Published on June 27th, 2011 | by Ann Rickard


France Arrival

A huge thank you to all of you who contacted me about anxiety AND THE PILLS.   Such lovely words you all sent me and you couldn’t possibly know how much I appreciate them all.   In case you’re interested, the pills have kicked in and I’m feeling in exceptional health once again.

Now, I promised you travel blogs and you’re going to get travel blogs even though I’ve been in France for almost two weeks now and this is the first time I’ve put fingers to keyboard.   Jet lag combined with way too much French wine is a recipe guaranteed to bring on slothfulness.   Desole.  Desole.  (Lovely French word for ‘sorry.’)

So, here we are at the beginning of our fifth culinary tour in the South of France and we’re having a tres French time.  We have a wonderful group this year.  But we always have wonderful groups.  There are eight gorgeous women and one brave man with us here in St. Maximin in the South of France.  Then there is Geoffrey, our dedicated sommelier, baggage handler, on-call driver and all-round gentlemanly escort.

Flew here with Emirates, the most divine airline in the world, in my opinion.  Sipped Veuve Clicquot in the lounge before we left Brisbane then sipped some more before we took off and then yet more with dinner.  Slept soundly all the way to Dubai and arrived at 5am whereupon headed straight into the Emirates Lounge while waiting for the next leg of the journey and immediately began sipping more Veuve.  I know, 5am isn’t an appropriate time to sip anything except a cup of tea but I figured it must have been midday in Australia, although to be honest, I didn’t care.  The Veuve Clicquot was there by the bucket full and who was I to refuse it?

Potatoes in Paris.

Had one night only in Paris, staying at Hotel Demeure in the Latin Quarter, a delightful boutique hotel with friendly staff, and a sexy red lounge and bar area and one of those Parisian elevators that feels like a tiny broom cupboard.   I took the stairs.

Only had time for dinner at Cave La Bourgogne which I remembered from last year because I ate the most delicious potato gratin there.

The French do wonderful gratins: layers and layers of thinly sliced potato swimming in cream, and cheese and butter and onions.  Oh god, the cholesterol.  But sitting in the little bistro with a pichet (gorgeous French word for ‘carafe’) of red wine in front of me and a fresh salad with simple vinaigrette was my idea of a heavenly welcome to France.

Fast train to French paradise.

Then it was on to the TGV in the morning to head down to the South of France.  The TGV is a very fast train that races silently through the countryside at 240 km an hour.  It arrives on time to the very minute, and leaves exactly on time.

Getting on the train and finding your seat can become quite the mission if you are not aware of the procedure.  Your ticket has a coach number and a seat number on it.  But before you get on you must go to an electronic board on the platform which has a cute picture of the train on it, and it shows you where the coaches are.   Then it shows you what alphabet letters on the platform your coach will arrive between.  You must stand between those letters.  For example, if your coach says G and H you look for the G and H on the platform, stand there and your coach will pull up exactly in front of you.  Efficient, no?

Then once you’re on the train, struggling with everyone else to get big bags on the racks near the door, you can go looking for your seat number. If you hesitate on the platform the train doors will shut and the train will be gone before you’ve had time to shout: ‘wait for me, wait for me” and throw yourself on the ground in despair.

Once you’re in your seat, it’s all about comfort and relaxation as the glorious French countryside flies past the window.  The best thing about the TGV is the bar.  So civilised.  Bottle of wine and baguettes in front of you and  you’re well into a TGV trip to paradise.

I’m telling you all this so you’ll know what to do when you come to France and have occasion to take the TGV.  If you don’t know the procedure, it can be a nightmare.  You could get on the wrong coach, which could be half a kilometre away from your designated coach.  But once you’ve stashed your bags on the rack near the door you entered, there is no way you want to be half a kilometre away from them.  You can’t say you never learn anything from me.

Even the toilet doors on the TGV are incredibly fast.  You wave your hand in front of a button and the door electronically flashes open at a speed as fast as the train is going.  Once you’re in you ABSOLUTELY MUST lock the door as someone else could wave their hand in front of the electronic button outside and voila! the door flashes open again.  Geoffrey did this last year when a beautiful  and regal black woman, looking like an African Princess, entered the toilet.  When Geoffrey waved his hand and the door flashed open to reveal her to the entire carriage, sitting on the throne with her knickers down by her ankles, her regal disposition suffered somewhat.   I was mortified.  Geoffrey ran away.

