See the country from local trains in France

If you are not in a hurry, there's nothing quite like taking a leisurely journey on the trains in France. While there are ultra-modern express services that will whizz you from one end of the country to another, the local trains are great for seeing those beautiful little backwaters.

Tickets, timetables, routes, changes, journey times and information on everything you will need to know is available in English at the website of French Railways at www.sncf.co.uk.

France still maintains an extensive rail network, with the high-speed lines supplemented by many local lines still serving the rural outposts of France.Trains will take you to Cherbourg on the Channel, or Briancon on the Italian border, to Lille in the north-west or Biarritz on the Spanish frontier.

Trains tend to be clean and efficient, with courteous staff. Buying tickets is not quite as complicated as in Britain, but there is a system of discount passes that is worth investigating. It can also be cheaper to travel on certain days of the week and times of the day.

If you are making a short trip, the local train will be much cheaper than the TGV fast trains (and you will have more opportunity to admire the scenery). Remember to validate the ticket in the orange punching machines before you board your train - the sign tells you to compostez votre billet.

Consider an InterRail Pass (www.interrailnet.com) for unlimited travel on French railways. These are very flexible, according to your requirements but 4 days travel within a period of one month would cost €219. In that time you could hop on quite a lot of trains in France.

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