Heavenly Trekking by Train
Saturday I will be headed down to Nice as I usually do, taking the TGV by booking online using IDTGV. I love train travel in Europe so much, that I almost never choose to fly. Why fly when you have to go there hours in advance, spend extra money to get to and from the airport, be tortured by security measures, and end up not saving much time?
When I train to Nice, I hop the local bus a block from home directly going to the station which takes 10 minutes, get there 30 minutes ahead of the departure time (they board 20 minutes ahead), buy lunch at the “Monop” in the station, and then walk on with almost as much luggage as I want or can manage myself, without having to go through security (except to certain destinations).
Once in my seat (which I choose for myself when I purchase the ticket), I plug in my computer (first class offers the plug, but so do many of the second class seats), turn on my iPhone to the Personal Hotspot so that I have WiFi the whole way (which is challenged when the train is moving at such a high speed) and relax for the next several hours while a person with a cart rolls by with drinks and snacks…if I don’t want to go to the dining car myself. Quite honestly, it’s heaven.
IDTGV differs from SNCF only by virtue of an online booking system that outperforms and outprices SNCF for certain key destinations…such as Paris to Nice and back! Dealing with IDTGV is so far superior to dealing with SNCF, that even if the fares were more, I’d use it…but it isn’t…it costs less.
Sadly, however, news just came out that the IDTGV brand will disappear and be phased out. The first routes to be taken out of their offerings are those to Bretagne and the southwest when the LGV Bretagne Pays de la Loire and LGV Sud Europe Atlantique lines are launched on July 2nd. Then, from December 10th, the timetables will change on routes from Paris to the south including Marseille, Nice, Montpellier and Perpignan. Ugh. I got so familiar and used to them!
The trains will be the same, but tickets will be sold through the normal SNCF distribution channels. (I do hope they improve their website, as quite frankly, it’s leave a lot to be desired.) They are promising the same great IDTGV rates and services, but I’ll believe it when I see it! Why they are making this change is unknown. Replacing IDTGV is the new OUIGO — another low-cost offering to compete with low-cost airlines — the reason IDTGV was started to begin with. There is no first-class or bar-restaurant, like there is on IDTGV. For now it only operates to 17 destinations: Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille, Montpellier, Nîmes, Valence, Nantes, Rennes, Amiens, Angers and Le Mans — not as extensive as IDTGV’s. Rates are cheap (starting at 10€ one way), but baggage is charged extra. Again, ugh. There goes the freedom of unlimited luggage.
Another new TGV service as of this coming July 2nd is the Océane with tickets now on sale from Paris to Bordeaux that takes 75 minutes off the journey time, making it just over two hours “from the City of Light to the City of Wine.” From London, the trip is direct and will take five hours and 50 minutes.
That low cost speedy train travel to just about anywhere in France and Europe from Paris is one reason I can’t consider moving back to the U.S. Where else can you have such easy access to so many different countries, cultures, languages, etc? It’s very spoiling to be so in-touch with so much that is so unique.
Here’s how fast you can be from one great city to another:
Paris to London: 2 hours 22 minutes
Paris to Amsterdam: 3 hours 20 minutes
Paris to Barcelona: 6 hours 15 minutes
Paris to Geneva: 3 hours 05 minutes
Paris to Avignon: 2 hours 36 minutes
Madrid to Barcelona: 2 hours 45 minutes
Rome to Venice: 3 hours 05 minutes
Amsterdam to Berlin: 6 hours 20 minutes
Berlin to Prague: 4 hours 40 minutes
Prague to Vienna: 4 hours 25 minutes
Vienna to Budapest: 2 hours 50 minutes
By the time you get on the train and settle in, they ring the bell that you’re pulling into the station. There are so many times that I just want to stay there a while longer to continue the pleasure of the solitude and watching the beautiful countryside go by. Yes, quite honestly, it’s heaven…and it’s cheap.
You can travel to London from Paris for as little as €52 and to Venice for €35. Head to Amsterdam for just €35 and to Avignon for €10! Want to go from Venice to Rome? — just €29, or Prague to Vienna? €19 — and Amsterdam to Berlin for just €39! When you book three to six months in advance, you have a chance at getting these kinds of fares. So, plan ahead and buy early. The good news is that with most tickets, the plans can be changed for the small fee of €12 for each change, plus the difference in the fare.
Am I hooked? Of course I am.
Book your TGV trains anywhere in Europe!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
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