Image by Sese Ingolstadt
Early developers of high speed trains – the ‘TGV’ – France now has a well-developed network of rail links between major centres both in France and to neighbouring countries.
Fortunately their booking system is going a lot faster too! www.tgv.fr gets you to the booking site which gives you the fast trains, or go to www.sncf.fr if you want a wider choice of trains.
But before you book, look at a map! Seems obvious, but we have had many visitors who think we are in the South of France –or just outside Paris – or anywhere in between!
The TGV site lists TGV destinations, so use the map to find the nearest point of departure and arrival.
Booking on the site is quite easy, although they do show us lots of options, so check very carefully that you have the correct destination and time! There are sometimes special offers such as first class travel at almost the same price as second class, especially at off peak times such as Sunday lunchtime.
Another option is the opportunity to modify or cancel your tickets, free or with a small fee. As this allows you to cancel at any time up to the train departure, it can be quite useful – a little extra insurance against things going wrong! It also means that you can book all your travel then modify if you find that it would be nice to stay on an extra day somewhere to visit a special event – a summer fete, a winter chateau wonderland…
At the station, watch the arrival/departure screens for information on your train. Be sure to check the train number as you would for a flight! The screens will give the platform number. Unfortunately most announcements are in French only. You will need to know the French for a late train –“retard” or “delai” – fortunately near enough to English.
There will be a screen on the platform showing the train make up – carriage or “car” numbers – with an indication that, for example, car 2 can be boarded between zones E and F, which are indicated on its platform.
Note your “car” number and seat number and away you go! 250 km/hr seems not fast at all! As journey times are pretty well standard, trains do not make up time and arrive early. So if you are due to arrive at noon, you probably will!
As there are never many stops, this means that you can be ready to exit at the appointed station without the worry that it may be the wrong one! (Useful as announcements are often only in French again). We set our phone alarms to vibrate 10 minutes before arrival time so we can snooze without worry!
Use the TGV to travel to the Loire Valley – Tours or St Pierre des Corps – from CDG airport (1 hour 40 minutes) or Paris (1 hour) and visit the stunning chateaux.
Find your accommodation at www.b-and-b-loire-valley-touraine.com/