Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jour 1 Lyon: TGV & Hotel Mercure

Here I am to finally share some meaty goodness from my most recent vacation. Today's post is just ever so slightly boring just because it's got mostly logistics stirred in with a hotel review but hey, if you're looking to do a similar trip, you might learn a thing or two. By the way, if you were wondering or questioning yourself in the slightest, it's pronounced, "lee-ohn" with just the slightest hint that there's even an 'n' at the end of the word.
So on Thursday evening, we headed to the airport around 9PM for our almost midnight flight. Our bags were impeccably packed (because that's how we roll).

Unfortunately, our flight was delayed by two hours so we sat in the airport, sleepy as eff. We flew via XL Airways which has a reputation for sucking a bit of ass, but in all honesty, it wasn't half bad. Yes, the seats were cramped, but both baby sister and I happen to be petite so we didn't have as hard a time as taller, wider people might. Due to the delay, we were given a little snack (chips, sodas, sammies), which was a nice gesture.
We ended up landing around 2PM (on Friday) and lucky for us, our train tickets from Paris to Lyon were booked for a 4PM departure so the delay threw zero wrenches into our plan. And luckily, getting through customs was a cinch! Last time (re: almost four years ago), I remember the French customs agent asking several questions about why I was there and how long I was staying and where I was coming from but this time, they just scanned my passport, gave me a stamp, and basically kicked me out the door.

Since we hadn't checked any bags, we just headed straight to the trains. We took a TGV train (booked through Rail Europe) right from CDG Airport (the trains are located in the middle of Terminal 2). We booked our tickets online way ahead of time (back in February) and they were about $75 per person.
There are assigned seats on these trains so you look up your car number and then look at this little diagram to find out where you can stand to best catch your car. For example, if you were in Car 7, you might be told to stand near the 'S' sign. If you're in Car 8, you might be told to stand near the 'T' sign. It's pretty self-explanatory and awesome. And remember, don't rely on the numbers painted on the train; look for the little digital display to confirm that you're in the correct car.
The trains themselves are roomy and comfortable (much better than airplane seats). We took a train that had an upper and lower level and luckily, we were in the lower level which meant we didn't have to lug our luggage up a set of narrow stairs.

Look at the seat numbers to make sure you're plopping your tush in the right spot! We found our seats right away. I expected a train staff member to come and scan our tickets immediately after pulling out of the station (kind of like how it is on the NJ Transit trains) but actually, we didn't get scanned until about 10 minutes before our stop. Because of the late ticket scanning, you'd think you could hitch a ride for free but the train scanning is rather random (as we found out on our other train rides) and with the assigned seating, you'd be taking quite a gamble. Though, I guess you could just hang out in the dining car the entire ride.
I, of course, got straight to journaling as soon as I had the opportunity. I wrote about our flight delay, about the quick shove through customs, how we caught our train, etc. All of the details I record in my journal are important, as 80% of them end up right here on this blog so I really like to jot things down while they're still super fresh in my mind.
We saw a lot of the French countryside on our ride down. There were plenty of vineyards, farmhouses, and of course, farm animals. Of course, due to the speed of the train, most of the shots I attempted to make came out blurry. So, I'm just sharing this one snap which has blonde cows grazing next to a supremely adorable country home.
We arrived at the Part Dieu train station in just about two hours, which is impressive considering it's about a 4 hour road trip. Those trains move super fast, bro.

Our hotel, Mercure Lyon La Part Dieu was literally 100 steps from the train station, which was nice and convenient.

We booked the hotel through Hotels.com for around $105 per night (which didn't include the city tax, which was something like €3 per night). The rooms were incredibly spacious by normal European standards. The beds were large and cushy and they were true queens/kings. I've been in hotels in Europe before where they promise a queen bed and it's just two twins that have been pushed next to each other.
The toilet was in its own separate room, which was kind of convenient. Someone could be peeing while someone else is showering, which is quite nice.
The bath was also quite flash, if you ask me. The sink was so elegant and sleek and the shower was so nice. It had a rain head up above and then a detachable shower head with adjustable height. How cool is that?
Overall, we loved our stay at the Mercure. All of the staff were incredibly kind, friendly, and helpful. They even exchanged €25 into coins for us when we were in a pickle (more on that later). The hotel itself is convenient, modern, clean, and well-maintained and there's a little restaurant and bar downstairs for anyone who might be there on business and isn't looking to leave the hotel after a long day's work. There are plenty of tram and metro stops nearby to take you into the thick of things, when the time comes, and you can catch the train rather easily, if need be. All in all, a great place to stay and I'd highly recommend it.

Oh, and if you can, request a room on one of the higher floors. Though this part of the city isn't quite as beautiful as the rest (it's more industrial) we still had this lovely view which I 100% appreciated.
That's it for now. I'll be back with more photos, anecdotes, and vital information so come back soon.

xoxo.

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