France Funny story Tourist Travel

The train : What a way to go! (On vacation)


I like LOVE taking the train. I used to love taking planes, but then we all became terror suspects and it’s now a frustrating experience where your rights, dignity and security always seem at stake. So if I can, I take the train. It’s relaxing, no rush, no panic, no stress, you have space to travel in comfort and it’s a treat to watch the countryside swish by. I get to SEE where I am going!


Chéri and I took the train to Bordeaux for a little break from Paris this summer and booked seats in the TGV from the Gare Montparnasse, but not just any TGV, the iDTGV, a concept train invented by the SNCF which is the national train service in France.

Chéri tried to book seats on the iDTGV zen, but it was apparently full, and we got seats on the iDTGV zap. Not sure what that meant we found out when the train was just pulling out of the station. I was in the bar car grabbing cups of tea, when I saw a conductor making the announcements over the loudspeaker. (In French) “Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the iDTGV. We’d like to remind you that wagon 14 is the iDTGV zen, where the ambience is to be one of silence, please respect the quiet of the other passengers in that car. Wagon 13 is the iDTGV zap, where the ambiance is one of conviviality, if you haven’t already, do take a moment to say hello to your neighbor.” The few of us in the bar car grabbing breakfast before the line got long, all looked at eachother, the conductor and server alike, and snickered like teenagers! Not that saying hi to your neighbor is unheard of, but it was a funny thing for the staff of the SNCF to be telling us to do. It reminded me of those times when I was a kid and at Sunday church service and we were invited to greet our neighbor with a “peace be with you” and a nod of the head or shake of the hand.

We all chuckled a bit more and somebody suggested that the conductor add something about greeting their neighbors’ dog with a pat on it’s head too. The conductor smiled and said he’d add that next time.


Well, we didn’t become lifelong friends with our neighbors, I don’t even think we said hello to their dozing, sleepy faces, but after 3 cups of tea I was certainly in a friendly mood and would probably have chatted with just about anyone! And to boot…there was aisle service in addition to the bar car. Win!


  1. Oh wow! this is such an excellent concept! Now foreign tourists can’t complain about the French being snobby and rude!

    I really miss the railway service in France – the British system gets worse and worse by the day; we pay high fares for unreliable services.

    I can’t wait to return to the TGV life!


  2. Love this article. 🙂 The greeting van made me smile. It’s such a lovely idea. Are there any other kind of vagons aside zen or zap? 🙂 How long does the trip take from Paris to Bordeaux ?

Leave a thought or two!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.