Departure: Thursday 5.07AM – Arrival: Friday 5.03AM
After a couple of days spent in Copenhagen catching up with friends and getting some work related stuff done, we continued on to the German border. Here we were getting on the train for France, a 24-hour journey, but first we made a pit stop at the home of some dear friends of ours that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years. How utterly lovely to get to sit on the deck, wrapped in a blanket and enjoy a warm cup of coffee and a bit of timid winter sun! We were also treated to a yummy dinner and got to do a load of laundry, plus had a good nights sleep before being taken to the train station at 5AM (!!) the next morning. Complete luxury and true friendship there – we are SO grateful for people like you! Thank you – Ane, Helge & kids for having us and making the start of our journey so smooth and comfortable <3
Down through Germany We Go.
We had three train connections in total in Germany. First leg was Tinglev-Flensburg. Then Flensburg-Hamburg. Then Hamburg-Frankfurt. Nothing very interesting about this first part of the trip, as we didn’t make any stops on the way, only to change trains and move on. Obviously though, you put the transportation time to good use, and get a bit of fun and exercise in, even in a sleepy regional train on a random Thursday morning in northern Germany 🙂
Freemoving In Frankfurt.
Our last stop in Germany was the city of Frankfurt, where we had a 4-hour layover before departure of our train to Paris. The weather there was FANTASTIC . After leaving Denmark in the dark, wearing hats and gloves, it was nothing short of amazing to step out of the central station in Frankfurt and find complete ‘well-we-could-almost-sunbathe’ spring weather! My weather app showed a whopping 17 degrees celcius and our winter jackets, treasured just the night before, rather quickly became a burden, lol.
After roughly 8 hours in a train, all we really wanted to do was stretch our legs and find somewhere to jump around! A quick google search revealed lots of green spaces by the banks of the river (the Main) just under a mile away, so we got some fruit and bread from a local store and headed for the water. As it turned out, we had chosen the perfect place to spend the afternoon – a long stretch of park space with two great playgrounds and a lovely view. The kids spent time goofing around on the playground, practicing their skills and learning new tricks and this mama got to go running along the river banks. What more can an active traveling family ask for?!
Onwards To France.
By the end of the afternoon we hopped back on a train, this time for Paris. And boy was I glad that we had reserved seats on this one! Unlike all the regional trains down through Germany this one was PACKED. But like totally. The journey from Frankfurt to Paris took just over 3,5 hours, so a fairly short and easy ride. We had stocked up on food and drinks at the station ($$$$$, this is Europe after all) which I always try to avoid because of the outrageous cost of things in these places. But hey, ‘une fois n’est pas cotume’ as they say in French 😉
Everyone was starting to wear out after having been up since the wee morning hours and hopping around all afternoon, so most of the trip was spent dozing off in our precious, much appreciated, reserved seats!
Transfer in Paris.
We arrived at Paris Gare de l’Est shortly before 9PM. From here we had to transfer to Gare d’Austerlitz to catch the sleeper train to Montauban, our final destination. Departure was at 10PM so we had ample time to get there, as there’s a direct metro line between the two stations, as you can see from the picture above. In the past we’ve done this transfer by foot, it’s less only about 3 miles (not even) and usually I always try to schedule connections so they are far enough apart to do this, since a good walk between train or bus rides is always a welcome break. This time it wasn’t possible though, as the 10PM departure was the last of the day. We still needed to get some fresh air and a bit of movement in, so we walked for about 15 min, then hopped on the metro a couple of stops down.
Once at Gare d’Austerlitz we were quite happy to find our wagon straight away and jump in our berths for the night! I had splurged on this one and gotten us 1st class tickets, to ensure having the cabin to ourselves. The cost of this was actually a mere €20 on top of the standard rate, so not really a huge deal. And the added comfort of privacy is definitely worth it.
The Hallmark Moment Of Chaos.
As none of our trips EVER go without an obligatory moment of sudden panic or slight chaos, the arrival in Montauban of course had to be it, since nothing worthy of those labels had happened yet on this journey! We were scheduled to arrive at 5.33AM so I had set the alarm to 5AM, to be well awake and ready when we rolled into the station. Only we arrived a half hour ahead of schedule!! Hence, I was still sleeping like a baby when I got woken up by the SNCF agent going up and down the corridor yelling ‘Montauban, next station Montauban’….needless to say our early morning selves got all confused and thinking we had gotten the arrival time wrong and had to get off like NOW, we indiscriminately and at light speed threw everything into random bags before more or less throwing ourselves out the wagon and onto the platform – shoes untied, barely dressed and with state-of-the-art morning hair of course!
As we then stood on the platform our thousand-and-one bags and backpacks scattered around us, trying to keep the dog still and catch our breath again, a couple of SNCF agents strolled by veeeery relaxedly and told us with a huge smile that we could take our time, because we had arrived early and the train wasn’t leaving again ‘until 20 min from now’…..well, yeah that’s what we were beginning to understand, Merci Messieurs. Lol, at least I’m pretty sure the mildly chaotic scene totally made their morning!
Apparently getting off trains in a less than cool, calm and collected way is something we might be particularly good at. Last time was on a local train in southern Thailand. Oh well, as we say in Danish: Vi har kun det sjov vi selv laver 😉
The Practical Info.
In total, the 1000 mile journey from the Danish border to the south of France took us almost precisely 24 hours. You could do this quicker, by making shorter stops between trains. We like to not be in a hurry though (yes I know that sounds incredible for those of you who know us!) and have the time to stock up on snacks, use the restrooms or go for a walk between connecting trains. Plus this time we had the barely three month old puppy with us, so making numerous longer stops along the way was a must.
The total cost of the trip for the four of us came down to roughly
€340 ($380). This can also be done cheaper if you order a ticket for the entire journey or for larger chunks at a time. Because I wanted to have longish breaks at several points along the way, I had to break up the journey and order single tickets for each leg separately. Still, I don’t consider the cost outrageous for four people. This is mainly due to half of the journey being in Germany. Train travel is SO affordable in this country. Nothing like France, where honestly the slightest trip will cost you the tip of an airplane (there you go, you just learned a common Danish saying).
For tickets I used the Trainline and OUI.sncf apps (see below). There used to separate UK and EU versions of the Trainline app, not sure if they are both still being updated. The green one seems to do all of Europe now.
Even if this was a rather long trip to do as one continued journey, it didn’t feel exhausting or stressful (well, if we just forget about the little mishap on arrival!). The trains were all clean and comfortable, for most of the journey not crammed and we had ample time between connecting trains. For sure, going by air is way faster and sometimes not even that much more expensive, but I actually love to travel by train and will gladly choose so over flights whenever possible. And since we are adepts of the concept of slow traveling, it’s very often possible 🙂
Feel free to message me or ask any questions in the comments, if you want to know something in particular about this journey or another!