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After a bellissimo two weeks in Italy, my partner and I opted to spend the final few days of our European holiday in France.

I had heard so many good things about high-speed European rail that I decided to experience firsthand how it feels to let the train take the strain.

On arrival at busy, bustling Florence (Firenze) railway station we have time for a coffee before our 11am departure to Milan. Remarkably we only need to get there 10 minutes before departure, unlike the two hours needed before flying.

The other really great thing (particularly for me as I am the world’s worst packer – a CRAPacker!) is there is no weight restriction for luggage. Luckily for me my partner is exchanging his gym workouts for luggage lugging!

We booked all our tickets with Rail Online, Australia’s specialist operator, who offer great discounted train deals throughout Europe and Australia.

It’s such a simple process. Just download their easy to use app, follow the instructions and before you know it you have navigated your way around Europe.

The train is on time and we load our luggage, sit back and watch the fabulous Italian countryside roll by. We are heading to Milan where we will pick up a flight to Paris, continue our journey on to Bordeaux and then my friend’s house in Bergerac.

So far so good…

Luckily, we have already realised that the airport we are flying from in Milan (Malpensa) is an hour away from Milano central railway station so have allowed plenty of time to make our connection.

However, the phrase “best laid plans” is the one that now comes to mind.

I quickly learn a very valuable lesson. Rather like mixing drinks gives you a headache – mixing trains and planes has a similar effect.

As we only had four days in France, we opted for a combination of trains and one flight to save time. Unfortunately, our flight was cancelled so we rebooked with another airline…and that flight was delayed by three hours!

Sacre bleu, merde and other profanities En francais!

Turns out we would have been quicker doing the whole trip on the train. Big lesson learned.


After a very pleasant (but unscheduled) night in the City of Light (Paris), our rail journey finally resumes and OMG, I have never seen a bigger train in my life.

It’s a monster with 18 carriages, 100’s of seats and loads of luggage space. It’s also very hi-tech with USB ports in all the ultra-comfy seats that offer plenty of leg room.

It’s a two-and-a-half hour journey to Bordeaux (it would take almost six hours to drive), so I sit back with a great podcast (Talking Travel) and watch the beautiful French countryside roll by as I reflect that this really is a great way to travel.

Oh, and the Wi-Fi is as fast as the train with loads of entertainment options. Movies, docos, podcasts and my personal favourite – rugby results (that’s a joke!) There’s also a cafe onboard with plenty of good food choices and the toilets are clean and abundant.

The train arrives on time in Bordeaux and we make our way to the car hire office which is conveniently located in the terminal and drive the 90 minutes to Bergerac.

Swapping rail tracks for highways is actually quite sad, not to mention stressful, as we’re driving on the wrong side of the road!

After four lovely days in Bergerac, it’s time to return to London. I am more than excited as I am finally going to experience the Eurostar.

Boarding at Gare du Nord in Paris is a piece of cake…or should I say gateaux? We arrive 75 minutes before departure and it’s a seamless check in (no long queues) with a quick security check for baggage (no heart stopping moments of being charged excess).

Another advantage over flying is that there will be no stress at the baggage carousel at the other end as your luggage stays with you on the train. You also get to keep your shoes on and any liquids in your bags are perfectly fine. Last step is immigration and that’s also a breeze.

We board 15 minutes before departure and we leave bang on time. Eurostar has made it clear that punctuality is one of its top priorities with a goal of ensuring that at least 86 per cent of trains arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.

It’s quite a packed train but there is plenty of luggage space and as I take my seat in the standard premier class, I am relieved to see there’s a USB port in my seat arm so I can continue watching my movie.

The Wi-Fi is super-fast and my seat is very comfy. I need to be careful I don’t nod off as I want to witness France becoming England.

I’m not expecting a meal so go and got a cup of English breakfast tea from the onboard cafe only to see that lunch is indeed part of the deal and is served as I return to my seat.

A very enjoyable salmon quinoa salad followed by the most delightful and decadent chocolate mousse.

A nice bottle (mini, of course) of vino blanc and a bottle of water sees me abandon my tea. My partner enjoys a very nice pale ale brewed exclusively for Eurostar.

We arrive in London two hours and 20 minutes later. With an average speed of 300km/h this train is super-fast and our arrival at St Pancras is not only on time but offers such an easy gateway. We jump on the Underground and in 20 minutes we are checking in to our London hotel.

While this journey may have been a little more expensive than flying, I can think of several reasons why the train is definitely the best way to go and here are just a few:

Many train stations are slap bang in the middle of your destination city.
You don’t have to get to the station three hours before your flight.

You can move around freely.

One of the biggest environmental benefits of trains is that they consume far less energy than other types of transport.

It takes a huge amount of fuel to get a plane carrying hundreds of people airborne, whereas trains are streamlined, require much less energy to move and are increasingly able to run on electricity.

Whenever you want.

You can watch the world go by.

If you are a fearful flyer the train makes perfect sense.

Perfect for crap-packers like me.

A pro and a con but as I am usually working while travelling it is definitely a pro for me.

Hands down the train beats the plane every time.