We enjoyed Cologne. It is a city with so many really beautiful buildings and a lovely promenade along the bank of the Rhine River.
What was also good for us was that our hotel was less than 1km from the square where the station, the Altestad and Cathedral are to be found.This is the square where the New Year celebrations take place. The station is to the left and a Lutheran Church is on the opposite side to the Cathedral. Our hotel was one block up to the right so just a short walk.
Front entrance to the Cathedral
Lutheran Church opposite the station
The 2nd photo below shows pleasure boats on the Rhine. We took a ride in one of these and admired the 7 bridges over the Rhine in Cologne
A rail bridge over the Rhine River
2 tourist boats go under the rail bridge
A road bridge over the Rhine
The square is the place where hundreds congregate on New Year’s Eve. It was a week after we had been there that we learnt that there had been a number of sexual attacks on women while celebrating the start of 2016. We had arrived on 3rd Jan and left on the 5th. We also managed to miss the riots protesting against the lack of protection from the police which took place on 7 Jan. We did well to miss both.
Gare du Nord in northern Paris and had to catch our connection at Gare du Lyon on the south side of the city. Right up until we arrived in Paris I was of the belief that we had a connecting train to Gare du Lyon as this was what we had arranged with the German rail representative in Cologne. I had assumed that we would get a connecting train from Gare du Nord BUT I had not checked our printout very carefully AND SO was in for a big surprise.But it was time to leave this city and move on to the next, Lyon, where we had booked to stay for the next 2 nights. As with most of our train journeys we had to make a connection and today it was to be in Paris. We arrived at
We disembarked from the train from Cologne and started looking at the boards to see from which platform our next trainto Lyon would depart. Trevor as usual was pulling our 2 suitcases and I had the backpack and hobbled behind him with my walking stick giving me some support to keep up with him. (Now some of you may be wondering about my walking stick. Well, unfortunately the neuropathy which has plagued me for over 20 years has now caused my feet to turn inwards to the point that I tend to stumble so I use the stick to stay steady.)
Getting irritated at not being able to find our connecting train, I was rather grateful when a gentleman, probably in his 60s, dressed in a grey suit and a red tie – the colours worn by staff of the train company – came up to me and offered assistance. The gentleman actually said to me, “I can see you need some assistance and I work for the railway. Where are you going?” Before I knew it, he had taken our tickets and pointed out that we did not have a connecting train from Gare du Nord. We had to get to Gare du Lyon by taxi and there was just 30 minutes before our train departed for Lyon. He said that he knew a taxi, not a metered taxi, which would take us to the station on time and for just 45 Euros; No more, no less.
When we got there the driver would accept only cash, not a card as the other taxis and it was then that we began to feel that things weren’t quite right but there was no time to argue or ask questions of others. “Hear the alarm bells ringing.” It became clear that we had been CONNED!!! One has to be so careful, especially when in a hurry. Those of us who hurry around and let people know that we are not sure exactly what the next step is are easy targets for con artists.
When making accommodation bookings I did my best to confirm that the hotel was near to the Central Station but somehow managed to make a mistake for Lyon. When we arrived at the Central Station we asked for directions to the hotel and were told that we had to take a tram as it was in a suburb very close to the tram and Metro station! Very irritating but we got the tram to the right station and were directed to the hotel from there. It was down a small side street and not very well sign posted. As we walked in the door it was like walking into a 1920s home and that was probably due to the fact that it was owned and run by 2 very sweet old ladies who were easily over 80.
Our room was probably the smallest we have ever stayed in and the beds were huge; just like the ones I remember my grandparents had in the bedrooms in their farm house. The 2 ladies were very keen to assist us and fuss over us but we could not have coffee making facilities or even take a cuppa to the room. I learnt later that this is now becoming normal practice in all hotels in Europe, except the very top ones, as a cost saving measure. It just does not feel very welcoming when you have spent the whole day travelling and now have to go out and find somewhere to have a cup of coffee.
No tea or coffee was one thing, the breakfast was the greatest let down of all. Will tell more in my next blog.