To France, Rousillon to be more precise, for a week of medieval villages, lush rolling countryside and the gastronomic pleasures of “salad of gizzards”, walnut wine and pistachio ice-cream. An additional attraction was that we went there by Eurostar and TGV, but sadly the latter is not all it is cracked up to be. Coming home, it took 6 hours to go from Bordeaux to Lille, a distance of some 450 miles. Allowing for about an hour of station stops, this still means an average speed of 90mph, a long way short of what the TGV is all about. Worse was that there was no food or drink offered in first class (the only way to travel, my dear), neither a decent lunch (which we would have got on Eurostar) or even on a trolley service for cash (though they did bring round a trolley on our journey southbound, from Paris to Brive). And nothing to buy at Bordeaux station either, so it was just as well we had stocked up at a motorway service station en route. The only refreshment available was in a buffet car that closely resembled one of British Rail’s finest during the glorious 1970s. Sweets, crisps and cheese on toast – Croque Monsieur if you will – were the principal offerings. Couple this with the overflowing toilets and the stuffy air and it made for a disquieting trip, though the seats were extremely comfortable.
The last time we took the TGV, a few years ago, there was a strike and we had a highly unpleasant journey. Engineering works this time around forced our detour to Brive on the outward journey. And they’re about to go on strike again starting tomorrow. Passengers booked on Eurostar have been warned to cancel if possible rather than risk being stranded the other side of the Channel. Another uncanny resemblance to 1970s Britain. I suppose one day we may have a hassle free journey that combines British and French railways. But do not ask me when that day will dawn.