Starting in 2007 the old EuroCity trains from Frankfurt am Main to Paris were gradually phased out in favor of a new high-speed service using (mainly) German InterCityExpress trains.
For the first year or two there were serious compatibility problems, arising from the fact that these German trains needed transformers to run on the French electrical system. The first transformers were too weak for the job and kept overheating. I personally was on three of these ICE trains in 2007/2008 when they broke down and were unable to complete the run from Frankfurt to Paris or Paris to Frankfurt.
Once in 2008 we had an unscheduled stop in Forbach, which is a small town in France near the German border, just a short distance from Saarbrücken. Here after considerable waiting we all had to squeeze onto a hopelessly overcrowded regional train going to Metz.
Eventually the compatibility problems were solved, however, and since about 2009 the ICE trains have been making the run from Frankfurt to Paris and back several times daily without any serious complications that I know of.
The old EuroCity trains took over six hours to go from Frankfurt to Paris, but now the ICE trains make the trip in three hours and fifty minutes. Over half of that travel time is at relatively low speeds in Germany, with stops at Mannheim, Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken.
After leaving Saarbrücken the train crosses the border into France and starts picking up speed. The really fast part is on the new high-speed line ‘TGV-Est’, which was inaugurated in 2007. The trains run non-stop between Saarbrücken and Paris at speeds of up to 319 km/h (just over 198 miles per hour).
Second photo: A second class coach In an ICE train, 2013.
Third photo: Bistro car in an ICE train, 2015.
Fourth photo: A first class coach in the ICE train, 2015. Normally I’m too stingy to travel first class, but in this case the French railways website http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ had a special summer offer “Promo été 1ère classe” which cost less than a second class seat would have cost. The advantage of first class is that there are only three seats per row instead of four (and the rows are spaced slightly further apart) so it doesn’t feel so crowded. Also they come through and offer you a good French newspaper (Le Monde, so don’t buy a copy at the station) or a mediocre German newspaper (Die Welt, which means the same thing but is not in the same journalistic league).
As I have mentioned elsewhere, both the French and the German railways have complicated price structures with constantly changing prices, so all I can suggest is that you look at both websites and see what is on offer. I have never tried any of the alternative websites, but The Man in Seat 61 says it is sometimes possible to get lower prices on sites like capitainetrain.com.
Fifth photo: Another USP (Unique Selling Point) of the ICE and TGV trains between Paris and Frankfurt is that international first class passengers are offered a complimentary light meal at their seats. This turned out to be a typical airline-type over-packaged cold meal, served from an airline-type serving wagon – which I think is intentional, because they are trying to convince first class passengers that this train is just like an airline.
I personally found the meal very tasty, so I had no complaints, but I couldn’t help recalling that trains used to have dining cars where you could have a full meal at a real table. Some trains still do have dining cars, especially those with longer travel times. There is sometimes a knife-and-fork symbol in the timetable to indicate this.
The link below is a website for tourists intending to buy on-line train tickets in Paris and other European cities. This includes the schedules and costs of fares in Euro currency including departure and arrival times. Should you need to refund your ticket you can also do it online by entering your booking reference number
In our days the fast trains will bring you fast and easy in Paris from every corner in Europe, book in advance for cheap tickets. There are several stations:
Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London but also for trains to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, northern France
Gare d’Austerlitz for central France, Toulouse, Pyrenees, Madrid, Barcelona
Gare Saint-Lazare for Normandy
Gare de Bercy for Artesia
Gare de l’Est for eastern France, Germany
Gare de Lyon for SE France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy
Gare Montparnasse for W and SW France
There are 2 airports:
1)Charles de Gaule
Transfer to City Center:
9,75e (35’) by RER B train, usually from platforms 11 & 12) to Gare du Nord, Chatelet-Les Halles, Saint Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Port-Royal, Denfert-Rochereau, Cite Universitaire
10e (60-90’) by Roissy bus) to Opera Garnier
5.10 (80-90’) by local buses 350-351
19e (50’) by Air France bus to Porte Maillot, Montparnasse
45-60e by taxi
Transfer to City Center:
By taxi 40-50e
By orlybus (€7,50) to Denfert-Rochereau metro station and then a metro ticket (1.70e)
By orlyval(€8,40 or 10,90 including rer+metro) to Antony train station, then RER B train and metro
By bus 183 from Porte de Choisy station (€1.90), about 50’
These EuroCity trains, which used to take over six hours to go from Frankfurt am Main to Paris, have now been phased out in favor of the new high-speed connection in which German ICE trains run on French TGV tracks.