Lots of love and French kisses to you,

Ann xxx

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About the Author

is a Noosa (Australia) local and author of six successful books, all humorous travel narratives. In 2005 Ann won the prestigious ASTW’s Australian Travel Writer of the Year and in 2007 she won the ASTW Travel Book of the Year. Ann takes a culinary tour to the South of France in June every year . Ann writes travel, dining and columns for the Sunshine Coast Daily and is the Life editor of the Noosa News. Ann also maintains a well read and popular blog site. Ann’s travels have seen her explore cuisines all over the world.

10 Responses to France Arrival

  1. Lesley Reid says:

    Love to read your Blog’s Ann. I feel like I am there again. Life in Broome is sheer bliss too. Like you our happy hour is anytime. We have a fridge in our car and go for a drive along the beach, have a swim followed by a beer. Say hi to Geoffrey for me.

  2. Gay O'Connor says:

    Like Anne Colville, when my husband and I took the TGV, from Arles, we didn’t know the system, got on at the wrong place, my husband had to drag our large suitcase through the train for what seemed like miles. He was a bit cross with me “told you this case was too big” etc. After getting used to that experience we had hoped for the same very efficient system (when you know how to work it) in Italy – WRONG!!! And to get on the train from Rome to Arrezzo you have to climb three narrow, steep steps, with awkward luggage which you had to put on a rack in your compartment – not nearly as user-friendly as the French train, (although the train back at least had a place near the door where you could stow your luggage.) Vive la France!
    Continue to enjoy your time in France – I AM SO ENVIOUS!

  3. Adele Clarke says:

    Have been there done that with the depression – not pleasant but there is a light at the end of the tunnel ! Love your blogs – friend & I did the TVg from Avignon to Paris – wonderful but not nearly as wonderful as the electric trains in the Netherlands – they are like floating on the canals – so smooth and quiet. Enjoy France & gold stars to Geoffrey!!

  4. Meg (old friend) says:

    Loved your French blog. Had a giggle at the last paragraph – poor Geoffrey!
    Heaven help me if I need to take my special needs daughter into one of those toilets – it is difficult enough in the aircrafts. Heaven knows how the milehigh couples cope?????

  5. janneane says:

    Hi Ann
    I am envious I can’t believe it was this time last year that Bron and I spent 2 fantastic weeks with everyone at St Maxims
    It was unbelievable experience I know you will all have a great time .
    lots of love to Amanda and Geoffrey

  6. Moira Leech says:

    Hi Ann, I love receiving your letters it makes travel even if it is only on line. Sharing your adventures always makes me happy to know how much you love life and the joy sharing it with others brings to you I’m sure. France is divine although only been there twice I love the people, the culture, the food, the lifestyle and do hop I go back again. Both times I have shared the experience with 2 very dear friends, both different women but we have now a stronger friendship by enjoying the each other’s company and the places we visited. Provence stole my heart and Avignon was gorgeous, The Loire was amazing and then of course the city of Love, Paris for a lady who had read about this city over 40 years to experience its magic will stay with me for the rest of my life. Love your Geoffrey he is so supportive and is an asset to your adventures, have a wonderful time and look forward to your next story, Happy travelling, Moira

  7. Ann Colville says:

    I am jelous !
    Took the TGV from Avignion that last time I was there on your first tour —
    no one told me about the platform marks and I ended up with standing the comuters — as
    you say a million miles away — a nice MAN took pity on me and draged my juggage
    all the way to the first class section ( the only way to go )
    Enjoy and give my trgards to Amamda
    Coffe/lunch when you get back to hear the story forst hand .
    Ann ‘c’

  8. Bernie says:

    Can’t wait to be there next January and like you, taking the TGV

  9. gem says:

    Dear Anne,
    I’m reading your blog as I eat my Weeties and oh! with great slabs of envy!
    It’s drizzly ran here and I’m hanging out for a holiday in October to U.S. but wishing I could be with you and the peerless Geoffrey on the GTV.
    Keep up the bubbles and here’s to a brilliant time for you!
    Gem……..I feel I know you quite well!

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