Je voudrais un billet...

... pour Paris, s'il vous plaît.

And a billet, I did get, in the form of a Eurail pass.

It's a discount ticket of sorts that allows, in principle, unlimited access to trains all over Europe. It comes in several variants, depending on the number of days of use (e.g. 5 consecutive days or 15 days spread out over 2 months) and the number of countries you can use it on.

After days of agonized decision-making, I settled on a Flexi Pass which will allow me to travel across five neighboring countries for 15 days over two months. Apart from Germany and France, I chose Italy, Switzerland, and Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg; they only count as one, yay). The price is a wee bit steep, and arguably you could find cheaper deals by booking ahead of time and travelling on weekdays, but as I am on a business trip I do not have that luxury.

The best way to get a Eurail pass is to order it online; it's 20% cheaper than buying it directly from major train stations - something that we found out way too late. We were already in Frankfurt and all set to go to Paris that very weekend, only to re-schedule everything because the pass was going to cost 200 euros (!!!) more. That was actually how we ended up in Munich :p.

To get to Paris we had to take an overnight train called the City Night Line (CNL). While the Eurail pass covers the base fare, you have to pay extra for the reservation fees which vary depending on the type of cabin. Since all first-class compartments were booked, we had to settle for a 6-bedroom couchette, which looked like this in the brochure:

In real life, though, it was more like this:

It's three layers of beds that were placed so close together, there is no room to even sit-up. I had to invoke all my contortionist skills just to slither into the middle bunk (just my luck). Afterwards the most I could do is roll from side to side. Not good.

If there's anything I excel at it's going to sleep, but the CNL is my kryptonite. I've narrowed it down to three reasons: (1) I was perpendicular to the motion of the train, (2) It was pitch black both inside and outside the cabin, and (3) I cannot move. All of which combined to a very distinct feeling of being trapped and helpless in case something goes wrong with the train.

Moral of the story: first class cabins next time.

So for a good two hours I lay there staring at nothing, until the train made a particuarly long stop in God knows where and I finally managed to catch some Z's. When I opened my eyes, I was in Paris :)

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