TGV Lyria, Business Première: Paris Gare de Lyon to Basel

Introduction

I‘m staying at the CitizenM in La Défense, far off to the West of Paris. My room has a brilliant view of La Grande Arche.

And of course I have to visit Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon during my stay!

Looks like asparagus season has started.

I don‘t take photos of the whole meal. But I can hardly keep dessert from you: clementine souflé with koriander sorbet.

The lounge

The French railways operate a lounge for their First Class passengers at Gare de Lyon. The entrance doesn‘t look like much, but there is a large seating area on the upper level. The lounge has complimentary wifi and a selection of hot and cold drinks.

The lounge is located more or less in between halls 2 and 3. The TGV Lyria trains which serve Switzerland normally depart from hall 2.

Boarding

There‘s a bit of a hold up for my train to start boarding. Apparently they‘re experiencing delays in readying the trains. So eventually, the train doesn‘t start boarding until 12h40, twenty minutes after it should have already departed.

I‘m travelling in BusinessFirst today, which is the first First Class carriage behind either one of the engines. When I reach my seat, there‘s already a fat, smarmy Italian sitting there. He‘s on the phone to somebody who also speaks Italian. Not sure why he needs the phone, though. Because he‘s yelling loud enough to be heard in Sicily.

I ask him to move, which eventually he does after I decline his generous offer to give me somebody else‘s seat he‘s volunteering. The old Frenchman sitting behind me takes that as an opportunity to remind the guy that it‘s not permitted to make phone calls inside the cabin. You can take the Italian out of Italy, but…

Eventually we depart with a delay of 35 minutes

The BusinessFirst cabin

The BusinessFirst cabin is the same as the standard First Class carriage. The difference between the two classes is in the service, not the comfort.

Having said that, the premium cabin on the TGV is very nice. Seats are configured in a three-abreast seating arrangement in a mixed layout, with some seats facing each other and others behind each other. The single seats are mostly behind each other. There are only two sets of facing single seats.

There is plenty of storage space and legroom. Each seat has its own standard issue European electricity plug, and wifi is also available.

The meal

There are two crew serving the cabin, and they‘re really very friendly. They make a first run through the cabin to set the table and offer drinks and unscented hot towels.

There are three choices for the hot meal. Although, by the time they reach my row towards the end of the carriage, they‘ve run out of the vegetarian option. The fish option is king prawns, and the meat option is pulled veal. Which is what I have.

The tray comes with a small plate of cheese.

A pumpkin and chestnut salad.

And the veal is served with creamy mash and grilled chicoré.

The crew make two rounds with the bread basket. Because of Covid, the rolls are wrapped up individually in plastic.

And there is also a tasty creamy chocolate cake.

And to finish, a cup of not so bad coffee.

Arrival in Basel

In Basel, the TGV arrives at a platform on the Swiss side of the station, because it continues on to the Zürich terminus from Basel. That means there are no customs or passport checks on arrival.

Conclusion

Although I knew that complimentary food was served on the TGV in BusinessFirst, I was still rather surprised by the quantity and quality of this meal. I rather enjoyed it! I also thought that there was something very grand about dining while you speed along the French countryside doing an easy 320km/h and without breaking into a sweat.

The staff handled the delay professionally and proactively encouraged passengers to make their claim for compensation on the SNCF website (https://garantie30minutes.sncf.com/). I‘m not sure I‘ll make a claim, though. After all, I enjoyed my trip and I incurred no expenses because of the delay. I didn‘t have anywhere urgent to be anyway.

TGV Lyria, First Class: Basel SBB to Paris Gare de Lyon

Introduction

Welcome to the first installment of a series of posts that form part of my grand tour of Europe. There are a few places that have been on my bucket lists for a very long time, but that I never got round to visiting. It’s not even that I never found the time to visit. Rather, I was put off by the horror stories one hears of having to queue for three hours in the sweltering heat to enter Versailles or being ‘processed’ through the Sistine chapel without ever managing to see any of its exhibits.

As travel to Europe is still very restricted by the Covid pandemic, I figured I might just get my chance this year, if I play my cards right. Without the American and Chinese tourists to contend with, I reasoned that my chances of a hassle free experience, or a least a less cumbersome one, were as good as they were ever going to get.

Getting to the station

The first leg of the grand tour sees me taking the TGV Lyria from Basel SBB to Paris Gare de Lyon. As I live close to the station, I leave my flat six minutes before the train’s departure at 08h34. After a brief spell of nice weather, we’re back to the rain and the grey here in Switzerland.

After a long restoration that lasted a few years, the French railway station that is adjacent to the Swiss station has been reopened. In the picture below you can see the hall connecting the Swiss part of the station to the French part.

Boarding

Today, only trains originating their journey in Basel and heading for France use the French station. My TGV will be departing from the Swiss sector, as the train originates in Zürich and only transits through Basel.

The train is departing from track 9.

