Getting there

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Introduction

We have owned Le Vieux Mas for over 20 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 - and we travel by air only if the price advantage is so strong we can't resist it.

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.

Air

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 Avignon, Montpellier and Marseilles around two hours, and further options around three hours.  

Click here to see more detail on airports in southern France, and the UK and Ireland airports which serve them. You could also try sites such as Momondo (search returns show other possible destination airports) flightmapping.com (good map-based search), flycheapo.com (good airport indexing) or Skyscanner to check options and prices - and always check on the airline's own site at an early stage in your planning.

 It is almost always best to book air travel early, especially for peak periods. Just bear in mind, though, that many airline promotions stretch only a few months ahead so if a price months ahead looks "standard" it can - sometimes - pay to wait. 



Rail

Train travel to the house is easy and relaxed. Return fares start at around £120, 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 afternoon). Otherwise, one easy change at Lille or a short metro trip in Paris gives you many more journey options, including arriving at Nîmes which is slightly more convenient for the house.

Eurostar and the French rail company SNCF sell through tickets from the UK to Nîmes and Avignon priced in sterling.  SNCF (the link is to their English language site) also sell tickets priced in euros but you can pay with a UK card. It generally works out cheaper to book Eurostar and SNCF tickets separately, using their respective sites. Click here for more detail on rail travel, including tips on how to get the best fares.



Road

 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. Click here for (much) more detail on route planning .

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 mainly travel by train 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).



Car Hire

If you travel by air or train, you'll want to hire a car. It's entirely straightforward and, essentially, you can hire a car at any place you might reasonably want to. Generally speaking cost is the main variable, but you should also consider opening hours (and thus possible additional costs for out-of hours pick-ups) and other factors such as whether you want to return to a different place, additional driver costs and so on. As ever, it can pay to shop around, not least because prices are very variable and it is impossible to predict who will have the best deal. Click here for fuller guidance, with links to car hire companies, etc.

 



Ferries

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. 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). But of course, the short crossing is quicker and cheaper, with many more sailings.

 Click here for a list of all UK and RoI ports with sailings to French ports, and links to the operators. Specialist ferry search sites for all crossings include AFerry.co.uk, Direct Ferries and Ferry Online.



Bookings, etc

To make travel arrangements, Chez Nous, one of the places where I advertise, offers some discounts. But there may be better available, so shop around or consider other channels. For example if you are a member of the AA or RAC you may be able to book your travel at good rates through them, as well as other travel services such as insurance cover for driving outside the UK.

 



 

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.