|Subject: Re: London and Paris questions|
Well, I just got back from a quick trip to Paris on Friday. I took the RER back and forth to the airport (CDG) without too much problem. I had one smallish roll-aboard piece of luggage and a light backpack.
It will not be the most comfortable trip but it's pretty easy to accomplish, and probably faster than a taxi or van in Paris traffic. Here, however, are the problems I did encounter:
-- The lines to buy a ticket (# 7,75) from an agent at the CDG RER station were very long, at least 30 minutes or more. There are, however, automated self-service machines which are very easy to use, and which in theory take both credit cards and Euro coins, but NO bills. Not one of the machines would take a credit card that day, and I was # 3 short. The cafe at the station would not make change from a # 5 note, even when I tried to buy something. (It was the only instance of downright rude, obstinacy I encountered this trip.) Eventually, after helping another passenger negotiate the details of using one of the machines, she loaned me the #3 in coin that I lacked.
-- The RER gets pretty crowded. If you are seated, you will probably have to prop your luggage on your lap. If you are standing, a backpack will be crushed by the crowd, and maybe vulnerable.
-- If you must make a change to the Metro, the stations are not often easy for travellers with luggage. Connecting passages can be very long, and escalators aren't always working.
That said, I wouldn't hesitate to again use the RER-Metro connection from CDG. For me it's the fastest and most convenient way to and from the city.
In the past I've used one of the private Shuttle services http://www.parishuttle.com/ which was 3 to 4 times as expensive, and only slightly more convenient. You'll share the van with other passengers, and therefore might make several stops before yours. In my experience it doesn't save any time. (We once got a nice laugh from one of the Shuttle drivers, who asked us if we were Americans. To the answer yes, he replied that his bosses told him he couldn't smoke if there were Americans in the van, and then he added, But it's O.K. if I carry a gun, yes? )
Joel in Chicago