The cabin

TGV Lyria is a joint venture between the French SNCF and the Swiss SBB, who jointly operate the services between Switzerland and France by TGV. Currently, the Lyria service operates to Zürich via Basel, Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland. With the change to the winter schedule of 2020 in December 2019, all services between Switzerland and France have been shifted to trains with twin deck carriages. On demand, two trains sets are merged together. I always prefer sitting on the upper deck, simply because the view is better.

The seats are in a 2 + 1 abreast configuration, and there are several options to choose from: single seats facing backwards or forwards in an airliner style layout, twin seats next to eacher other or facing each other, and sets of four seats for larger groups.

There is also ample space to store large and small pieces of luggage. There is a power outlet at every seat and there is also a bistrot car in between the First and Second class sections serving snacks and drinks.

The seats are plush and offer a level of comfort that is simply unimaginable on a short-haul airliner in Europe these days. The seat also has a good recline, which is operated electronically by means of a switch in the arm rest.

The 08h34 service makes the journey from Basel SBB to Paris Gare de Lyon in three hours and four minutes and only calls at two stations on the way, in Mulhouse and Bélfort. Up until Bélfort, the train uses the regular train lines and goes at what I would call a normal speed for a train. However, no sooner does the train pull out of Bélfort station, that’s when the TGV comes into its own, as it accelerates up to speeds between 300 and 322km/h on its own dedicated track.

As far as I’m concerned, the TGV is nothing short of amazing. The speed at which it goes is impressive and the comfort inside the cabin is exceptional and so much superior to an airplane. Usually, I read a lot when I travel. But on the TGV, I never seem to be able to concentrate, distracted by the rapidly changing views outside.

Arrival

We pull into Gare de Lyon on time, at 11h38. While I wait for the platform to empty and passengers to pass through the barriers, I take a moment to take a few pictures of my chariot.

In the picture above, my train is the one on the right. The train on the left is an older generation TGV, but no less impressive.

Getting to Versailles

The first stop on my grand tour is going to be the Palais de Versailles. The quickest way to go is to exit the Gare de Lyon and then walk the short distance across the Seine river to the Gare d’Austerlitz. Normally, there is a direct train, the RER C, to Versailles Rive Gauche. However, due to construction on the line, I will have to first take a metro line 10 train to Duroc, change there to a line 13 mentro to the Gare de Montparnasse, and then from there catch the Île de France N train to Versailles. I know it sounds a bit inconvenient, but public transport in Paris is easy and trains are frequent.

So let’s see what happens next… In the meantime: get your vaccine as soon as you can. Get your vaccine as soon as you can, not just to protect yourself, but to protect others too! It is your civic duty.

Stay healthy, all of you!

William

TGV Lyria, Business First: Paris Gare de Lyon to Basel SBB

The meeting at ICAO ends just after noon. But by the time everybody has said good bye to everybody else and pretended the whole situation isn‘t just one big fat mess caused by ICAO and EASA together, it‘s gone 13h by the time I get to have lunch.

Getting to the Station

My train isn‘t leaving until 16:23. But the weather in Paris today is something nasty. And so, at 14:15 I descend down into the Metro at Les Sablons in Neuilly Sur Seine. From here I have a direct train on the line number 1 all the way to Gare de Lyon.

The journey takes thirty minutes between Les Sablons and Gare de Lyon.

The SNCF Salon Voyageur Lounge

Today I‘m travelling in BusinessPremière, which is located in car number 11. In BusinessPremière passengers receive complimentary newspapers, a welcome drink and a hot meal. It also means I‘m entitled to use the Salon Grand Voyageur, which is located in Hall 3, one floor down from Hall 2.

The Salon is quite small, which is why I don‘t take any pictures. But it‘s comfortable enough. There are toilets in the lounge. There is also a coffee machine serving complimentary hot drinks.

Boarding for the train starts 20 minutes before departure and terminates two minutes before departure.

The train is quite full, presumably because it‘s Friday afternoon and people are on their way home for the weekend.

The Cabin

The seat is quite comfortable. There is a power socket and a footrest. Seat pitch is good, but the foot rest is in a slightly inconvenient position…

The Meal

The service begins about 20 minutes out of Paris with the distribution of the scented hot towels, newspapers and drinks. There is a full bar service available. I settle for some sparkling water.

The meal consists of a carrot cake with goat‘s cheese and peppers and two small pieces of salmon quiche.

And for dessert I have a slice of lemon cake with apricots.

It‘s really more of a snack than a meal, but given the time of day, I think it‘s perfectly adequate and quite tasty.

The meal ends with a cup of ginger and lemon tea.

Arrival

The rest of the journey is uneventful. We arrive in Basel with a delay of three minutes which, funnily enough, we picked up only on the last eight kilometres of the journey from Paris.

As you may have guessed by now, I‘m a great fan of the TGV. It‘s fast, safe, reliable and it comes without the hassle of security checkpoints. And if everything else fails, the train just looks good inside and out.

The BusinessPremière product is attractive and certainly competitive with the airlines, especially when you take into account the much lower ticket price and the city centre departure from the Gare de Lyon.