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Taking the train to France for a summer holiday…?

15 replies

babybouncer · 05/02/2022 23:02

Kids (10 and 13) want to try a ‘greener’ holiday, so we thought we’d try to go to France by rail. I’m fine with the idea, but worried about where to stay (they want beaches) and how we get around (to shops as well as days out). Do we have to just hire a car once we get there? DH and I have v little French and the idea of organising all this while only being able to take what we can carry feels a bit daunting. Anyone done anything like this? Any recommendations? Or any useful websites I could look at?

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CoolShoeshine · 06/02/2022 06:42

I’ve done it a few times to the south of France. It’s a long journey but as long as you’re well prepared with snacks and activities it’s not too bad. You’ll probably need to change trains at some point on the journey, it’s better if you can avoid changing in Paris because you’ll probably need to travel by metro to another station in the city which isn’t the most fun with luggage.
Some trains transfer at Lille which is a smallish station and pretty easy, you also used to be able to get a fast Eurostar straight from London/Kent to Marseilles and change there which is also pretty easy. Not sure I’d that direct route still runs or not.
Parking at the Eurostar stations can be expensive so factor that cost in.
If you are able to get to Marseilles then you can change to a train which runs along the Côte d’Azur, stopping at resorts along the way, Cannes, Nice etc. Best to stay as centrally as possible and then get trains to other resorts, you can go to Monaco and on to Italy.
One problem though is that area of France is spendy ££££. Eating and drinking out coat a fortune compared with resorts in Spain etc

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bert3400 · 06/02/2022 06:48

Check out Archachon - beautiful area of France and there is a station in the centre of town. Its about 50km from Bordeaux . Lovely beaches, lots to do and amazing food.

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Frenchfancy · 06/02/2022 07:07

What about the Ile de Ré. Eurostar to Paris, TGV from Paris to La Rochelle (2.5 hrs) the bus or taxi to the island. Everyone uses bikes to get around the island so no need for a hire car.

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Cheermonger · 06/02/2022 07:10

Or just stay in La Rochelle- loads to do there and nearby and beaches are nice. We’ve been a few times in August and it’s been boiling 😍

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Fivemoreminutes1 · 06/02/2022 08:25

My friend, who doesn’t drive, finds it easier to holiday by the beach in Holland rather than France. She takes the ferry from Harwich and then the train. Her family stay in holiday parks and hire bikes to get around.

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lumpofcomfort · 06/02/2022 08:36

TGV is fantastic fast. The only issue is that you may need to travel across Paris if your ongoing train doesn't go from the Gare du Nord.
Without a car you would probably be best at something like a campsite within walking distance to the beach and town.

I agree with PP that Ile de ré would be great. It's beautiful with lots of beaches and lovely fishing villages. Most people cycle around so you could hire bikes or they have a regular bus service. I think they even use electric buses. There is a regular bus across the bridge to La Rochelle (also lovely) which has a train station.

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profpoopsnagle · 06/02/2022 13:47

Check out the website seat61 There will be some good advice on the best routes, timings and changeovers.

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HannibalHeyes · 06/02/2022 20:34

It looks like they are running some Eurostar trains direct to the South of France this year, although I'm not sure the whole timetable has been released yet.

It's a great way to get South. As long as you take plenty to read and games to play on the train, it's a very relaxed way to travel. You can get up and walk to the bar car, watch lovely French countryside go past.

I've generally only gone to Avignon, and then on to somewhere from there, so I can't recommend anywhere on the coast. You can hire a car if you want. Or you can just base yourself in one place. If you're booking a hotel, you can usually get them to send a taxi to pick you up from the station if you don't want to hire a car or use public transport.

What I tend to do for the return journey though is spend a night or two in Paris. This is because the direct return journey involves getting everyone out at Lille to go through security, and last time I tried it it was appallingly badly organised, and, franky, unsafe.

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Laquila · 06/02/2022 20:38

Holland is a good call - we sometimes take the overnight ferry from Hull and that's good fun for small children (yours might find it less of a novelty 😁). You could then get an onward train from Rotterdam or Zeebrugge.

Arcachon is also lovely though, as a pp suggested. Another option is the overnight ferry (either with car or without) from the UK down to Santander or Bilbao? That would probably be greener than flying, and less stressful!

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2bazookas · 06/02/2022 20:43

I recommend a visit to Trailfinders travel agency. They can advise you on all the questions you raised, discuss your preferences/needs/budget then plan a suitable itinerary and make all the transport and accommodation bookings for you.

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MissAmbrosia · 07/02/2022 10:46

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/ethical_living/4472083-Travelling-by-train-to-the-continent?msgid=114841731

There was a thread the other day on this topic which has some useful info. As I posted on there, at the moment you are not allowed to eat and drink on French trains. Which I hope they will change soon as I have a 5.5 hour trip to Marseille planned in May.

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Frenchfancy · 07/02/2022 11:41

That rule is due to end on 16th February @MissAmbrosia

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MissAmbrosia · 07/02/2022 12:22

@Frenchfancy

That rule is due to end on 16th February *@MissAmbrosia*

Hurrah! Thank you!
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babybouncer · 07/02/2022 19:24

This is all great advice - thanks so much!

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RonCarlos · 08/02/2022 08:17

The local train along the south east coast of France is super easy and the fast train from the north stops at some stations. Have a look at campsites in Frejus, St Raphael, St Maximes.

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