Taking the French Overnight Train | Family Trip - Summer 2022 #5
Sorry guys but if there's one thing marriage has taught me is that you should .... never ask a man to do a woman's job! 😩😩
I basically organised this whole trip on my own - the hotel accommodation, the restaurants, the activities, the transportation, etc ... I'm already thinking of writing a post on how I typically choose our hotel accommodation so that's definitely coming up.
Anyways, as I was saying I pretty much prepared the whole trip except for one thing and that's when things went south. 😑
The Husband's aunt informed us that she was coming to Europe about 2 months before the trip, so I quickly had to reserve everything before prices would be too expensive. As I was also working a lot that time, I kindly asked my Husband if he could drop by the train station after his work shift and get our overnight train tickets for Paris-Lourdes.
To give you a lil background : the overnight trains in France were suspended for a long time until the last French Minister of Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari decided to revive them for environmental reasons. Part of his plan is to have 10 overnight train lines to be fully-operational by 2030!
Paris-Lourdes is one of those new lines and when I saw that they were offering this, I thought to myself that it would be so cool and convenient. Personally, I like to travel at night - whether it is by car, bus, and especially plane! And again, as I mentioned, it's pretty convenient too. Instead of paying for a hotel stay, you can travel to your next destination instead. You set off late in the evening and wake up in the early morning, ready to get the most out of your day. You can also optimize your time and enjoy a longer stay at your arrival destination.
The Intercités Trains de Nuit, or Overnight Couchette Train offers you a low-cost journey with three options.
First, the Seated Places. These seats have a footrest and an adjustable headrest. Individual reading lights make it easy for you to read or work without disturbing other passengers.
Second, the First-Class Bunks. There are 4 bunks in 1st class compartments - upper & lower on each side of the compartment. They feel much more spacious than 2nd class couchettes as they are slightly larger compartments with wider berths. Great for families or a group of friends.
Third, the Second-Class Bunks. There are 6 bunks in the 2nd compartments - upper, middle & lower on each side of the compartment. Obviously, if you have any mobility problems ask for a lower berth, but the cosy top bunks up in the roof space give you more privacy. Having said that, although it's air-conditioned with adjustable temperature control, bottom & middle bunks can be cooler than top bunks on a hot summer night.
If you book a couchette, you’ll find a toiletry kit next to your bed, with:
a bottle of water
a sleep mask and earplugs
a moist towelette
a chewable toothpaste tablet
Each bed comes with an individual blanket, which looks like a sleeping bag in fact. This is great because one side actually covers the bed, you just slip inside it like a sleeping bag, and then cover yourself with the other side.
Furthermore, there are two interesting options to think about.
One is a section for women travelling alone. This option consists of a compartment exclusively reserved for women travelling alone (or with young children). It is located in the carriage close to the conductor. This free service can be reserved by ticking ‘Espace Dame Seule’ when booking.
Two is privatizing a compartment just for you. You can reserve a whole compartment for yourself. Take advantage of the Private Area service 'Espace Privatif' for your business trips, or when travelling with family or friends. This service is available in first and second class and you do have to pay a little extra for it.
Compartment doors have a security lock which cannot be opened from outside even with a staff key, and staff are on duty if you need them. There are washrooms & toilets at the end of the corridor.
So you might ask - what happened to make things go south?
Well, as I said earlier I asked my Husband to get our tickets for us. Since we were four, including the Husband's aunt, I wanted him to get first-class tickets so we could be comfortable in one compartment, just us. I didn't know what the price was, but I had read online that the price started at 39€, which I told my husband.
So he got the tickets and we were fine. My mistake was not double-checking the tickets then. Basically, I made sure there were four of them, I looked that the names were right, and that was it.
Except that ...
On the day that we were leaving Paris to go to Lourdes, we were hanging out at the train station waiting for our train when I started inspecting closely the tickets and realised that .....
... he had actually bought Second-Class Tickets instead of First-Class!
This meant that we were probably not going to be the only ones in the compartment, that we would have to share with others, Covid-19 was still an issue so we probably would have to wear a mask the whole time, that we would not be able to talk to each other freely, that we would not be able to turn on and off the lights when we wanted to, and that we would not be able to lock the doors when we wanted to and feel safe.
Nothing was going according to plan.
And my stress level literally went from 1 to 100 in a split second. 🤯
While silently praying, we made our way to our compartment and unfortunately there was already someone in there. And then because bad news never comes alone, we found out that the Husband had actually gotten the middle and upper bunk beds. Fortunately, we were able to use one of the lower bed, but the whole situation was so uncomfortable. The two strangers were nice, we had nothing against them, but you know that feeling of unmet expectations? For me, it was a mix of denial, anger, confusion, sadness ... It was just horrible!
So we kept quiet and opened the toiletry kit prepared by the train company, arranged the sleeping bag, and we just laid down in silence, processing our feelings. The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I knew that the Husband was feeling extremely guilty (turns out that because he paid 39€ for each ticket he automatically assumed they were first-class tickets), fortunately S was on one of the upper bunks and was just chilling (thank goodness that she's so easygoing), but I could tell that the Husband's aunt was feeling the same way I was. Hopeless. So we individually laid there on our beds, without changing clothes, and simultaneously took deep breaths. This sounds so dramatic now that it's over but at that moment, I could literally hear and feel each of those breaths. In fact, we were self-soothing.
So while we were doing that, the other two strangers were also making themselves more comfortable, although they were expecting for other people to be there, so they were quite cool about it. The woman just slept the whole time from the moment she got to the train compartment to the next morning when we arrived at destination. I couldn't help but wonder how she did it though. Those bunks were okay-ish but not that comfortable! Her body must have been aching from lying down for so long!
Anyways, the man who was with us was soooo cool about the whole situation that he just casually changed in front of us and had dinner. Thank God it was a ham sandwich so it didn't stink up the tiny space we had. But as he was removing his clothes, he made us feel so weirded out. He was really taking his time. I mean, he was like shirtless for at least 5 minutes, checking out his muscles, and slowly shaking his pyjama shirt before wearing it. I don't know what the hell that was all about but at some point I felt like he was trying to get the Husband's aunt's attention because he was changing so close to her and I caught him staring at her and checking her out a first times. But she definitely was not interested. Although I have to say he dressed quite fashionably for an older man.
He was dressed kinda like this plus a beret. 😆
Eventually when all was settled down, the Husband's aunt and I went out of the compartment and walked towards the toilet at the end of the corridor. We just had to get out of there. 🏃♀️🌬️
One look at one another and we burst in laughter. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. No words, just laughter, while trying to stand firmly on a moving train. Laughing until our stomachs were hurting. And at that moment, I knew that we would be ok. That everything was okay.
All we had to do was go back to our beds, keep quiet, sleep for 7 eight hours, and wake up at our destination. And what a beautiful destination that was! It was time to put things into perspective! There are worst things happening in the world.
As a life coach, this is what I always tell my clients when managing their emotions and stress: when it gets to be too much, take a step back, process your feelings, and take deep breaths as you let go of the negativity. ✨
P.S. We also had second-class tickets on the way back to Paris, which I tried to privatize but it was too late. This time around the ride went very well. I suspect it's because we were emotionally prepared.