Maneuvering the Gare de Lyon
In less than two weeks, we’ll be trying to remember to write “2019” instead of “2018” on checks and whatever requires a date. If you’re like me, then you’re busy getting things done before Christmas and New Year’s Eve is upon us, buying gifts, planning for travel or parties (or both), paying bills, etc. One thing for sure: time passes way too quickly and the older we get, the faster it passes (all things being relative — one year out of ten passes more slowing than one year out of 50, and so on).
I’m heading south to Provence for Christmas to spend it with friends by TGV, renting a car in Aix-en-Provence, then taking the time between the two holidays to explore the glorious southern France region before landing in Nice for the New Year. With the train leaving Saturday morning and more Gilets Jaunes demonstrations threatened, instead of the easy, fast and inexpensive hop-on-the-local bus to the station, I booked a taxi far in advance to avoid being dependent on the buses running to get to the Gare de Lyon.
The station is sure to be busy this time of year, evident by the high train fares and the numbers of people I know who are traveling. The Gare de Lyon has become one of my regular haunts since I travel to the south so much, and have finally gotten “the lay of the land” after dozens of trips, but I can remember when the station confused the hell out of me and I despised having to maneuver it.
The Gare de Lyon, officially titled “Paris-Gare-de-Lyon,” manages to handle almost one hundred million passengers every year. This makes it the third busiest station of the six there are in Paris, with trains heading southbound to such cities as Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Nimes, Lyon (of course!), and trains to Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Spain. There are 32 platforms in two different banks of tracks or what they call “Halls,” except there are actually three Halls named (1, 2 and 3) which is one reason it is so confusing and frustrating to maneuver, if you don’t understand its layout in advance.
Hall 1 is the oldest of them all with the tracks labeled A through N. These tracks begin at the very front of the station, the most western side, so if you enter the station from Boulevard Diderot, and through the big doors of the beautiful elaborate facade with the clocktower to your right, you land in the main lobby (where Le Train Bleu is, the gourmet restaurant) and tracks that are lettered, not numbered. But, your train might not be leaving from those tracks, so traveler beware!
Halls 1 and 3 contain the same tracks, and are numbered 5 to 23. Confused? Exactly! The trick is understanding that if you arrive on the ground level via the back entrance, which one might do when taking bus #20 or #65 to their “terminus” (end stop), you enter Hall 3 from the lower level, which is a concourse allowing access to all Hall 1 platforms! If you know your seat is in a car that is far back from the beginning of the train, then it’s more convenient to enter from Hall 3, than 1. Got it?
When I travel, I always go First Class, and those cars are normally the very last ones to board, or the first out of the station. This makes no sense to me, since what’s so “first class” about walking a mile down the platform? Nonetheless, if my train is leaving from Hall 1/3, then I know I can enter the platform from Hall 3 and be closer to the back end and my car.
Hall 2 platforms begin in the newer outdoor lobby at the far eastern side of the station. Most trains headed to Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Marseille and ultimately Nice tend to leave from Hall 2. I never assume this to be 100 percent true and check the monitors or reader boards which will always denote the Hall number long before the track letter or number is posted. The platform isn’t posted until 20 minutes before the train departs, so there’s not much point in being at the station long before that, unless you’d rather be safe than sorry and want time to pick up a sandwich or other food fare or reading material before boarding the train.
(When the train leaves from Hall 2, and my first class car is numbered 11, 12 or 13, I end up walking almost all the way to Nice to board! At least it feels that way.)
When you enter the platform, there are gated entries now, much like at the Métro or airport, that read the codes on your tickets to allow entry.
The Métro and RER lines are underneath the main lines, so just forget about those if you’re trying to not to miss your TGV or train to a destination outside of the Paris area. On the lower level under Hall 1, you will also find the car rental companies, and a variety of retail stores.
Tickets can be purchased in the “Galerie des Fresques” on the upper level which is a hallway linking Halls 1 and 2, but self-service ticket kiosks are all over the station. Luggage lockers and Lost and Found are in Hall 3. Taxis can be taken from two spots: 1) one outside the front of the main station, but 2) there’s another one that almost no one knows about and is not marked on the station’s map or website. It’s just outside the station on the rue de Bercy side at the very back. If you arrive at the Gare de Lyon on a track of Hall 1/3, then you can exit immediately down a staircase or escalator, turn right when you hit the lower level, exit the station and find a taxi waiting there without having a big line of other passengers (since no one knows about it!).
If you prefer to take a bus from the station, like I do, then exit the same way, and lots of the buses start their routes on rue de Bercy. If not, then head to the front of the station to Boulevard Diderot and you’ll find them all there: Numbers 20, 24, 29, 57, 61, 63, 65, 87 and 91.
The station has been updated in the last few years, and so has its website, in English, no less to make it easier for us. Visit the website before you go for more detailed information and by all means, have fun wherever you’re off to!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(off and running, by Tom Marquardt)
P.S. Speaking of the South, as always, friends of Parler Paris, Parler Nice and French Property Insider are welcome to stay in Le Matisse — at least when I’m not there. It’s cooler in summer and warmer in winter! Contact us to secure your stay! [email protected] adrianleeds.com