Welcome to my multi-part review of our summer vacation. We spent 12 days abroad, predominately in Athens and Paris (and a half day in Amsterdam before heading home). Happy to answer questions as I finish up the series. We traveled in mid-July, so right in the middle of the Athens financial crisis. Here’s most of what I expect to cover, including links to posts I’ve already completed:
- Planning Our Summer Vacation!
- British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Philadelphia to Athens
- A Speed Bump Upon Arrival At Arion
- Arion Guest Room Review
- Arion & Westin Amenities
- Arion Restaurant Reviews
- A Quick Trip To The Acropolis And Parthenon
- Athens Metro System
- Temple of Poseidon at Sounio
- Swimming With The Fishes
- Restaurant Review: Garbi (Seafood)
- Restaurant Review: Kiku
- Our Two Favorite Restaurants In Greece
- Tips On Getting Around Athens Airport
- Flying From Athens To Paris
- Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris, Part 1
- Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris, Part 2
- Climbing the Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Disneyland Paris
- A Study of Macarons
- Various Restaurant Reviews
- Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam
- Sheraton Schiphol Airport
This post is part informational (in case you’re considering the train between Paris and Amsterdam) and part comedy. Our trip was that, a comedy of errors.
Our itinerary on this trip took us to Athens to start and them home from Amsterdam with a stop in Paris in between. This is a great example of using whatever routes you can find “over the pond” and then using cheap travel in Europe to position yourself in the cities you want to travel to. We wanted to visit Athens and Paris but there was no award inventory to get home from Paris. I checked London since I knew we could do the Chunnel, but no luck there.
I finally found availability on a US Airways route from Amsterdam to Philadelphia. I knew this would be an older plane, meaning no lie-flat seats, but they had four business class tickets for us to get home. Since flights back from Europe to the US generally aren’t redeyes, I didn’t see a big problem with that option. That meant figuring out how to get from Paris to Amsterdam at the end of our trip.
Google Maps actually does a pretty good job showing public transportation options on most major routes. But, on this , it choked. It showed me trains from Paris to Amsterdam that had us changing trains in places like London or Germany. If you’ve ever looked at a map of Europe, you’ll know those aren’t exactly efficient routes. I asked some experienced travelers on InsideFlyer for some help on this issue and got a quick answer about a train option that didn’t come up in my initial search.
Tickets were cheap, about 30 Euro a piece. It was a heck of a lot cheaper to take the train to Amsterdam than pay double miles to fly home from Paris. And, we would get about a day to wander around Amsterdam. I held off on buying the tickets because we were trying to nail down the final details of the trip. This was only one of a handful of mistakes I made on this trip that would lead to pain and laughter.
We took an Uber van from the Hyatt Regency to Gare du Nord, the train station where Talys (the train line we had booked) departs from. It’s also where you can take the train to/from CDG airport when arriving/departing France. We were dropped off outside the terminal and set inside to find our train and a bite for breakfast. There’s not much in the way of food but you’ll find croissants, baguettes and sandwiches.
We boarded our train just as the doors opened and got our luggage situation. Thalys offers assigned seating so we knew exactly where we needed to go. I was looking forward to a nap during the train ride, especially given our early start to the day. Just as the train was getting ready to depart, a man showed up and said that we were sitting in his seat. I double-checked our reservation and we were definitely in the right seats. We both started looking for a conductor/ticket agent to help us resolve the issue.
It turns out one wasn’t necessary, because I realized I was an idiot. I had booked our tickets for the following day. Yup, right seat, wrong day. At this point, there was no time to get all the bags and get off the train. It was quite full and people were still trying to get situated, so we could barely move. I moved the five of us to the cafe car since a lot of seats were full. I grabbed as many of our bags and moved them up to where we were in case they made us get off at the next station, but I figured I would be able to change our tickets/purchase new ones.
The cafe car was packed. No, I mean really packed. We managed to squeeze a couple of feet along a rail where there was a narrow counter. The kids sat underneath while we stood above them, protecting them from getting kicked by the people trudging past. It apparently was a very “festive” group of folks, as the conductor would explain to me later. Still no sign of an employee to help us, I tried to change the tickets online. The website proved very frustrating. After about 15 minutes I gave up on the exercise in futility and tried calling.
I tried a handful of phone numbers but couldn’t manage to get anyone on the phone. At this point, an employee finally arrived to take people’s tickets. They apparently sell a standing ticket only, and all of those folks were crammed in the cafe car with us. Thankfully, the agent spoke English when he got to me and I explained our plight. He told me the train was sold out because of a festival in Amsterdam. Most had either already started partying that morning or were still recovering from the night before. I was pretty relieved when he made no mention of trying to remove us from the train at the next stop. While I figured that was a long shot, technically we didn’t have a ticket for that train.
He gave me the phone number of an office at Thalys that was actually taking calls so I could try to sort out the issue. I spent another 15 minutes on the phone with an agent trying to resolve the issue. Our tickets were full price, so she was finally able to make the change and the agent onboard the train was able to see it in his system.
That still didn’t leave us with any seats, but I started stalking one of the tables in the cafe car when we pulled into a station. The people sitting there got up and departed and we swooped in with a place to sit for the final 30 minutes of the ride.
The train itself had comfortable seats when we finally got to sit down and the cafe car had a decent selection. The train had Wifi and was clean, with power ports at each seat as well. If we had made our mistake on any other day, according to the conductor, we would have likely had no problem finding seats earlier. All in all, I would totally take the train between Paris and Amsterdam instead of flying. It was less than 90 minutes from Gare du Nord to Amsterdam Schipol Airport. With the commute time from our hotel, it was less than 2 hours total travel time. The airport is the second to last stop on the line and from the station, it’s a brief walk to the airport Sheraton.
There are cheap train tickets to be had on a direct route from Paris to Amsterdam. Buy your tickets early to save money. Oh, and buy them for the right day.
The post Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam. Athens & Paris For Dollars A Day was published first on Pizza in Motion