We have owned Le Vieux Mas for nearly 30 years, and have
travelled there in many ways. Originally it was by car and
ferry, the traditional adventure to foreign places, with a
journey in France that was certainly two days. Quite quickly,
though, the autoroute system expanded and the roads into the
Cévennes improved so it became a one day journey from the
coast. But would you want to do that? A more leisurely drive,
with a break en route can be an enjoyable part of the holiday.
But mostly, these days, we enjoy the relaxation of the train,
though point to point air travel is usually cheaper and
quicker if you are not convenient to a Eurostar station.
If you have questions concerning travel to Le Vieux Mas,
please ask us - we have extensive experience of almost all
ways of getting to the house and can offer tips on routes,
interchanges, car hire, and getting the best value deals.
Le Vieux Mas is in the south of France, north-west of Nîmes and less than two hours from the Mediterranean. For a fuller description and map, see the location page.
More and more visitors to Le Vieux Mas are flying
to the area and then hiring a car. You can fly from
a range of regional airports in the UK and Ireland
to several airports within striking distance of Le
Vieux Mas. Nîmes is the nearest, just
over an hour away, with flights from Luton and
Montpellier is next nearest,
around two hours, with flights from Dublin, Bristol
and London airports. Avignon is about the same,
with flights from Birmingham and Southampton. Marseille is further but
the drive is scarcely longer, with
flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and
Manchester and London airports. Other regional
airports are a longer drive but might be worth
checking for flights from your local airport.
Train travel to the house is easy and relaxed.
Return fares start at around £150, though you must
book early to get such fares. On summer Saturdays
you can travel by Eurostar direct from London or
Ashford to Avignon in less than six hours, arriving
early afternoon (the return journey leaving late
Otherwise, one easy change at Lille or a short
metro trip in Paris gives you more journey options,
including arriving at Nîmes which is more convenient
for the house. Eurostar and
the French rail company SNCF
sell through tickets from the UK, and on the SNCF
site you can choose prices in sterling or euros. It
generally works out cheaper to book Eurostar and
SNCF tickets separately, using their respective
sites, and you are also likely to see more journey
For many visitors, especially those arriving at one
of the Normandy ports, the best route will be down
the centre of France on the A71/A75 by
Clermont-Ferrand as this is quieter, cheaper and
more attractive. An increasingly viable alternative,
for all points of arrival in northern France, is the
A77 which leaves the A6 east of Paris and links to
the N7 and then the A75 as above. A more easterly
route, on the famed autoroute du soleil, will suit
visitors from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
To plan a route try the Michelin route planner, which
has good clear directions. Bison-fute is a useful site on
roadworks, heavy traffic etc.
Although it is easily possible to drive to the house from the northern French coast in one day, a stop-over en route, perhaps around the Loire region, can add to the pleasure of the holiday. Since we rarely drive we don't have our own recent recommendations but here are a couple from a recent article on "Perfect French Pitstops": Hôtel de l'Abeille (Orléans) and Hôtel de Bourbon (Bourges).
If you travel by air or train, you'll want to hire a
car, which you'll be able to do at any place you might
reasonably want to, but check opening hours (and thus
possible additional costs for out-of hours pick-ups.)
Costs vary rather unpredictably so, as
ever, it pays to shop around. A broker such as Holiday Autos can help with
this, and may offer additional benefits but it's
usually best to check the direct cost as well.
It's fair to say that the car hire
industry does not have the best of reputations. They
often try hard to make more money from the rental
than the basic hire charge. It's as well to be savvy
to this by consulting sites such as MoneySavingExpert.com. Our top
tips would be to book early, avoid renting from the
cheapest firms such as Goldcar, and to consider
purchasing excess insurance separately. And of
course check the car when you pick it up, take
photos of unmarked damage, and aim to get the car
inspected at the time you return it.
A small or compact car will suit the some of the roads of the Cévennes better than a larger one.
If you are driving to the Cévennes from the UK you can use ports from Hull to Plymouth, and there are two ports serving France from Ireland. We generally use Eurotunnel because it is quick and convenient. Dover is the most popular ferry service, but visitors from the Midlands northward, may find advantage in the crossings to Normandy (Dieppe, Le Havre, Caen), as this gives the chance of some sleep and an early start in France. A possible alternative would be a ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge in Belgium. Visitors from Wales and the West Country, as well as from Ireland, might consider a crossing to Brittany (Cherbourg, St Malo, Roscoff): it is scarcely further from St Malo to Le Vieux Mas than from Caen (and less than from Calais).
We almost always book individual bits of our
journey separately and directly with the provider.
That usually gives best value. However you may want
to shop around for discounts for example via travel
agents. And if you are a member of the AA
you may be able to book your travel at discounted
rates through them, as well as other travel services
such as insurance cover for driving outside the UK.
Also, cashback outfits such as Quidco, can give quick chunky
cashback especially for car hire.
About the photos on this page
All are from our holidays and all but one is from France. In order from the top:
1 Flamingos in the Camargue. This is from a pre-digital print, a picnic with my parents. My mother, enjoying the situation and maybe a glass of wine said "It's so lovely, especially with those penguins flying overhead". Naturally she was never allowed to forget it.
2 Every serious holiday destination must have its little train and rather surprisingly we have recently acquired our own. This fine machine runs all of 2km from St Cecile d'Andorge (where Jean Paul Sartre used to meet Simone de Beauvoir for walks in the woods) to St Julien des Points. The track is on the old line to Florac, and you can read more about that and the little train project here. A much better-known local attraction is the steam train which runs from Anduze to St Jean du Gard.
3 Jamie took this photo of a typical little road in autumn. They don't usually have speed limits but this is close to a village. Driving in France is much less demanding than in the UK, and can be good fun in the Cévennes.
4 A young Jamie practicing his skills in the cafe in our supermarket in Alès.
5 The boys canoeing in the Gorges du Tarn. A great way to spend a day.
6 This picture taken in Wales, I believe. Despite his evident enthusiasm here, I don't think Jamie plans to be an accountant.