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An overnight train to the Alps

Ailefroide climbing 105Ailefroide is a small village situated in the Hautes Alpes in France about 35 minutes’ drive from Briancon and only a stone’s throw on the map from Alp D’Huez and Argentiere.  I recently visited with my daughter and around thirty members of our mountaineering club – KMC.   This is one in a series of blog posts about how to get there and what to do when you do.

How to get to Ailefroide by train

 

1) Train to London
2) Eurostar to Paris
3) Overnight Sleeper to Briancon / Argentière La Bessée (Argentière Hautes Alpes on the train)
4) Bus from Briancon or Argentière La Bessée to Ailefoide

 

Ailefroide climbing 228

This is the route we took.  I loved it.  We had lots of time, so a full day on the train was fine for our needs.  It was like a great adventure and we were able to read, drink tea, eat and generally please ourselves.  You can get a more speedy direct train but the result will probably be a long time awake.
In an attempt to keep costs down we booked four months ahead. We travelled from Manchester to London on the train at 10am, took the Eurostar at 2pm to paris and then at 8pm took an overnight train from Paris to Briancon.  This was due to arrive at 8am the following morning, but due to a technical problem with the train** we actually arrived much later – at 1pm, with the latter part of the journey being 4 hours on a coach.

 

Ailefroide climbing 226

We hadn’t planned the rest of the journey and, arriving so late, missed the bus to Ailefroide. In the end, as the weather was damp as we were jaded from the coach journey, we took a taxi.  This was an expensive option and one I wouldn’t recommend. It cost €53 (£47).  What was useful was the discussion with the taxi driver on the way who imparted some useful local knowledge.

 

Costs:

Ailefroide climbing 225

Return train to London:    £30 (with family railcard)

Return Eurostar to Paris:   £89

Sleeper train Paris to Briancon return: £110

Total: Manchester to Briancon £229 for one person return.
Transfer: Briançon to Ailefroide £48 by taxi / approx €10 by bus.

 

**Due to arriving more than one hour late (four, in our case), we were given an envelope to send in our tickets and receive a full refund from SNCF.  I thought this was brilliant.  They also provided an aeroplane-style breakfast box, as we had no opportunity to buy food or drink during the journey or with the delay.

Pros of the train option

Relaxed

You can read or do work on the way

Get to see the countryside

No need to worry about driving / breaking down in a foreign place

No tolls

No petrol costs which could be unpredictable

No ferries to wait for

It forces you to pack light and be minimal (a good thing for me!)

Good if other people you now can take a few heavy things over for you

You get to speak the lingo more !

You learn things you wouldn’t find out if you were driving

SNCF were very organised when the train broke down – coach arrived within 20 mins

Cheaper than two people driving

Ailefroide climbing 117Cons of the train option

You have to carry everything you might need, unless someone else can take some of your bags

You can’t take everything for every eventuality

No transport when you’re there

Trains sometimes break down

Transfers for the final stage were expensive

Other Options:

Plane to Lyon & Drive a hire car

Plane to Geneva & Drive a hire car

Drive from the UK (Total of around £550 – £650 per car)

Any questions, please feel free to ask. 

Emily

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