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Our Life in France – the train

January 10, 2010

(Please note that this post reflects our experience in the early 1990’s – I can’t speak for what anyone would experience today.)

One of the first things we did when we moved to Ste. Foy was buy Vance a Kiwi Carte.  I can’t remember exactly how much it costs, but I think it was just a few hundred francs (at the time $1 was approximately 5FF).  With this card, up to four adults could ride with Vance for half price on the train.  Believe me, we got more than our money’s worth out of that card.

We were lucky that the Train à Grande Vitesse (high speed train), or TGV, as it was commonly called, came into Lyon and we took it whenever we could.  The train was fast, modern, comfortable, convenient and ran on time.  I’m not sure if it still is, but when we lived in France, it was the fastest train in the world, clocking in at around 180 miles an hour.  We always picked our guests up in Paris and brought them back to Lyon on the TGV, and it was usually one of the highlights of their trip.  The picture above is of our nephew when he visited us.

When you purchased a ticket for the TGV, it was always for a specific seat – reserved seats were extra on the regular train.  We always bought tickets for seats in the center of the car, so that we could face each other and have a table between us (half of the seats faced forward and half faced backward).  It made for a very pleasant trip.

On the day of our trip, we’d take the bus to the train station and validate our tickets in a machine inside the station.  Then, we’d go out on the platform to wait for our train.  The platform was marked so you had a good idea of where your car would stop.  The trains ran on time and only remained in the station for a few minutes, so we had to be on time.  It was up to us to get our luggage on the train, but there were storage bins for the luggage at each end of the car.  Handling the luggage was only a problem one time – when my mother, sister and I went to Luxembourg and over-bought china at the Villeroy & Boch outlet!

The trip on the TGV was very enjoyable – the ride was smooth and it never felt like you were going as fast as you were.  We didn’t have to worry about traffic or getting lost, so we could just sit back and enjoy the ride.  There were restrooms and a dining car where you could purchase food.  Sometimes, a conductor came by to be sure your tickets were validated, but often did not.  (You would be fined if your tickets weren’t validated.)  Quite often we met other people on the train and it was always fun talking to them.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to France, I highly recommend a ride on the TGV!

43 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 7:47 am

    I love traveling by train. To be able to visit different countries via train as you did would be wonderful. Another nice post!

  2. January 10, 2010 8:48 am

    That does sound like a lot of fun. I never even rode a train until I went to BEA last year.

  3. January 10, 2010 8:55 am

    My ex and I always wanted tor travel through Canada by rail. You are giving me the fever again. What fun you must have had. Thanks for sharing.

  4. January 10, 2010 9:35 am

    Very sleek looking train there for the 90’s. Sounds like a good experience and the photos were just great; thanks Kathy

  5. January 10, 2010 9:44 am

    Another great story, and I love the pictures!

  6. January 10, 2010 10:07 am

    What a great experience that must have been. Did you speak French before you lived there or did you just pick it up by assimilation or go to school there? Inquiring minds want to know!

    I think it would be intimidating to live in a country where you are not fluent in the language.

  7. January 10, 2010 10:20 am

    I love trains! They’re so convenient. I just showed Keith this and he’s been on it too. I’ve never been on such a fast train myself.

  8. January 10, 2010 11:23 am

    As a DC commuter veteran I have tried just about all forms of commuting (except the slug line) and the train was always one of my favorites. It made my commute seem more like an adventure rather than just transportation.

    It sounds like the TGV was a great train! I really enjoy hearing about your experiences in France. Thanks for sharing!

  9. January 10, 2010 11:24 am

    The endless possibilities with a ticket like that. I would love to travel all around France.

    Just to let you know, I haven’t taken you off my google reader.LOL.

  10. January 10, 2010 11:55 am

    I really wish America had a quality rail system. There’s just something so nice and relaxing about a train journey. And you have so much more room to spread out!

  11. January 10, 2010 11:57 am

    It is so fun to hear about your time in France. That train looks like a ride at Disney World – very futuristic!

  12. January 10, 2010 11:59 am

    I haven’t been on a train that fast, but when my husband and I went to England we took a train from London to Manchester, and it sounds similar (except for the lack of speed on the English train), and the fact that you had to buy first class tickets to ride in a nice section like the one you described. The section we rode in was more like a bus. So, I guess what I’m saying is that the French train sounds much nicer. 🙂

  13. January 10, 2010 12:07 pm

    I love riding the train so I’d love to ride the TGV. I especially love the other people I meet on the train. Thanks for another great France story.

  14. January 10, 2010 12:26 pm

    I love the trains. This last time we got first class tickets with reserved seats and had our own room for most of our train rides. In Germany, we got a meal with free wine!

  15. January 10, 2010 12:42 pm

    For as awkward and backward as some things can be in Europe, they’ve got the transportation thing figured out. I will definitely make sure, if we ever got to France, to ride this! Very efficient!

