France’s Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) From the Riviera to Paris
If you expect the TGV to have the charm of the Orient Express complete with art deco fittings and Hercule Poirot twirling his moustache at severely overdressed fashionistas, you’ll be disappointed. However, as value for money and leg room, it beats an airplane anytime. The cost was about 50% less than if we’d flown, train stations are more convenient than catching a taxi to the airport and there’s Wi-Fi onboard. But our main motivation was to see some French countryside and stop off at key towns along the way.
Leaving glamorous Nice on the French Riviera for Paris we booked on the double-decker ‘duplex ‘train to take advantage of the views of the Cote d’Azur.
Our first stop was Marseille, a fascinating ancient city. It has had an insalubrious reputation in the past as port city that brings in all the riff-raff of the world but perhaps that is also what makes it so cool;colorful African markets, the sheer Calanques cliffs falling into the turquoise Mediterranean, the historical old town and the rough and tumble of Vieux-Port (old harbor). We also took a drive along Corniche (a road along the sea) Marseille and saw rustic untouristic villages to the West.
Back on the train it was a short trip to Avignon which is famous as the city where the Pope fled leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. ‘Le Palais des Papes,’ (the Palace of the Pope) is a vast and surreal structure with some of the flavor of the Da Vinci Code.
As the TGV moves away from the Mediterranean coast, we watched flamingos on a lake as the train passed over causeway. Once it had finished picking up passengers at towns near the coast it sped onto Paris stopping at Lyon. In fact it would take just over 2 hours from here.
I didn’t realize how fast you are going until you pass another train, I was guessing we were still only going around 60 miles per hour when suddenly the speed was displayed on the screen topping 197 miles per hour 318kmh.
South of Lyon, the TGV runs along the Rhône Valley, crossing and re-crosses the River Rhône, slicing through the hills of Provence. There were stunning views of ancient viaducts, rustic villages and the occasional chateau. Lyon itself is an industrial city with an ancient wall but it’s on the line to Grenoble that can take you to Monte Blanc and the ski slopes of France.
Finally, after just over an hour, the train arrived in the iconic train stations of Amelia’s France, Montparness, but we kept ongoing all the way to Paris Charles de Gaulle Train Station and the International Airport to catch our next flight.