French Trains - Caen to Nantes

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French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby PH » Mon May 05, 2014 10:24 pm

Has anyone done this route? I have no knowledge of traveling by train in France with a bike so all advice appreciated.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby PDQ » Mon May 05, 2014 10:28 pm

My experience is that a small bribe to the station master can work absolute wonders
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby Mark Grant » Tue May 06, 2014 8:28 am

My wife & I took our loaded touring bikes by train from St Malo down to the Vendee. I just bought the tickets at the ticket office and added 'avec velo' pointing to my bike. It wasn't a problem.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby al_yrpal » Tue May 06, 2014 11:42 am

Only certain trains carry bikes, its indicated on the timetable, you just need to check it.

Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby aquilegia » Wed May 07, 2014 2:48 am

It is tricky to get from Caen to Nantes by train. There are no direct trains. The best option (and there were only a couple per day on the random day (a Thursday) I checked on the SNCF website) is with a transfer in Le Mans. Both trains would be "ter" trains which accept bicycles. There is usually a hook to hang a bike by the wheel on these regional trains, and you do it yourself. There is no fee for the bike. On the day I checked, you could either depart Caen at 5:58am or 6:17pm. The latter would arrive in Nantes at 9:41pm with 17 minutes for the transfer in Le Mans.

The other routings all involve going to Paris on a train which accepts bicycles, but then taking a TGV train to Nantes. Only some of the TGVs takes bikes, you have to reserve it, and there is a fee. Plus it's a longer and more expensive journey.

Here's the website I used. I searched in French. I don't know if all of the same information will appear doing a search in English. If a train in the results accepts bicycles, there is a bicycle symbol which appears next to the train information. Generally, most (but not all) non-TGV trains accept bicycles and you load and unload the bicycle yourself. It's quite simple. The rail cars which takes bikes have a symbol on the outside of the car. On TGV trains, only some TGVs accept bikes, and you have to reserve it and pay a fee for the bicycle.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby aquilegia » Wed May 07, 2014 1:20 pm

I forgot one other detail: If you have a connection in Paris, you will arrive at the Gare St. Lazare, but your departure to Nantes will be from the Gare Montparnasse.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby JJF » Wed May 07, 2014 3:27 pm

I did a search on the German rail website for trains from Caen to Nantes.
That link is for pages in English. My chosen random day was 8 May.
There were 4 trains in the day (dep 0905, 1246, 1650 and 1745) each requiring a change at Le Mans. No need to go to Paris.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby aquilegia » Wed May 07, 2014 4:18 pm

I looked at 22 May, and just now at 29 May. Each was different, and apparently 8 May is different from each of those. One [i]ter [/i]routing available on 29 May had a connection in Rennes, as opposed to Le Mans or Paris. The upshot is that each day searched appears to have different possibilities. BTW, [i]some [/i]of the connecting trains in Le Mans on 8 May are on TGV trains, though ones which apparently do accept bikes (for a fee).
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby swscotland bentrider » Thu May 08, 2014 12:34 pm

We did this in reverse a couple of years ago. Nantes to Le Mans then on to Caen. No problems. Didn't book. The timetable shows which trains carry bikes (most off peak). Compared to UK it was cheap too!
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby Fareham » Fri May 30, 2014 2:15 pm

For what it's worth there are fairly frequent trains Caen to Tours, then pick up a train running to Nantes.

I think the only problem we've had with TER and Intercity was that there seem to be bike restrictions on afternoons before public holidays
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby MartinBrice » Sat May 31, 2014 10:52 pm

We did nantes to lille on the tgv with the bikes wrapped up and put in the luggage area, then lille to uk on eurostar. We left nantes at 6am and were in london in early afternoon. You might want to look at a reversal of that rather than go via Caen.
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby jamesgilbert » Wed Jun 04, 2014 12:43 pm

Off topic slightly, but it's worth noting that the long-term strategy of the SNCF is heading more towards improving bike parking at stations and bike rental options at the final destination rather than continuing to increase the number of bike spaces in trains.

Which isn't much use to cycle tourists, but does interest the majority of people who regularly take their bike on a train as part of a commute.

Some of the conspiracy theories floating around say that the SNCF has already started cutting back on transporting bikes. As an example, if you wanted to take your bike on a direct TER train from Paris to Orléans tomorrow, bikes are only allowed on 5 out of over 20 trains. And strangely enough, Orléans is one of the cities which has a bike rental network run by a subsidiary company of the SNCF...
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby simonineaston » Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:13 pm

My only advice is that the TER time-table appears to be much more sensitive to the day-of-the-week than ours do... we're used to services that are pretty much the same every day of the week except Sunday, whereas in rural France (I've done most of my French train-travel in Brittany / Normandy), a journey that seems possible on say Wednesday might not be possible on Friday or Saturday... Sometimes you need to go long-ish distances to pick up TERs from stations that might seem quite remote. (No bikes allowed on TGV)
I've always found the SNCF on-line journey planner helpful, if only to help you work out the combination of trains and stations you'll have to use, leaving buying the tickets to when you get there.
Another tip is to consider writing down your destination to physically show the ticket sales people, if you are going to buy at the stations - I've always found them helpful and patient BUT not good at English - if I'm desperate for the correct French words, I have in the past begun the conversation by asking, Parlez vous Anglais? and have seldom received the answer I wanted!
A couple of times I have had trouble with my French pronunciation, hence the benefit of writing the name of the town down!
ttfn, Simon in Easton
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Re: French Trains - Caen to Nantes

Postby Barrenfluffit » Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:25 pm

Where there's a queueing system there may be a screen next to the agent. If they speak english then there's a union jack on it. I've usually found that a basic level of French is sufficient; you can read things off the screen, make sure to mention the "velo" and its fine. Until they go on strike....
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