Ride the rails on TGV trains in France

Most Britons who travel on the fast trains in France return full of envy for the fast and comfortable state railway TGV system, wondering why we can't have something even vaguely similar in the UK.

French Railways (www.sncf.co.uk) operate the Trains a Grande Vitesse on an increasing number of routes centred on Paris. They run at up to 186mph (300 km/h) on long distance journeys covering most of France.

To the north, the TGV connects with Lille (with onward connections to Brussels) and Le Havre, with a north-west TGV heading through Rennes to Brest on the Atlantic coast.

South-west TGVs go to Bordeaux and further south to the Spanish border beyond Biarritz. South-east trains have Lyon as a hub. From here TGVs head south to the Mediterranean coast, or east to the Swiss and German borders.

All TGVs (except the Lille-Paris hour express) have a café-bar serving hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, hot dishes, wines, beers and spirits, and excellent coffee.

The Eurostar (www.eurostar.co.uk) services from London St Pancras to Lille or Paris connect well with the TGV network. It is possible to book combined tickets, allowing a through journey to Avignon or Marseille for example. Buy tickets online at the Eurostar site, at www.tgv-europe.com or www.raileurope.co.uk.

For some indications of the combined journeys possible on the Eurostar and TGV trains in France, check the Main in Seat 61 site (www.seat61.com), where you will also find some indications of fares. For example, a one way ticket from London to Avignon starts at £68 in second class. Look out for regular seasonal promotions on TGV tickets.

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