To Bordeaux by train

The railway station Gare Saint-Jean in Bordeaux is a short distance southwest of the city center, just a quarter of an hour by bicycle from the opera house (Grand-Théâtre), a distance of 3.3 km.

Gare Saint-Jean

I traveled to Bordeaux on a TGV train from Toulouse, travelling first class because when I booked a special deal was available on the SNCF website for only 25 Euros.

My presence in a first class coach is somewhat paradoxical, I suppose, since the main attraction of first class for rich travelers is that they can be spared the indignity of having to rub elbows with impecunious people like me.

First class in a TGV to Bordeaux

A few days later I left on an “iDTGV” train. This train left Bordeaux at 11:18 and went non-stop to Paris, arriving at the station Paris-Montparnasse at 14:34 (or 14h34 as they write it in France).

This was my first and only journey on an “iDTGV” train. There won’t be any more, because the “iDTGV” service was discontinued at the end of 2017.

“iDTGV” was not only a brand name but also a separate company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French national railway SNCF. This company was set up in 2004 to compete with cheap airlines, so these trains only went to and from Paris and only served places that are in France but at least 400 km away. (Which meant, essentially, that they only went to places in the South of France.)

As is often the case with initials in French, no one quite seemed to know exactly what “iDTGV” stood for. OK, the “TGV” was for “train de grande vitesse” (train of great speed), just like the normal TGV trains. I assumed the small “i” was for internet, because you could only book “iDTGV” online, but actually the “i” was for interactivité. The “D” in the name stood for Détente (=relaxation).

As of 2019, “iDTGV” has been replaced by “Ouigo”, which is also intended to compete with cheap airlines and (in the future) with cheap long-distance buses. I have never traveled by “Ouigo” and probably won’t, since it doesn’t even start from Paris but only from the suburb of Marne-la-Vallèe.

Bar in the TGV to Bordeaux

Location, aerial view and photo of Saint Jean station in Bordeaux on monumentum.fr.

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.

See more posts on train travel in western Europe.

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