* Those photos not of my own have been linked below – This trip happened in May 2016*
This has to be one of the weirdest and most disorganised trips we’ve ever taken. Where we had an organised plan for everything, it all ended up going out the window, merely weeks before departure and in the end we spent more time travelling than we did actually in Lyon, which to me is somewhat of a good thing. I’ll explain more below!
Firstly, I want to apologise for the incredibly long report, but I like to detail everything in full detail!
So, we actually booked this trip off the back of our Planes, Trains & Automobiles Esque trip back in July 2015 (Which I’ll detail in another post soon and link). After receiving compensation from Air France, through flight voucher form, we decided to book with their partner, KLM to Lyon and therefore didn’t pay for our tickets at all! All was great, we had great flight times and a nice connection time in Amsterdam. Adding to this we got one of the best hotels in Lyon for a very good price! But more on that later.
So what was the purpose of this trip? Well we have visited the European Rugby Final each and every year since around 2008, and since that day when my Dad took me to Cardiff to see it initially, I have loved it, and we have been to countless games all thanks to him 😀 Teams from many European countries compete for the cup, which used to be called the Heineken Cup, but is now part of the EPCR tournament. Each year it’s held in a different city, So over this time we’ve been to Cardiff, London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Paris. But this year was the first time Lyon has ever been chosen. Check out more here! -(http://www.epcrugby.com/). All was going well.
That was until… Around December, when KLM cancelled our flight to Lyon and put us on another one from Amsterdam around 3 hours later, which now gave us a 5 hour connection time, on the Saturday of the game for which we were headed. So, what to do we thought? We contacted KLM on twitter who informed us there was nothing that could be done, and rightly so, we weren’t entitled to compensation as it had just missed the boundary. So we turned to our trusty friends at Air France on Twitter, who within around 30 minutes had us booked on an AF flight from Birmingham to Lyon through Paris, at no extra cost. All good we thought.
April comes around. And this month just got a whole lot more miserable, along with all that lovely rain we get at that time of year! CDG Airport in Paris, our connection hub for this trip experiences multiple problems with immigration and it’s not short-term issues, overcrowding and hour long queues, usually right at the time when our flight lands from Birmingham. Adding to this, we realise we’re booked on FlyBe, a partner of Air France, notoriously unreliable and from their flight history of BE3001, nearly all their flights have arrived late. Put this combo together guys: 55-minute Connection + Notoriously Late Flight + Long Immigration Queues every day = Mayhem and not getting to the game on time, the whole purpose of the trip!
Well, there wasn’t a lot we could do. So we started making our own plans, last minute and got some good deals after hours of searching but it was a hell of a journey. I’ve detailed the itinerary below:
- Standard Class Virgin Trains from Birmingham International to London Euston
- Tube to London Victoria
- Gatwick Express to Gatwick Airport (Continuing to Brighton) – Rush Hour
- Late Night Vueling flight from Gatwick to CDG – Arriving at 11pm
- Ibis Styles CDG Hotel (No trains to city that late)
- 5am wake up for Breakfast and empty RER B Train to Paris City – More specifically Bercy Bus Station
- Ouibus at 8am to Lyon (6 hours Coach Journey)
- Check into Originally booked Lyon Hotel (Okko Hotel)
- Make way across another side of the city for 5pm Game
- Back to hotel after coming back from the other side of the city (9pm)
- Eurovision (Of Course! We’re proud of our horrible talent! ;D ) – Until Midnight
- Up at 6am to get to Lyon Perrache Train Station for OuiGo Train to Paris
- Arrive at Paris, but not Paris, 40km out, Marne La Vallee Chessy, or to be more precise Euro Disney, ah low-cost trains!
- As we are this side of Paris, we go to Disney for around 2 hours before it gets too crowded and makes me grow in hate for the brand.
- Eurostar back to London from Marne La Vallee Chessy in Business Premier – Aka the Disney Train at 4pm
- First Class Virgin Trains back to Birmingham International arriving at 9pm
Now, in theory, everything should go to plan, and this should be a fully packed, hectic itinerary, but it will get us to the game in time for certain (IF THINGS RUN TO PLAN) – I guess you could say the same for our original flight through CDG, But let’s be fair this itinerary with less leeway for things to go wrong than that flight had better chances of getting us there on time. At the same time as booking this we were in constant phone calls to the Air France call centre to try and get a refund for our flight, and the customer service agents while sympathetic really couldn’t do anything for us as it’s strictly non-refundable. After a few more phone calls each day, one agent went above and beyond agreeing to call us back with a new plan, and that he did, Frederick although he couldn’t get us a refund, gave us a backup plan. A direct FlyBe (Oh No!) Flight from Birmingham to Lyon getting us there for around 2pm. Now, as we’d already booked the other itinerary, this was a nice backup for if the Vueling flight or Train screwed us over this side of the trip. So we set off with this plan.
