ended up taking one of those little ‘tourist train’ things. It drove us around the town and with the help of our headsets with English translation, we learned so much about this great little place.
Situated in the French Alps, Chambéry is the ancestral home to the Savoys and dates way back to the 11th Century. It was ruled by the Dutchy of Savoie before it was annexed to the King of France. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man (the French version of the Bill of Rights) while he was living in Chambéry.
Chambéry surprised me. I’m not sure what I was expecting (truthfully, not much) but what I found was an absolutely charming, peaceful place to visit with beautiful architecture, good food and wine, and friendly people. Oh, and the famous Tour de France bicycle race goes right through there! Bottom line – Chambéry is a place I would return to. Mostly for the friendly people, the great food (seriously) and beautiful views!
On August 23, just a day and a half after arriving (2 nights) we were back at the train station and boarding the train back to Lyon where we would transfer to our train to Avignon!
Let the REAL adventure begin!