After our stellar rail experience between Rome and Venice a few weeks ago, I was really looking forward to this one. We don’t have anything close to a fast train in Australia, and crossing large swathes of distance in a few hours is a completely alien experience to us Aussies.
This article is covering the TGV Lyria from Mulhouse in Eastern France to Paris. The journey is just over 500km, and takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes. According to Google Maps, the same journey would take over 5 hours by car.
Boarding the TGV
There are boards along the platform that tell you where your carriage is likely to be once the train pulls in. A very handy feature, considering the train only stayed still at Mulhouse for a short time. Had we been at the wrong end of the platform, we would have been running!
All the signs at Gare de Mulhouse-Ville are in French. Being that we’re in France, this makes sense, although considering how close Mulhouse is to the German and Swiss borders, I was surprised to not see more multilingual directions.
Once on the train, there would be some occassional announcements in German or English, but the majority were in French.
Again, I was a little surprised by this considering the train actually started in Berne (Switzerland), then to Basel (Switzerland and on the German border) before crossing into France and going through Mulhouse, Dijon and finally Paris.
Seat configuration and comfort
The first class carriages were the same 2-1 configuration as our previous train in Italy, although in the middle of these carriages were a number of seats that faced each other with tables in the middle (as pictured below). This service looked like it was catering to commuting workers, not just holiday makers.
We especially noticed this when stopping at Dijon. A large number of suited folk boarded, obviously on their way to work in Paris. Elyse struck up a conversation with one who said that he caught this train to Paris every Monday morning, and home again to Dijon on Thursday evenings.
Our journey from Mulhouse to Paris was only just over 2.5 hours, so obviously much shorter when commuting from Dijon. A pretty nice arrangement if you ask me!
In seat power
As was the case from our previous European train journey, there was 220v power, but no usb ports. If you’re planning on using power, don’t forget an adaptor as obviously the sockets are European configuration.
The biggest difference with this trip (apart from the speed), was that there was no wifi. Any of the commuting workers were tethering laptops to phones or separate hotspot devices. When I looked through the available wifi signals in my phone settings, there were about 20 (all secure of course), all with names like “Pierre’s phone” and “Susan’s iPad hotspot”.
There’s plenty of storage, so long as you get on the train first. For most passengers, the overhead luggage bins suffice for small cases, but for those of us travelling with oversized backpacks and prams, then the storage bins at the doors are the only way to go.
These filled up quickly on our last trip, as obviously Venice is a tourist destination so most passengers had suitcases and large backpacks.
As mentioned, this morning’s trip seemed to be primarily made up of commuters, so the baggage racks were ours for the taking.
Speed and comfort
This train went significantly faster than the one in Italy. Today we hit 320km/h, whereas the Italian train ‘only’ got to 260km/h.
The seats were incredibly comfortable, and the ride itself was quite a bit smoother than the Italian train.
The Rail Europe App
Rail Europe also have an app which was quite handy for checking platforms and departure times. Had we used it for our Rome to Venice trip we may not have had so much confusion with the platform numbers.
Rail vs Flying
As I mentioned in the article about our Rome to Venice rail journey, I much prefer getting a train wherever possible. It’s rare on such a short journey that flying would be the more attractive option, particularly with Europe’s fantastic fast rail network.
In this case, our two first class rail tickets (children travel for free) cost $AU194. The time was about 2.5 hours from the Mulhouse to the centre of Paris. Baggage is also free when travelling by train.
Security is also a much simpler affair, being that it doesn’t really exist.
Had we flown, the cost and time would have been much the same with Air France (operated by Hop). However, we would have had to pay around 50 Euro extra for our bags, as well as the hassle and cost of getting from Charles de Gaulle airport to the centre of Paris on arrival.
A First Class train ticket is also far more comfortable than an Economy airline seat. A train is also arguably easier to entertain a 15-month-old on. Walking up and down the aisles when traveling with a toddler is de rigueur, and the scenery is far more interesting from a train than a plane.
This was our last long distance rail journey for this trip, but next time we’re in Europe, we’ll definitely be getting more trains than planes and automobiles.