Day 38 – From Prague to Paris

Prague Hlavni Nadrazi – Dresden Hbf – Leipzig Hbf – Frankfurt (Main) Hbf – Paris Est

I’d chosen a somewhat convoluted route to Paris as I always try to avoid routes I’ve done previously. As time goes by the options to do this are reducing, especially as I get closer to home. I was quite pleased to find this one, which barring Strasbourg to Paris was almost entirely new. The day involved three changes of train, and a couple of quite tight connections. The Interrail app warned me that sections of the route were likely to be very busy, so I reserved seats on three of the four services.

After a rather delicious breakfast I made my way to the station for an 08:25 departure. A lot of hotels do quite similar things but this one had made a real effort, and it was appreciated. I could very happily have spent more time there.

Having arrived well after dark, the night before, I’d missed what a lovely station Prague is. I didn’t have lots of time to look around, but these pictures give a feel of it.

Very soon after leaving the station we were travelling beside the Vitava River, which soon flows into the Elbe, which we followed for some distance.

The rivers are navigable so you get occasional glimpses of locks and a range of interesting bridges, as well as boats large and small. Of course, once we had crossed the border into Germany it was only a matter of moments before we saw the first castle of the day.

I left this service in Dresden, an interesting station which has high level platforms on both sides, but low level ones between them. I didn’t have time to explore and find out what that was all about, but it was rather odd.

Dresden Hbf

I’ve commented earlier in this trip about impressive stations in Germany and Leipzig was another example. The moment our train arrived there was someone there cleaning the driver’s windows before it headed away, having only stopped for a couple of minutes.

I had enough time here for a bit of a walk around, so grabbed some lunch from the huge selection available on multiple levels in the concourse.

The Leipzig – Frankfurt service was incredibly busy. There wasn’t an empty seat to be had, even in First Class, and I was glad that I’d made a reservation.

Part way through the journey I needed to make a Teams call so I left my seat and went into the vestibule area, as I would always do, in order to not annoy those around me. Within moments another passenger emerged from the seated area and quite sternly told (not asked) me to stop, as this was a quiet carriage. I hadn’t noticed that this was the case – I’d not requested a quiet seat when I made the booking. It turns out that the doors don’t actually close fully; there is a big gap down either side even when they appear to be closed, so I may as well have stayed in my seat for all the difference it made. I moved to another part of the train to resume my call.

Frankfurt is another impressive station. I had a bit of a wait here as the TGV from/to Paris arrived 15 minutes late.

Frankfurt (Main) Hbf
Frankfurt (Main) Hbf

I sat with a couple of teenage lads on the first part of this trip. We got chatting, and as ever, the competence of young people in second languages puts me to shame.

The train unexpectedly came to a halt a few times between stations and we were told that we were being delayed by a train that had a fault. Eventually we pulled into Offenburg station where we were told that there would be a pause while they worked out a new route for our service. It was a somewhat odd comment as we had already changed route – our train should have gone directly to Strasbourg; Offenburg is further south than we needed to be by 5 miles or so. It was therefore no great surprise when we backed up to the turning we should have taken and continued our journey. It did occur to me that in making this detour around what was effectively a triangle our train was now travelling in the opposite direction to what it would have been if we’d gone directly to Strasbourg and I wondered if the faulty train was actually ours and reversing the direction of travel was a “fix.” Right or wrong, we had no more unscheduled stops.

I was joined at Strasbourg by a French mother with two quite young children, who were clearly driving her to distraction. They were mostly just playful, but also overtired and thirsty/hungry. Having been able to follow all the conversation between this little family I’ve concluded that my French language comprehension age is around five!

We were 40 minutes late into Paris Est. Thankfully my hotel was very nearby. Oddly, given that it virtually overlooks this station it’s name is Ibis Paris Nord, though the two stations are almost next to each other so Nord wasn’t that much further away than Est.

I’d decided that even though I had only arrived in Paris at 9:30pm, I was going to go exploring. It was the last night of this trip, and I’ve only ever spent time in this city once before, other than to change trains.

I looked at a map and set off vaguely in the direction of the Seine. It had rained a little but there was lots to see so I preferred to walk rather than jumping onto the Metro.

I didn’t want to sit down to eat but struggled to find anywhere that I could get takeaway food that I could eat as I explored. Eventually I happened across a crêperie, which seemed entirely appropriate both for Paris and as a last night treat, and was quite delicious.

I arrived at the Seine very close to the Notre Dame. This is one bit of Paris I remembered from my previous visit. I was hoping that I’d see lots of progress on the cathedral since I was last here, especially as I read a few weeks ago that it was going to be completed on time (next year) but it didn’t look terribly different to how I previously saw it over 3 years ago.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

As I had been walking towards the river earlier, I’d noticed a searchlight sweeping across the sky, but could not see where it was coming from. I now realised that the light was at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I’d never seen the Tower so decided that I would follow the river and find it. It was a fair distance away, but the walk was interesting.

At a distance I’d noticed not only that the Tower had a searchlight, but that it was lit up. However by the time I arrived the lights had been turned off. It was now almost midnight, but the area was still very busy with tourists and I could see that lifts were going up and down. They must do private events well into the night.

It had not occurred to me that the Tower would be a fenced off attraction these days. I pictured it looking how it did in the classic Ealing Studios film The Lavender Hill Mob, shot when it was surrounded by open parkland. It doesn’t really make a huge difference to the photos as you would not generally stand underneath it to get a shot, so I’m not sure I would have paid to go in, even if I had arrived earlier in the day.

I consulted my map and realised that it wasn’t all that far to the Arc de Triomphe, which I’d also never seen. I’d not expected it to be so huge. I didn’t get especially close to it but even at a distance it is really imposing, as is the Champs Elysees which leads from it.

By now it was quite late and I thought needed to head for the hotel. I’d not realised that the metros stop running shortly after midnight, and the bus services was worse than useless for the direction I wanted to go in. I stepped out and was back at the hotel in about 40 minutes. Having arrived in Paris so late, I was surprised to discover that I had walked nearly 11 miles by the time I fell into bed, just before 2am.

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  1. Celia Lyon

    Wow, great read of your last few days. You must be exhausted!!

    • Yep, this one was brilliant, but very tiring. The original plan to do this one second would have given me two more days than the third trip it ended up as. Conversely the extra time on that trip meant that I had a bit of time in Avignon and San Sebastián so no regrets!

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