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I hope I never have to because there is just so much about it that I love, but If I had to choose one thing that I loved most about France it would have to be train rides. I mean just about any train rides: train rides to, train rides from, train rides around and train rides across the beautiful landscapes, cities and towns of France.

I hope I never have to because there is just so much about it that I love, but If I had to choose one thing that I loved most about France it would have to be train rides.  I mean just about any train rides: train rides to, train rides from, train rides around and train rides across the beautiful landscapes, cities and towns of France.

I am actually writing this while doing just that, it is a brisk, steely November afternoon, the sun is going down but it's still warm enough to feel through the big windows as we race along the Troyes - Paris line.  My other half Belinda and I are just coming back from a lovely evening in the heart of the Champagne region to the East of Paris.  Recommended by one of my French Connections colleagues Izzy, it has been a fantastic overnighter that we managed to squeeze into one of our regular Paris weekends.

We took the first Eurostar from St Pancras in London on Saturday - incidentally probably my favourite train ride of all time - who couldn't love a day starting with Croissants at the magnificent St Pancras station followed by the sun rising over Kent and that always special moment when you pop out at the other side of the channel tunnel into beautiful French countryside?  After a brief wait between trains in a cafe outside Gare L'Est we were back on the tracks, this time on the SNCF whisking us through the eastern suburbs of Paris out into lovely flat farmland with long stretches of dense woodland thrown in for good measure.  I have to say I can't think of a single train ride I have taken in France that I would not happily sit through again, staring out the window just watching the countryside go by, it strikes me that as much as Paris is about people watching, train rides in France are about world watching. Whether it be the mountains on the Lille to Marseille, the farms and countryside of the Paris to Poitier, or even a short one like this one out to Troyes the view outside the window, especially if you time it right is simply mesmerising.  As I mentioned I'm writing this on the train now, that last couple of sentences took about 20 minutes to complete - I keep noticing things I didn't on the way out yesterday!

In between our train rides this weekend we have also managed to have a lovely evening and day exploring Troyes (pronounced ‘Twah’).  A beautiful town in the heart of the Champagne region, Troyes has three of our other favourite things in France: a lovely old town centre full of lopsided houses and exposed wooden beams, fantastic art galleries and - perhaps most importantly - loads of the regions bubbly namesake! Having checked into the Hotel Du Gare, conveniently located right next to the station, we spent the evening exploring the old town. Courtesy of the fact it was raining when we arrived (and also siesta time) the streets were almost empty; we meandered through the narrow streets the ancient buildings leaning in over us at times and almost all of their exposed wooden beams having bent and twisted under the weight of ages giving the old town an ancient but at the same time often comical appearance.  Overflowing (and still blossoming) flower boxes framed the lovely old windows, yet another of the reasons I’m a lover of France, I took photos of as many as I can, the subject of a post or two to come no doubt.

Discovering a champagne bar on the main street and needing no further excuse, we settled down in front of its huge windows and indulged in a couple of glasses of bubbly goodness watching the streets come alive again with shoppers and walkers and diners and browsers all heading out for their Saturday evening stroll. For dinner we found what I have to admit was a rather disappointing restaurant in the heart of the old town, given it was a bit ordinary I wont bore you with details, it wasn't terrible just not what we have come to expect in France we chalked that one up to experience and headed home full if not totally satisfied.

The next morning we had intended to go out to the parc d'lorent a large wilderness reserve about 1/2 an hour by bus from Troyes centre, I had been told that public transport wasn't a problem (ho ho, sound familiar?) but inline with my suspicions it turned out that there was no problem as long as it wasn't Sunday that you wanted to go (which it was) so, with no transport and concerns that we may not get back if we risked a taxi we opted to explore the town further instead.  As is so often the case the misfortune (or mis planning) turned into serendipity, after a stopover in a tabac for our morning coffee we headed toward the stunning gothic Cathedral and art galleries on the other side of the old town.   For 14 Euros each we were able to visit the "Mini Louvre" as I have seen it referred - that is the art gallery attached to the natural history museum and also the museum of Modern art.  Both were truly wonderful and we commented on how amazing it was that regional cities like Troyes could have collections of such calibre, everything from Picasso to Rodin. The setting for the two museums is spectacular, both on either side of the magnificent gothic cathedral, being a Sunday there was a sermon when we visited but we were able to take a peek and see at least the stunning stained glass windows atop the huge prayer hall.  All in all a wonderful side trip on our weekend to Paris,  Belinda and I thoroughly recommend Troyes - though if you want to take in the Parc de L’orent make sure you plan a bit better than we did!  If you’re inclined, as we are, to pick up cheap Eurostar tickets to Paris at each and every opportunity it makes for a lovely side trip.

So now we are pulling into Gare L'est, as the sun is going down over Paris. Tonight we are hopefully off to a Jazz club before the first train out tomorrow morning back to London, another fantastic weekend away and another reason why train trips are just about my favourite thing about France.  I'm looking forward to sharing more stories, tips and ideas on this blog: I have been working with French Connections for a while now, and been a lover of France for even longer so it's high time to start sharing the love!  I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences too, you can contact me here any time and/or leave a comment for me and everyone else to read below.  If you would like to you can also contribute to this blog directly or start your own.

Aurevoir for now!