At first (summer 2007) there was only one through train per day, an ICE that left Frankfurt at 6:34 in the morning and arrived at Paris East Station four hours and seven minutes later. But there were two other connections which involved changing from one ICE train to another in Saarbrücken, the reason for this being that they did not yet have enough ICEs that were equipped to run on French tracks.
Update: As of 2012 there are five direct connections per day from Frankfurt to Paris, leaving Frankfurt central station at 6:00, 9:01, 13:01, 16:56 and 19:01. Travel time is not quite four hours.
Four of these connections are German ICE trains, but the one at 16:56 is a French TGV – the same train that made the run from Marseille to Frankfurt earlier in the day.
Second photo: The old EuroCity trains no longer had dining cars for the last few years, but they did have vendors coming through on both the German and the French sides of the border, selling quite different kinds of coffee by the way. The vendor in this photo is on the French side, as you can tell from the stacks of individual-filtered plastic coffee cups. These make good coffee but are not environmentally-friendly as they use four different kinds of plastic for the cup, the handle, the filter and the cover.
Third photo: Bicycle transport was still possible in the EuroCity trains, but is not possible in the InterCityExpress (ICE). The General German Bicycle Club (ADFC), of which I am proud to be a member, is campaigning on this issue.
Fourth photo: Arrival by EuroCity at Gare de l'Est (East Station) in Paris, June 2006.
My Family and I recently took a trip from London to Paris and Amsterdam by train. Let me first declare an interest as I own a 5* hotel in Cape Town called Cape Royale so I normally travel with luxury and limo!
On this occasion I wanted to give my children an education in normal travel so we went by train and subway. We left London on Euro Tunnel in style after waiting in the lounge! After a wonderful experience we arrived in Paris. First problem…no lifts so we had to lug our suitcases …on wheels…up the stairs. We take a subway to the station ‘Tuileries’ of our Hotel called ‘Hotel Des Tuileries’ . Took us ages to get a taxi, who took us for E12 to our hotel, we were so pleased I gave him E20. We checked into the hotel for our suite of adjoining rooms. The suitcases..one each..took up half the room and the small beds the other half!!..however my boys are now getting good education to check out the hotel better before booking…so no problems. Then we go for a local familiarization as we are staying three days only to find that the taxi had ripped us off as the subway Tuileries was only 60 meters away!!!
We enjoyed our three days and learned that at every opportunity there was a North African trying to rip us off….always check that your restaurant bill is only for items you ordered.
Upon check out at Hotel Des Tuileries’ the ‘included breakfast’ became an extra whether we used it or not. What do you do…by this stage we were fed up at being ripped off at every turn that ‘I refused to pay’ WOW this guy started bellowing at the top of his voice saying that we are not being ‘ripped off’ words that I did use. To avoid virtual assault I paid it…another lesson for the boys…get it in writing at check in!!
The taxi to Paris Nord was a relief as we felt like besieged people finally making our escape.
Then we get on the train with THALYS. My email sent to them on July 9th 2010 was as follows:
We travelled by SNCF Thalys from Paris-Nord to Amsterdam on July 3rd 2010, scheduled to depart at 10.25.We were 2 adults and three children on the following tickets:
Adult 1 186510232629/08710224810831 seat 72 Eur 199.00
Adult 2 186510232512/08710224810820 seat 73 Eur 199.00
Child 1 186510232843/08710224810853 seat 76 Eur 39.00
Child 2 186510232959/08710224810864 seat 74 Eur. 39.00
Child 3 186510232736/08710224810842 seat 75 Eur. Total Eur 515.00
This amount was paid by credit card VISA xxx xxx xxx xxx exp 04/13
We arrived at the station early and booked our tickets and seats. The train was delayed due to poor weather.
When we boarded there we other passengers seated in our seats. We politely requested that they would move and they refused. They said that other passengers were seated in their seats and if we got them to change they would then move! We travelled first class because my wife and I both have bad backs due to injury. There was much commotion and a number of people fighting over seats. My wife stood in the corridor, I stood in the carriage and our children sat on the floor all the way to Brussels.
Many people let the train at Brussels; however the people refused to leave our seats. When the train manager came around I asked him politely to allow us sit together in our booked seats. He refused to assist and when I asked him his name he said if I asked again he would make us leave the train in Antwerp!
Apart from the late arrival in Amsterdam, which we understood, this was an appalling journey where you management refused to care for us properly.
In the circumstances we believe that we are due a refund.
We hold the tickets and payment conformation should they be required.
