I am eager to tell you all about what Therese and I did in Rouen, France during our recent trip. However, I feel like it might be helpful to first give you some insight into how we got from Reims, our previous stop on the journey, to Rouen, by way of Paris. More specifically, to describe how we made the transfer in Paris between two of the city’s train stations, Gare de L’Est and Gare Saint-Lazare.
As with many of the other cities that surround Paris, you can’t get from Reims to Rouen without passing through Paris. What makes this a potentially hair-raising enterprise is that Paris has 5 major train stations, so it’s not simply a matter of getting off one train, moving to another track, and boarding the second train. Instead, what is at stake is traveling through a busy city on a short layover in order to make a connection.
Luckily, with our travel that day, there was an hour and 16 minutes allotted to getting from one station to the other. Our train from Reims arrived in Gare de L’Est at 9:04, and our train from Gare St. Lazare didn’t leave until 10:20. But would that be enough time for us to make the connection? I consulted my trusted source, TripAdvisor, and sure enough, there was a discussion on getting from Gare de L’Est to Saint-Lazare.
The crucial part of the discussion for me was a response from someone who calls himself JHH36, who recommended not trying to take a taxi from one to the other, since you might get stuck in traffic at rush hour. He suggested instead taking the RER commuter train E one stop from the Magenta station, which is a short walk from Gare de L’Est station, to St.-Lazare. His guess was that doing so would get us to St.-Lazare in about 25 minutes. Not only might this be the quickest way to make the connection, but it would also be the cheapest, since when you take the RER within Paris city limits, it only costs the same as a single Metro ticket, or 1.70 Euros per person.
Based on this recommendation, we took the RER. But doing so was not quite as simple, or as time-saving, as I might have liked. Including all the steps, here is the journey from one train station to the other.
1. Walking to the Magenta stop of the RER.
When we exited the west side of Gare de L’Est at Rue d’Alsace, it didn’t take long to find a sign directing us to the Magenta station.
We turned to the left, expecting to see a level street, but instead we immediately met a killer staircase to climb. A little exercise isn’t so bad, right? Only keep in mind we were carrying all our luggage for the trip.
Once we conquered this obstacle, it was just a few short blocks to the Magenta station.
2. RER Train from Magenta to St. Lazare.
We passed through the turnstiles and found the track from which our train would depart in no time, to discover that the next train to St.-Lazare wouldn’t arrive for 15 minutes (the photo above says 11 minutes because I took the photograph after we had already been there waiting for 4 minutes). I was rather shocked that there would be such a long wait during what I would consider to be rush hour, but all we could do was wait. And the great part of it was that, once the train arrived, it was just a short 5 minutes ride to St.-Lazare station.
3. Walking and taking escalators from the RER St. Lazare stop to Gare Saint Lazare train platform.
We then began walking from where the RER train left us to the platform from which our train to Rouen would leave. And walking. And riding escalators. And walking some more. Granted, we did stop once or twice to ask, to make sure we were still going in the right direction. But we must have walked about a mile underground, no exaggeration. And we rode up about 7 escalators.
The pay-off was that we arrived at our train platform, in a very attractive waiting room full of light.
So how long did our transfer between train stations take? 50 minutes. That’s right, not 15 – 50 (fifty). Or twice as long as my friend on TripAdvisor had guessed that it would take.
If you were not carrying luggage, or had a little more energy than me, could you make it in less time? Maybe. And sure, if you took a taxi, and had no traffic, as JHH36 reports it, you could make the trip in 10 minutes or so.
So in the final analysis, while this may still be the most reliable way to get from Gare de L’Est to Saint Lazare (avoiding any possible traffic jams in a taxi), it is also a somewhat arduous and time-consuming way to do it. I would like to believe that the SNCF always allots at least an hour to make train connections like this one, but I don’t know for sure that they do. If you have the time and the energy and want to save your money, by all means take the RER train as we did. And when you do, please, let me know how it went!