There are several ways to get from Paris to the Mediterranean. One can fly to Marseilles; one can drive – a good seven hours on the Autoroute, or a day and a half by the back roads; or one can take the train. Not just any train – the TGV.
Pronounced Tay-jhay-vay, this is France’s answer to the Japanese Bullet Train, and it (they) hurtle around Europe at up to 200 miles per hour. (A test train reached 357.2 mph). Not that you would know it as a passenger. At the advertised time of departure, passengers looking out the window will see the station start to move. The train pulls out so smoothly that you are not aware it is moving. Once clear of the city, it picks up speed, but the ride is so smooth that a shallow bowl of water on the table will not lose a drop. If your wine glass wobbles, that is your fault, not the trains.
Aboard France’s high-speed train, the journey from Paris to Marseille takes 3 hours and twenty minutes. This is three hours in which you can sleep, read or enjoy the gorgeous French countryside. It does not, as one might expect, pass in a blur, although there is little time to take in minor details.
Travelling north instead ofsouth, you would leave from the Gare du Nord and head for Calais where there is a slight dip in the track and darkness falls. Twenty minutes later, sunshine (if you’re lucky) returns and you are in England. The TGV network is spreading throughout France and linking up with the high-speed systems of other countries, so that it is now possible to move round Europe more quickly than flying. A contest between two journalists sent one to Charles de Gaulle airport and one to the Gare du Nord. They arrived in London’s Trafalgar Square at the same time.
Why fly when you can travel in comfort on the TGV?