Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Planes, trains & automobiles, Part 3 (trains)

This is the last in my three part series on worrying about transportation.  Mainly because I'm completely exhausted reliving all the stress I put myself through trying to make decisions about what plane,what car, what train...OMG...I can really see that I need a bit of a break.  What has always been really easy for me, making decisions, has become such a chore that I don't even want to decide which socks to wear in the morning...or whether I should wear socks or not.  Anyway...

The last decision about transportation that did need to be made before we left the States had to do with trains.  While we do have a car to tour around France in, after a little research, I realized that we did not want to be driving in Paris.  Especially right now, as there appears to be some fairly major road construction going on, making Paris driving even more difficult that normal.  I knew that we would want to take the train into Paris several times over the course of the two months.  I also knew that we might want to take a train or two on some extended trips.  However, I did not know where those trips would be or how many of them there would be.  I refused to sit down and come up with a grand plan.  I was hoping to be more spontaneous while in France.  Wake up in the morning, decide Lyon sounded good, and off we would go.

I did a little digging to find train schedules and costs.  I then looked at train passes.  Gosh, they seemed expensive, and since I had no idea how many days we might actually be traveling by train, I was hard pressed to make a decision.  So, I kept looking at train schedules and I kept looking at train passes.  I swear I spent a week going back and forth on this issue.  Then I did a Bing search:  what's the best train pass?  (I love Bing...I put in all sorts of odd things..and it really gives me the info I need to make a decision...hmmm, just like their commercials say!)  This search led me to a wonderful site (which you probably know all about if you do any traveling, but since I haven't done that much traveling since the advent of the Internet, I didn't even think about this one).  The great site is Fodors. Duh!

But what is truly great about this site is it's forums.  I got so many of my questions answered that I had been struggling with for so long.  Not only about transportation, but about phones and currency exchanges and how to act so the French won't think we're just rude Americans, and so many other things.  Whatever your question, just search the site and someone has first-hand experience on it.  There are also folks who travel extensively and write incredible descriptions of their journeys.  Day by day itineraries, with details of where they stayed, what they saw and what they ate.  After reading some of these, I felt like I'd already been on my trip.  They also were part of my inspiration to keep a more detail accounting of my trip.

Another great site that I found was Rick Steves' site which answered all my questions about trains.  So well, in fact, that I ended up buying our Eurail pass through his site.  Yep, that was my final decision.  I bought a 5 person, 3 country, 6 day pass (could over two months) for about $2,000.  That works out to about $66 a day.  If we go into Paris, round trip in one day is about 66 euro, so the pass would be cheaper.  If we travel to say Nice, the round trip cost would be 375 euro (taking 2 days of the pass at $132 is a significant savings).  Ultimately, to give ourselves the greatest flexibility, the Eurail pass seemed to make sense. I went with the three country pass (France, Italy & Germany), which was just a tad more than the one country, so if we decided we needed to jaunt off to Italy or Germany, we could.  (Also, when you buy 2 or more persons together on the same pass, you get a significant savings, so we could afford to buy first class passes...yippee!!!)  I also decided that we could decide what if any passes the three teens joining us in August should buy, after we're in France for a bit.  (Another decision left to a later day...I'm starting to love this!)

Because these posts have been so long and detailed and I have a feeling completely un-entertaining, I thought I'd spice things up with this:

Is that spicy enough for you?


Michelle Iverson said...

As the mom of two of the teenagers meeting you in France in August...THANK YOU for making all the decisions. Just reading and laughing at how complicated it all is, makes me think you might need to take some drastic measures to escape the decision making, choice overloaded life you have.

sirey said...

So you don't think running off to France for two months is a drastic enough measure???

Anonymous said...

Stephanie - I do have one suggestion for you if you are planning any significant time in Paris and want to go to the museums...there is a pass that you can buy that covers all the museums and it is very economical. One more thing, be prepared for lots of stairs on the Paris Metro...lots and lots and lots of stairs. :)

~ Lisa Boyd

sirey said...

Lisa - thanks for the head's up on the pass and the stairs! Since I've just recovered from my torn calf muscle, I'm curious as to how I'm going to do with all the stairs. :)