How Fast is Your Speeding Bullet?

10 Jun

I was listening to Rick Steves the other day (and today and every day for the rest of my life!) and something he said stuck with me.  It’s pretty simple so I better stop now with the set up or you will be thoroughly underwhelmed.  To Europeans 100 miles is a long way and to Americans 100 years is a long time.  Today let’s talk about that 100 miles or 160 kilometers.

This TGV interior was designed by Christian Lacroix. In Crayola terms I think that this is Grape and Burnt Sienna.

Europeans have an amazing transportation system and the belle of the ball is their trains.  So okay, the Orient Express stopped running in 2009.  We can still read the book over and over and be surprised at the ending (it was a monkey!  or maybe that’s a different story?).  Still the love affair with trains doesn’t have to end.  Not when there is the adorable TGV to get hooked on.

TGV stands for Train á Grande Vitesse which is French for High Speed Train.  And high speed it most definitely is.  Though most routes of TGV trains run 186 – 200 mph, it has been clocked at an ear popping 357.16 mph.  It is, without a doubt, the world’s fastest train.  It’s also a smooth ride, quieter than conventional trains and has more leg room. 

The smooth and quieter ride are attributed to the trains special linking system.  The specific mechanics are lost on me but are clearly detailed on this informative site.  It boils down to having cars share wheels.  In a typical train car there are two sets of wheels.  In a TGV they are at the very end of the car and are shared with the next car.  So each car still has two sets but they are sharing.  The cars are closer together which reduces the noise.  It also makes for a lighter train and is a safety improvement as the cars are less likely jettison.

What this means for the traveler is that they can now go between France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain by train about as quickly as they can by air.  You know, with all the passenger screening, boarding time and transport to the airport saved.  Not to mention train travel is better for the environment as it is electric.  (Super.  Now I’m going to have “the Electric Slide” in my head again today.)  It’s also safer as there have been no fatalities on the TGV line since its official start in 1981.

If you do plan to travel via TGV you’ll need a reservation.  If you’re already using a EuRail pass then it’s only €3 to make a reservation.  There is a limited availability of seats for pass holders though so it’s good to book early, which you can do as early as three months in advance.  The interiors of these trains look wonderfully comfortable.  And if you’re traveling in first class, which pass holders automatically can, you get your own power outlet and table.  So even in France I can play Plants vs. Zombies and ignore the scenery.  Bonjour!  I can also bring my own food on to the train and if that lunch is a liquid one that’s okay.  Both beer and wine can be brought on the train to enjoy though there is food available.  You know, if you need something quick or if you need to brake your fast.  Okay, I’m done with train puns. Catch you later!

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