Leaving Chamonix and heading to Paris was an adventure in itself and despite a delayed train the journey seemed to work out to our favour.
I pre-booked the first train from St Gervais to Paris through the French website of SNCF . On the rather useful The Man in Seat 61 website I learnt that tickets are substantially cheaper if booked on the French SNCF website than that of the English website, the only obstacle was booking the tickets in a language I did not know however seat61 provides some great instructions to follow and they worked perfectly – Thank you Mr train man!
Our route was to be St Gervais Les Bains to Bellegarde via Annemasse and then Bellegarde to Paris. All up the two train tickets were 51.90 € travelling classe 2. After booking online I received a confirmation email, printed it off to hand in to the SNCF office at Gare de Chamonix Mont Blanc the day before our departure. The tickets were printed for us.
The main train station in Chamonix is a 5 minute walk from the town centre and it’s called the Gare de Chamonix Mont Blanc. Trains bound for Paris leave from a station about 40 minutes from Chamonix called St Gervais. Getting to St Gervais is very simple, take a TER train from Chamonix and the ticket is around 9 € one way, tickets for the TER trains do not have to be purchased in advance and there are no seat reservation available as it is a regional train. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket machine at the train station. The first service to St Gervais is actually a bus ‘autocar’ that leaves from the front of the Chamonix Mont Blanc station; we took this bus in absolute darkness at 6:00 am. Do not forget to punch the tickets before boarding the trains – it is mandatory when travelling between two destinations in France!
Our train was delayed for a few hours due to a person pulling the emergency lever twice!! (Visions of the cartoon road runner spring immediately to mind) We were stranded in a tiny train station which was cold and a blizzard even colder was blowing outside.
When such events occur, it really tests ones ability to remain cool especially when no one speaks English and the timetables were nowhere to be found and there was no internet connection. The lady behind the counter although flustered managed to book us on the next train travelling first class, no extra charge to us – we were grateful and relieved. Although the route was longer it was very scenic as we traced the side of the mountains to reach the lake town of Annecy. At Annecy we had a 40 minute wait and train change before heading straight up to Paris. The station at Annecy is a little bigger than St Gervais, we sat at the cafe and had a few coffees while we waited.
First class was comfortable, warm, quiet and roomy. The windows were big, chairs plush and there was even a power connection for our laptops. We bought our own snacks and drinks on board. It was a blissfully smooth journey to Paris; we were so relaxed and excited watching the scene change from the lovely rolling countryside to the grey cityscape of Paris. The train pulled up at Gare de Lyon, a timeless train station, you could almost picture the steam trains pulling up from way back when. We were in Paris!!!
In Europe. trains are the way to travel (when they are not delayed) especially when you think of the time saved not having to check in as you would do at an airport.