  16. January 10, 2010 1:19 pm

    I really enjoy reading these posts! I hope to visit France someday and reading all these tidbits from when you lived there is fascinating.

  17. January 10, 2010 1:50 pm

    That sounds like a lot of fun. I have been on a train once in Spicer Minnesota… it was a dinner thing, it was fun and made for a good memory.

  18. January 10, 2010 2:08 pm

    Wow, that sounds so great; maybe a little fast though. I’d love to travel by train in Canada. There’s one that goes through some very beautiful country.

  19. January 10, 2010 4:27 pm

    I’ve never been on the TGV for all the time I’ve spent in France. Would love to-thanks for the post! 🙂

  20. January 10, 2010 7:07 pm

    I hope to visit Europe in the near future, and if I do stop by France I’ll make sure to ride on that train! Thanks for sharing, Kathy!

  21. January 10, 2010 7:23 pm

    The TGV is the best thing since slice bread-gets you there in record time, good food and fun times. I have hired sleeper booths many times on the trains in Europe. Last time I was there I went to London for the day-just to see what the Chunnel was all about-very hassle free.

  22. January 10, 2010 7:47 pm

    I lover reading these posts. I live vicariously through you and your family’s adventures.

  23. January 10, 2010 8:53 pm

    A train that ran on time…I’m forwarding this post to Amtrak!!! Sounds like a big highlight when you had visitors…I still remember my ride on the Bullet Train in Japan!!

  24. January 10, 2010 9:12 pm

    Well this seems like an area where France kicks the U.S.’s butt! I love fast efficient trains with assigned seats. I bet my husband wishes he had one to ride to work in!

  25. stacybuckeye permalink
    January 10, 2010 10:47 pm

    Sounds like the train we’ll be taking. I loved the trains we took to get around in Italy.. Wish we had them here in the States.

  26. January 10, 2010 11:16 pm

    I can’t believe the U.S. has never built this type of transportation system.

  27. January 11, 2010 12:43 am

    I also love trains, and the TGV seems exceptional. Thank you for sharing these great photo and your stories. Merci! 🙂

  28. January 11, 2010 1:00 am

    European trains are the best; thanks for the memory!

  29. January 11, 2010 4:20 am

    That train is fancy. There are no trains in the PH so a train ride in France would really be an experience!

  30. January 11, 2010 2:07 pm

    We took the TGV from Paris to Nice this past June, and everything was just as you describe. We enjoyed it; it was only high speed to Marsailles, so some quick views of castles and lavender fields. After that, we went slowly through all the little towns of the Riviera and we glued our faces to the windows to see the tropical foliage and hope for glimpses of the Mediterranean.

  31. January 11, 2010 4:06 pm

    Oh what I wouldn’t give to have efficient transportation like this where I live in the SF Bay Area! They just had an article in our local paper showing that is usually takes longer and in many cases costs more to take public transportation vs. drive your own car!

  32. January 11, 2010 4:48 pm

    That sounds like one fast train! It looks very sleek as well. I think a ride on this train would be really fun and with all the information I am collecting from these posts about France, I would probably be able to maneuver around the place quite well!

  33. January 11, 2010 6:09 pm

    My youngest is a train fanatic – he’d love to go riding on the TGV! I like the sound of the dining car myself.

  34. January 11, 2010 7:23 pm

    It looks like some kind of ride at Disney World lol.

  35. January 11, 2010 8:12 pm

    I loved the trains in Europe when I traveled there. We’ve taken the train long distance in the U.S. a few times and I enjoy that too, though it’s not nearly as fast or reliable. Maybe one day…

  36. January 11, 2010 9:26 pm

    Hi Kathy, I’m not sure if I’ll ever go to France but I will take note of the TGV!

  37. January 12, 2010 3:57 am

    I love love love travelling by train. Probably my favourite way of travelling. I’m glad your experience with the TGV was such a positive one!

  38. January 12, 2010 9:16 am

    Sounds pleasant compared to my train experiences in the U.S.! I bet it would be one of the highlights of my trip, too.


  39. January 12, 2010 10:37 am

    Ah, I miss European trains. You can get ANYWHERE on them, city- and country-hopping, they’re fast, comfortable, and AFFORDABLE. Amtrak could learn a thing or two from the European rail system.

  40. January 12, 2010 5:59 pm

    How fun for all of you and what a way to see and experience the country. I wish that we had a better system here in the US.

  41. January 12, 2010 11:41 pm

    well, riding this train sounds like fun and very organized

  42. January 13, 2010 6:24 pm

    I love taking the train. I took it all over Europe and the US northeast. I wish it was a more viable form of transport here on the US west coast. Maybe someday the high speed rail really will get built!

  43. January 13, 2010 8:30 pm

    Wow! Sounds like fun. I wonder: at that speed, did it feel any different whether you were facing forward or backward?

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