I've just returned from a trip to Cologne which I made with my 16m old daughter using the TGV. My hubbie is currently working over there so we took the opportunity to spend a week or so seeing part of Germany.
Our journey started at 6.45am when I drove to Agde station to take the TGV. I was equipped with my trusty walking backpack (nappies, milk, water, toys, tickets, snacks in coolbag, doliprane, other medicines for la petite, gaviscon for me (pregnancy symptom which strikes at the most unsuitable times), raincover, macs, sunglasses, passports and just about everything but the kitchen sink. It was probably a bit too heavy given my 7m condition!
On the plus side I had our lightweight Quinny Zapp pushchair (excellent & folds down neatly) with attached hungry caterpillar for on route entertainment.
On arrival at Agde we picked up the tickets sans probleme but hit our first hitch, lots of stairs to descend below the ground to the platform & then back up onto the platform. I bumped the pushchair all the way down the stairs then hung around for someone kind to help me up the other side....without luck! So I took up the backpack, left little one in pushchair at the bottom of the steps, came back down for little one who slowly climbed steps whilst I pulled pushchair up besides me holding her hand. Was this a sign of all the stations in France to come or just because Agde is a small station? I hoped the latter.
So the TGV arrived and I possibly naively expected the guards to voluntarily help me get the pushchair on board...nope, I eventually found one by hanging half way out the door so they knew they couldn't go anywhere till they helped me on. Not quite 1st Class I'd expected & paid more for!
On the train we settled into our isolated seat which was quite comfortable I have to say. The little one enjoyed perching on my knee to look out the window or stood up in front of me (plenty of legroom in 1st) and played with her toys.
About 2 hours into the 5 hour journey I wondered when refreshments would arrive....never in fact..even though I travelled 1st you still have to get up & go to the buffet car & pay for whatever you want...not quite my idea of 1st.
5 hours later (delayed half an hour due to sheep on the line) we arrived in Paris CDG from which we had to transfer to Paris Nord. Great fun...more steps, no working lifts as CDG is under constant renovation, very conscious of my bag not being interfered with by dodgy types who invaded my personal space constantly. Hmm how long has it been since I've been in a big city - I've become a country mouse!
Next was to hunt the baby change...ha ha ha. Up steps, down steps, left, right, end of station...so many people with so many directions but no baby change. Eventually changed her on a bench & decided I would need to use disabled toilets as turnstiles do not allow one to enter with a pushchair & I wondered if they expected me to leave her outside whilst I paid my 50c?
Took RER D to Paris Nord, also fun getting on & off train, up escalators as lifts were broken again, avoided shady types & hung around business men (not my usual pastime, I assure you).
Finally arrived in Paris Nord and found a lift working hurrah! I dread to think how you manage in France if you are in a wheelchair or have walking difficulties...
Took the Thalys service via Brussels & onto Cologne, again travelling 1st & this time was pleased to be served at my seat with a small meal, multiple drink services & they actually had a dedicated baby change room on the train - can you believe it? Bliss!
Arrived in Cologne, 12 hours after leaving home, shattered but happy to be there.
For the return, much easier, I knew the score & I went via Brussels (avoided Paris completely) and enjoyed the journey. Still tired the day after but it was an interesting experience! On the way back through Montpellier, we saw the horrid fires ripping through the Herault...
It was great to go away but it's also good to be home!
Only 2 weeks & we fly to Ireland...thankfully next time there will hubby too & it should only be 4 hours door to door...Then that will be the end of my travels until at least next year as I hit the 35 week mark & will do the sensible thing & stay at home in the Midi!
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