Our week in South West France was so lovely.
We've been here a few times before and usually the journey there and back casts a long shadow over the holiday. One option has been a flight to Toulouse with all the check-in, long-term car parking, baggage traumas and car hire that flying entails. Its about a two hour flight, but from door to door it takes closer to six hours.
The alternative to flying was to take the car on either the Eurotunnel or ferry, and then drive down the length of France. A journey involving over twelve hours on the motorway. The last time I did this I was six months pregnant and our car was a tiny Mini Metro with no air-con or CD player. I admit I'm scarred.
So this time - our first visit in six years - we decided to try the train instead. It was a joy from start to finish and I can't imagine ever driving or flying there now.
We researched and booked it on the marvellous Man In Seat 61 site. The Eurostar was pretty cramped on a Bank Holiday weekend, but so quick - just two and a quarter hours from London to Paris now that the high speed line in the UK has opened. Once we had crossed Paris and had some lunch, the TGV whisked us to Montauban, near Toulouse in just under five hours. Five hours in which we could play cards, read, chat and listen to iPods.
After driving across France you are drained, aching and spent; after taking the train you arrive positively refreshed and relaxed.
Once in France we played by the pool, read books in the sunshine, visited a castle, ate many buttery croissants, played on the swings and generally admired the scenery.
I also came home with over 30 photos of poppies! This is my favourite.