On The Road: Love on the tracks that gets stronger with the years
As with many love affairs, it started in Paris, under the frescoed ceilings of the Gare de Lyon nearly a decade ago. French air traffic controllers had grounded my transport south, necessitating a run to the sun by rail.
In a budding romance, first impressions are everything. I remember passengers strolling to pre-assigned seats 20 minutes before our sleek blue TGV "took off": no sprinting from the airport bus here. On board, the seats were leather, lumbar support was electronic and picture windows looked set to display the French countryside in all its glory as we sped down to Provence.
This 16-carriage thoroughbred nosed through the Paris suburbs. A canter became a gallop, until any remaining clickety-clack became an unrelenting hum, heading directly to the seaside at 300km per hour. We snorted past cars on the autoroute: a full 100mph faster than the traffic – a Ferrari overtaking an Austin Allegro.
Clouds became sun, and the windows became tourist authority pastels of Provençal stereotypes as we nipped across the Rhône: lavender, sunflowers and acres of vines. Marseille arrived promptly at the three-hour mark. Pastis or rosé?
If anything, our relationship has grown stronger over the years. I've tried the iDTGV service, where passengers enjoy draft beer and sushi in "Zen" class, or hire PSPs or portable DVD players in "Zap". I've learnt the trick of the Eurostar website (eurostar.co.uk): secure a return ticket to any destination in France for £119 by purchasing it exactly three months in advance.
In more affluent times, I've called Railbookers (railbookers.co.uk) for a bespoke hotel and rail trip en famille. And I still fantasise about steak and a glass of Burgundy in Dijon or Lyon, both pretty, five- hour door-to-door journeys from London St Pancras. And you can bring back as many kilos of cheese, wine and mustard as decency allows.
Our first tiff came last year on Paris's Métro line 1, near where our "thing" started. Other connections arrived, mine didn't.
"Is there a strike?"
"What for?" I followed.
"It's a pre-emptive action, monsieur. It's to show what would happen if we really chose to strike!"
My train departed without me, and my taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport cost €50. I cried.
Footprint's Provence & Côte d'Azur is out now (£13.99).
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...
£45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...
25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...