Thursday, 13 March 2008

Not so cushy couchettes

There were a couple of surprises upon taking the night train to Paris from the Alps. We had couchettes, which meant our tickets included little bunk beds to sleep on during the ride that began in Aime at 21:50 and ended in Paris the next morning at 6:20.

I had assumed a couple of things about our tickets and the couchettes. I assumed there were only four beds to a room, thus we'd have the compartment to ourselves. No one told me this, it is something I thought I remembered from having taken a night train sometime maybe twenty years prior. So the first surprise is that there are 6 beds to a tiny space. "This must be what it was like for the astronauts," I thought.

Next, I realized that all four of our tickets weren't even in the same compartment. Dang. We had to split the family up. We were a couple of rooms apart, but we would make do.

I almost forgot a third surprise. A family had hunkered down in our couchettes, but thankfully, they scampered when they realized they didn't have the tickets to be there. I was grateful that a train steward (although reeking of alcohol) came by to verify everyone's tickets.

At the next stop, I switched my couchette which was to be the top bunk with a friendly chap who came on board so that I might be closer to my son. Later on, a trio of snowboarder dudes dropped off their baggage and equipment, despite the fact there were only two beds left. (There was already someone tucked in on the right top bunk when we arrived. He was watching a film on this laptop.) For the next couple of hours, these dudes kept coming in and out of the cabin rooting through their things. I was quite annoyed.

Soon after, I reached for my purse that I tucked between my head and the wall, but it went missing. I checked all over my bed, but nothing. Thank goodness the "dudes" weren't around right then, or I may have accused and cursed them. I felt around some more and noticed that there was a big section of my bed missing (about one third). I got up and was panicked about my purse (having just had my wallet pinched the week before in a cafe in Paris). I looked on my son's bed below me. Sure enough, there was my purse, right next to the door, and not too far from the third of my bed that had fallen down onto my son's bed. I tried to push it out of his way as best I could (there was no getting it back up to my level).

I then began my light slumber in which I dare not turn over for I would fall of the bed because of the fallen part. It was like sleeping on a plank. It seems that I was asleep only 10 minutes when we arrived at Gare d'Austerlitz, but it must have been more, and I felt alright. It was a little tricky evacuating 6 people with lots of gear from the little room. We had to cooperate and take turns moving which was kind of getting to me.

I'm still amazed that six normal sized bodies (not midgets or hobbits), as well as luggage and snowboards, were all able to fit in about a 7 x 7 x 10 foot cube, and spend over 8 hours together. Only in France. It wasn't quite like in the picture above, but it was sort of cozy. In a creepy sort of a way.

(Picture from


Starman said...

Did you find out if there was any way to reserve an entire couchette for yourselves?

Jeffrey Hayes said...

Hi Dryanna,

It seems like quite an adventure you and your family are having!

I can certainly empathize with the train ride you had, although when I went from Granada, Spain to Barcelona it took 12 hours and we had no beds. That was quite possibly the worse travel experience I ever had, because I got really sick. Nonetheless, it is those funny situations that make for great travel stories and wonderful memories.

Are you and your family also learning French in Paris? My roommate's family is from France and she speaks fluent French - so she has actually agreed to give me some basic French lessons for when I visit France in the future. I would rather be able to speak some of the language than have someone translate for me wherever we go!

I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future.



Panic in New York said...
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Alain said...

If you want a 4 couchettes only cubicle, you have to book First Class. Second Class is 6 couchettes...