From UEFA headquarters to suburban Detroit: we have tickets.
From UEFA headquarters to suburban Detroit: we have tickets.
Lyon to Nice: done.
Lyon to Saint-Étienne: booked.
Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport to downtown Lyon: completed!
Upon our arrival, we will be take the Rhônexpress from the airport to the Lyon-Part-Dieu railway station. Rhônexpress is a fairly new transit line. It’s privately owned, not a government entity, so it’s a bit pricey in comparison to the other train tickets we purchased, but still less than hiring a taxi.
You can buy a Rhônexpress pass online for about $16.75, which is a very modest $1.48 discount over paying full-price in person. You don’t buy a pass for a certain day or time (we’ll appreciate that flexibility if we have any travel disasters) — it’s just good for three months after purchase.
Trains leave every 15 minutes and it takes about a half-hour to get into Lyon. It sounds pretty hard to mess up. Which is exactly what we’ll need after a long day of travel.
We are looking forward to a beach day or two while we are in Nice. Perhaps a canoeing adventure or a cruise on a paddleboard while we’re at it.
This requires a bit more planning than packing a swimsuit and a bottle of sunscreen because, in Nice, the beaches are rocky.
Instead of sand, Nice’s beaches are covered in little stones called galets.
While they are a fashion statement that we would rather not make, apparently water shoes are a necessity.
In preparation of traversing the galets, we hopped onto eBay and bought a flashy pair of water shoes for $2 per pair.
Our snazzy water shoes are being shipped from China and will undoubtedly look fabulous paired with our bikinis.
Watch out, Nice! We’re bringing our unique brand of practical fashion to you in 51 days!
We will be taking in one match in Saint-Étienne, an industrial town that is approximately 30 miles from Lyon.
To get there, we will be taking a regional train from Lyon into Saint-Étienne early in the afternoon on the day of the 3:00 pm game and we will take the train back at the conclusion of the match.
As it’s a regional train (unlike the TVG train that we’re taking from Lyon to Nice), we didn’t have to book these train tickets but, it seemed better to get them purchased in advance from our beloved Captain Train, rather than deal with hordes of people at the train station who are clamoring to buy tickets after the match.
We picked specific departure times for each leg of the trip, but we do have a bit of flexibility if we happened to be delayed for some reason or another. The tickets allow you to take the same type of train, travelling the same route (as indicated by color – either blue or white).
We don’t expect to be delayed, especially on our way back to Lyon, because everything that we’ve read indicates that spending just a few hours in Saint-Étienne on either side of the match should be enough. It isn’t exactly a tourist hotbed but we hope that we will have a chance to admire the architecture and modern design that Saint-Étienne is known for and, time permitting, visit the Cathedral of Saint Charles Borromeo.
It is entirely possible that we will forgo the cathedral and the architecture for a comfortable establishment (or at the Fanfest, though those generally do not live up to the hype) and a glass of wine.
Despite the breakneck speed with which we approach it, we will be on vacation, after all.
We are at 55 days until departure and, having crossed all of the big hurdles (match tickets, hotel reservations, air travel booked), we are focused on settling as many of the small details of our trip as we feasibly can.
It was high priority to get our train travel from Lyon to Nice settled, as our window for taking that trip is narrow: we need to arrive in Nice with time to check into our hotel and get to Allianz Riviera in time for a 9:00 pm match.
We used Seat 61 to do a bit of research prior to purchasing our tickets. It is a great resource for navigating train travel, if you’re in the market for such information.
High-speed Trains à Grande Vitesse (TVG) tickets are available to purchase 90 days in advance. And, unlike the regional trains (which travel shorter distances) when it’s commonplace to buy a ticket at the station and hop on the train, it’s better to purchase TVG tickets in advance. One of the reasons you want to book early is that there are a limited number of nonrefundable first-class tickets that are just a touch more expensive than second class tickets.
We were slightly behind, booking at 72 days until our journey, but we managed to land those just-a-bit-more first-class tickets.
The amenities in first class aren’t outrageously better (bigger seats, more legroom and…that’s about it) but we will be taking a very early train and hopefully catching some sleep during the journey. A bit more space for an extra €5 per ticket seems like a bargain for a more restful trip.
Following recommendations that we read at Seat 61 and elsewhere, we used Captain Train to purchase our tickets. Captain Train is a third-party vendor, but its prices are equal to those that you’d get from booking directly with SNCF (France’s national state-owned railway company) and Captain Train’s website is far easier to navigate. Apparently the payment process works much smoother at Captain Train, too.
We’re counting on an equally smooth 4½ journey from Lyon to Nice. Preferably featuring a good bit of sleeping. And maybe some wine.
Pro tip: you’re allowed to drink on French trains. And also early in the morning if you’re on vacation.
Admittedly, this is a weird time to be planning a trip to Europe.
We’re trying to find the right balance between excessively paranoid and naively carefree.
We enrolled in STEP: the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, therefore registering our trip with the nearest embassy/consulate.
If you’re also an American traveling abroad: it’s free and it’s fast and it’s easy and hopefully just another one of those precautions that you never need but do anyway. Like buying travel insurance and getting inoculations.
We highly doubt that we’ll be in a position where it is important that the United States Government be able to contact us or know our whereabouts in case of an emergency, it doesn’t hurt.
It’s not like we’re going incognito because this trip is a front for drug muleing. And it’s not like our travels won’t be reflected via our passports, anyway. So we have no problem with providing the government the details of our trip.
Like our trip to Brazil in 2014 and like our trip to South Africa before that: we will do all that we can to be safe and smart.
Because that’s all that you can do.