It continues to astound me how many Americans (not Europeans) insist on traveling as if on safari. You know, luggage the size of steamer trunks too large to be muscled about by even NFL size nose tackles. These beasts get jammed in narrow aisles and are of course impossible to heft overhead, where there’s barely enough room to wedge your overcoat. The end result is gridlock and a plugged aisle. You, if you have stumbled on to the wrong car and must move onward, are out of luck. The sure way to prevent such unpleasantry is to check in advance with the electronic seating digital graphic on the platform. It displays your train, car by car, with numbers that correspond to A-Z signs on the platform that show exactly where your car will stop. You can be perfectly positioned to jump on the right car on the first try.
On you go with your two carry-ons. Be sure to check out the new polycarb spinner bags. These ultra-light babies have wheels that spin 360-degree and are a marvel to maneuver through crowds. Don’t forget, you’ll be hauling your luggage through train stations, facing at least one flight of stairs (no elevator, escalator or red cap service), so no travel behemoths and certainly no checked luggage. In Europe you will find bag racks at both ends of your TGV high-speed train. If the first rack is full, have no fear. You should be good at the other end of the car. Keep the smaller of your two carry-ons with you at your seat. Your travel agent can provide you with hard copy train tickets well in advance of your trip, but do your own homework on the Internet to ensure that your get the best connections. Wherever possible, you want to go first class on the high speed TGV. The French have us beat hands down in all forms of travel from the TGV to the Paris underground system, above ground bus system, and certainly Air France versus an American option.
Travel through Paris Charles de Gaulle is first rate. Travel through Boston and the prison-break security madhouse, coupled with the frat house business class lounge, is anything but a pleasant experience. And we are assured that the body scans we are now forced to endure are more akin to the radiation from Buster Brown foot scanners we all remember from the fifties. But who today would ever think of subjecting their children or grandkids to one of those? It’s nuts.
So, a little advance homework will do you no end of good. In our well over a dozen trips to Paris, we have found the French without exception to be warm and helpful. Perhaps this is because we have worked hard on our bistro and travel French, dress appropriately, and can work with a French menu and wine list pretty much without a hitch. Get Andy Herbach’s Eating & Drinking in Paris and your ability to do business and travel in France will be off on the right foot. (In the next couple of weeks, I’ll list a number of other books and apps that we’ve found helpful.)