Today, over six weeks later I receive the following reply
From: Customer Service Thalys [mailto:English.SC@thalys.com]
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 4:22 PM
To: xxxxxx xxxxx
Subject: RE: Request for Refund.
You contacted us in order to inform us about your dissatisfaction in regards to a delay which you encountered on board of Thalys and the poor travelling conditions on July 3, 2010. I have carefully read your letter and wish to give you an explanation which is as complete as possible.
First of all I wish to offer you our apologies for the inconveniences which this delay caused you. I am aware that every delay, no matter how long and no matter which cause, causes you important inconveniences, especially regarding to seating, and I deeply regret this. Although our rolling stock is adapted to rough weather, the storms of early July has caused great disruption to our train service.
In order not to disappoint our customers, we have decided not to suspend all our trains, but there were inconveniences and delays. These bad weather conditions, which we do not control, constitute a case of force majeure. Consequently, although I deeply regret this, I cannot give a positive answer to your request.
I will transfer your remarks about the lack of assistance by the staff to the staff’s supervisor to ensure better service in such a case in the future. Please be assured that usually all year long our staff on board as well as in the stations do their utmost to guarantee that you travel as comfortably as possible.
With kind regards.
Thalys Customer Service Officer
1050 Bruxelles 5
Our Lesson: Paris is going through some cultural aberration; they are sullen, arrogant, are unwelcoming and hate tourists. The place is filthy and everybody appears to be maximize the amount they can take from you NOW, and to hell with tomorrow. For us it was not worth it to experience their cultural splendors.
Avoid Paris and perhaps they will get the message and sort themselves out.
We are back in beautiful Cape Town, which really is the opposite to our Parisian experience.
As for Thalys, in true Parisian style…take our money but do not deliver the service and then blame a French expression ‘force majeure’. In a normal country, if you had the determination, you could sue, however French society is this way, so guess what the Judge would decide!!!!
Since last summer (2007) there has been a fast train service from Mannheim to Paris, with only two more stops in Germany and none between the border and Paris. In fact, people were warned in Saarbruecken (the last stop in Germany) not to help passengers into the train, as the next stop where they could leave would be Paris. Imagine helping your mother put up her bag and then all of sudden you're on your way to Paris. Some years ago this had actually happened to a friend of mine, only then the train stopped in Metz and she was able to get out there. But it was quite a hassle and expensive to get back to Saarbruecken.
Three hours and nine minutes from Mannnheim to Paris, faster than any car and faster than a plane, when you think about the time needed for security and check-in.The highest speed I could see indicated was 318 kmh.
Also very good: From last summer on the DB specials are valid on this service, like saving 50% if the night from Saturday to Sunday is included, acceptance of the Bahncard - the journey was not only faster than a plane would have been, it was also considerably cheaper.
Did you know..
...that you can return tickets without ANY reason or further inquiry at the front desk? Just walk in, say you want a return and voila, your money is back in your account.
...also, when you reserve a ticket online, you don't have to pay until a week later or the departure date, whichever comes soonest. That means you can reserve a spot and if you change your mind, don't click on the link and pay. It will go away. If you actually want the ticket and spot, simply pay and voila, you've got a nice seat.
..also, Belleville has quickly become one of my favorite areas, located in the 20th arrondisement. It was the location filled with immigrants who freshly arrived. It is incredibly diverse, with a petit Chinatown. There is a great little Vietnamese boutique where you can get great sub-sandwiches for 2 Euro. You probably didn't care, but you will love the different people you see/meet/encounter. Strike up a conversation. It's not an area frequently visited such as the others. You never know what may transpire.
The kids' song I have picked up in the heading continues " ...see the little puffing billies all in a row".
The long distance railways in France are run by the SNCF and 'puffing billies' definitely are not part of their fleet! Many of the trains, such as the ones in the photo, now are TGVs (Train a grande vitesse, tr 'High Speed Trains') which cruise along at over 250km/hr, it's interesting to think that the Ferrari also appearing in my 'transport tips' would have no speed advantage! What's more, these do not have to contend with traffic and many are express to their destination, which means that it is possible to get quite a way from Paris on a day's return excursion.
I took the TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Tours, a trip of 230km by road: the TGV ate the distance in about 1.5 hours, with one stop, and it was pleasant to watch the countryside scrolling past the picture windows. Saving time further, the train travels between city centres, avoiding the problems of getting to airports and the inherent airport delays. The fares are more or less comparable to discount airlines and you do need to pre-book your seat. Note though that the SNCF website does not seem to allow for bookings from some countries - I had to book through my local tourist agency. Yes, there also are discount fares for seniors, international seniors cards are accepted.