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Paris to Marseilles in 3 Hours on New Train

April 29, 2001|ACHRENE SICAKYUZ | Special to the Times

PARIS — On June 10, the fastest long-distance train in the world--the Train a Grande Vitesse, known as the TGV--will inaugurate a new connection on France's most popular route. With the TGV, Paris will be three hours from the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, 500 miles away--cutting one hour, 20 minutes from the trip.

The route goes through Provence and includes such popular tourist stops as Avignon, home to the medieval Palace of the Popes; picturesque Aix-en-Provence, where artist Paul Cezanne lived and worked; and Nimes, known for its classical Roman ruins. In Avignon there is an impressive double viaduct, part of the $3.5-billion cost of the line, where the route branches--one spur to Marseilles, one toward Nimes. Local lines continue the trip, albeit at a slower pace, to Monaco and Nice on the Riviera.

Until now, from the capital, the fastest way to reach the Mediterranean was to take a plane, an hour-and-a-half flight. Considering the time it can take to get to and from the airports, the train will be a serious competitor.

A one-way ticket on the TGV will vary from about $54 to $91 for first class, compared with a coach-class Air France fare of about $181. There will be 17 TGV departures a day. Reservations are required. Tickets may be bought in France or in the U.S. before departure via Rail Europe, telephone (877)-2TGVMED, Internet http://www .raileurope.com. (Prices are higher if bought in the U.S.)

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