I thought I had this figured out, but, clearly, I didn't read the train route details carefully enough. I need to get from Chamonix to Chartres on September 19. I had planned to take the Chamexpress shuttle to Geneva Airport and take the train from there. The schedule shows Geneva-Aeroport to Lausanne, Lausanne to Paris Gare de Lyon, and Paris Montparnasse Vaugirard to Chartres. What I missed is that we have to get from Gare de Lyon to Montparnasse Vaugirard. I know that we'd need to take RER A to Chatelet and M4 to Montparnasse. I'm hoping that someone who is familiar with these stations might tell me how easily this can be done with by a couple of seniors (very) with suitcases (one each, plus a day bag).
You might want to take the No 91 bus from Gare de Lyon to Gare Montparnasse. It will be rush hour, the train from Lausanne could leave you way out at the end of the platform with a long walk into the station (my experience), so I'd say don't set your heart on making that 17:06 train to Chartres. Since it is rush hour, there are lots of trains running to Chartres (I count 6 between 17:06 and 18:06), so just get on the next train.
Thanks, Sam, the 91 bus might be a good option for us. I haven't taken a bus in Paris. Would it be a problem getting on with luggage during rush hour? You've actually gotten me thinking about finding a shuttle from Gare de Lyon to Chartres as a last resort.
For two seniors with luggage in rush hour, you'd probably be more comfortable getting a taxi in front of Gare de Lyon. Note that if you miss the departure from the Vaurigard part of Montparnasse station (I see one at 17:06), the later trains to Chartres will depart from the main part of the station, which is a separate building a couple of blocks away. If you think you'll miss it, then ask the driver for Montparnasse main station. See map at http://www.bonjourlafrance.com/france-trains/stations/gare-montparnasse-station.htm, which is a little more clear about this than Google maps.
Laura, I think a taxi would be a great solution for us. And, your link is an excellent one - that helps getting our bearings. Thanks to your suggestion, plus Sam's info on the number of trains available to Chartres, my stress level has gone way down. I didn't realize that we wouldn't be locked into a certain departure. We've been doing back-to-back tours for quite some time and this is the first one that's been so difficult to negotiate. Thanks again!
Sam, just to confirm, if I've purchased tickets ahead of time, can we still take any of the departures out of Montparnasse to Chartres?
The trains to Chartres from Montparnasse are all TER trains and the fare is 15.60 euro no matter what and there are no seat reservations. These are the kind of tickets that you need to validate before boarding which is when they become valid tickets. I also see that they are listed on the SNCF site as "Tarif Normal- Exchangeable free of charge before departure." So before I stick my neck out and say yes, I suggest you simply ask the conductor on your TGV-Lyria train if you can take any train. They will be coming by to check your ticket anyway. If by some odd chance he says you have to stick to your schedule, you can exchange for a later train at the window at Gare de Lyon when you arrive. Then make your way to Montparnasse at a comfortable pace.
Excellent, Sam, I'll do that. Many thanks for taking the time to reassure me!