We weren’t sure if we were going to meet our goal of a day trip to Chantilly, considering MLW’s brush with the pavement yesterday. We were even less sure when I looked out the window first thing this morning and saw the heavy gray clouds and shiny lead roofs of the buildings around us. But after some coffee and yogurt and a little bit of time to get the various infirmaries, firm again , we left and started the 4-block walk to the Saint-Sulpice Metro station.
Like every big city on an early Sunday morning, different things were going on. A crew was steam cleaning the glass awnings on the back side of Le Bon Marché and the little park next door was empty. Our trip was made quicker by not having to wait to cross any main streets and we found ourselves in the Metro station very quickly.
It was a straight shot up Line 4 to the Gare du Nord, Paris’ northernmost station. It was mobbed, as expected since it’s a mix of trains with the Paris district, intermediate distance trips and international high-speed trains.
I did a lot of research on how to get where we wanted to go, including reading a lot of “local expert” blogs, the national train company web site, the book MLW is reading, “Paris to the Past,” by Ina Caro, and that good old source of dubious information, Trip Advisor. Well, not a single bit of it was correct. Once again, it took a whole lot of creative problem solving to get where we wanted to go.
There are 3 levels to the station, the RER level (local/regional electric trains,) the Grand Lignes level (appeared to be international, non-high-speed trains,) and the Eurostar high-speed level. From what I had, RER seemed to be the proper type of train, so I began there.
Starting with the SCNF ticket machines, I found that they don’t go outside the Île-de-France district. And so, after standing in a long queue and massaging all the menus, I was no further along than when I’d started. We left that throng and found a map ,and located Chantilly on it. It said “RER D” but there were no RER tickets to that station. Finally, I thought I’d just wander down one of the empty RER corridors and see what I could find. Unbelievably, there was an information booth at the bottom of a long escalator that had three young women in it. I went and had the best Franglish conversation with them about how to by the tickets. Turns out that unlike one of those “expert” local blogs, the ticket machines are not green, they are white. And they look just like the other white machines I’d been struggling with. The young woman told me to use the “petit” machine, so I went back up the escalator, took a look around and saw a smaller one, hiding between all the big ones. I logged on and had at it.
Naturally it wasn’t going to be as easy as it could be, the machine offered the start location as Gare d’Est, not Gare du Nord, and it offered certain classes which, if selected, didn’t allow you any purchase options. However, after a whole lot of slugging I finally figured it out and left with 2 tickets to Chantilly.
Convinced I was done with this mess, I returned to the RER level and checked the boards – no Chantilly. So back down to see my friends and of course, the level I needed was that for Grand Lignes. Up again, and there was Chantilly on the board at the correct time and looking around, I realized I was surrounded by the proper ticket machines.
The train left on time, cruising out through the countryside which was very green and dotted with cows. Off to my far right, I watched a steady stream of internationally-bound jets, rising up and away from Charles de Gaulle airport. We pulled into the Chantilly-Gouvieux station, 24 minutes later.
From there, we were off on a walk through the former hunting grounds of the Princes de Conde, on our way to La Grande Écurie and Le Musée du Cheval, the national horse museum.