Friday 13th May 2016 comes around. I’m at College and have to skip 1 lesson just to make it to the train on-time. So that’s done, no problem. Unfortunately, we get onto the motorway, or shall I say the worst motorway in the history of ever, the M5. Constant Roadworks with speed limits and inevitable crashes all the time. We get stuck in a traffic jam that goes for miles, we are not moving at all for around 20-30 minutes. Things are still moving slow and we pull off at the next junction and take the back roads towards Birmingham International Station (Airport), things weren’t looking good, as there had been another crash in that area, and it was inevitable we missed the train. I suggested we give up and just take the FlyBe flight on Saturday which was our backup. My Dad decided to use his knowledge and extensive driving skills to understand that we could beat the high-speed train to Coventry (The next stop), so 100mph down a dual carriageway it was, and thank god there was no speed cameras or police (It wasn’t dangerous by any chance, and it was quite quiet there). We make it to the station, ditch the car and run into the station to collect our tickets, and rush onto the platform. Delay of 5 minutes and we make it a couple of minutes before it pulls in! Thank you British Railways for being so terrible at an on-time performance! ;D
So we’re on the train, it’s crowded but we’re relieved and can’t quite believe how we did it. It’s these times like this I realise how great my Dad is for managing to do stuff like this, most others wouldn’t even have a clue about. So we speed towards London Euston, and in no-time, we’re there, onto a relatively quiet Tube for rush hour and at a horribly overcrowded Victoria. A quick stop at WH-Smith for a meal deal, my first meal of the day, around 5pm, it had been a very rushed and busy day. Onto a packed Gatwick Express train, standing in between compartments, for the full 45 minutes, yes it’s a 30-minute journey advertised, but as I said before, British Railways people! We make it to Gatwick around 3 hours before the 9pm flight and go through an easy security process, for which I love LGW.
Onto the No1 Lounge in the North Terminal, I love it. We got a very well discounted price of £20 for entry, compared to the standard £30+ on the day. If you want to get this too, every time, at all No1 Lounges across the UK (Gatwick North & South, Birmingham, Edinburgh & Heathrow T3) – Read this article: http://www.headforpoints.com/2015/06/03/avios-launches-generous-partnership-with-no-1-traveller-lounges-and-win-18000-avios/.
This was a haven! For three hours, we just relaxed with plenty of free food, drink (Including Alcohol) and WiFi. With some great runway views too! It was actually very quiet throughout the time we were there, but that’s just due to it not being busy at that time of the day, we were one of the last flights from the North Terminal. Coincidently, our flight was delayed by around 30 minutes, but we got onboard feeling quite happy with ourselves, and our full stomachs! We sat in our assigned seats at the back, not long after we get a Flight Attendant approach us and ask us to get our belongings and move to the front. Don’t worry we’re not criminals! We had to move due to weight balance, due to the light load. And we get moved to Row 3, with extra legroom and power sockets, bonus! Upgrade from the leg crushing reputation of Vueling 🙂 Despite, a couple of drunk girls in front being silly and visibly annoying to the crew, they did very well to just ignore them rather than delay the flight overnight at Gatwick. Within no-time at all, we landed at CDG close to midnight. I just had to collect my jacket which I left at the back when I boarded, making us leave the plane last and getting on the bus to Terminal 3. Again, fortunately, for us, this meant we were first off and through immigration in about 2 minutes. Not bad for a flight we paid around £40 each for last minute.
Off for the short walk to the Ibis Styles CDG, a brand new hotel, space themed, quite cool and enjoyable to be honest, despite spending merely 5 hours in the room! We got a good deal at around £60 last minute, including Breakfast of course! We were lucky to pre-plan this hotel as we knew public transport to the city wouldn’t be running. Imagine the sight, lots of people returning from the train station in shock that the last train to Paris had already left, and it was either an expensive taxi or airport hotel, if the night bus didn’t go near their hotel! In other words, I would highly recommend this hotel, but I have seen prices seem to fluctuate quite a bit for this one, so get a good deal if you can!
Right, so that’s Friday over, hectic and so much has been talked about and you are probably bored out your mind at this moment in time! Sorry, I like to go in detail to give you a full, rich personalised experience of what I felt and saw about each aspect. Hence, why I have split this report into 3 parts, I promise we will get to Lyon itself soon! Plus I’m fed up of typing for now 😉 Thanks for reading part 1, any questions hit me up at the comments or contact form, but stay alert for the following 2 parts. Thanks.