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Can we do in one day: drive down from mountains and catch TGV in Avignon to Paris?

Thanks to all who helped me earlier this summer sort out part of a trip we still hope to take Dec '21-Jan '22 to Provence/Riviera etc and end up in Paris. (Yes, we're watching covid events carefully both in France and US.) Our current plan to leave ski region around Barcelonette, drive to Avignon, drop off our rental car and get the TGV to Paris. My questions:
--Is this doable (drive down from mtns, then catching earlier afternoon train) in one day in winter (staying on major highways)? (If too much for one day time-wise, obviously staying over in Avignon is an option.)
--Is it true most rental car companies have offices near the TGV station in Avignon so easy to drop off and go to TGV station--have looked at google maps but checking? (We will have rented at beginning of trip out of Marseille.)
--The train trip could be planned for New Year's Day; haven't found any notices that the TGVs run differently on such a holiday but does anyone know about this?
--Any other flags of concern or advice on this idea?
Many thanks.

Posted by
791 posts

Can't predict the drive into the future about weather. I am never one to be very far away from my departure point so I would opt to be in Avignon the day before, but that's just my travel style. However, when you make your car rental rez look for a drop off at Avignon TGV. Be careful, TGV is not the same as Avignon's central train station. You could drop off at central and taxi to TGV.

Too early to schedule a train for January 1st to answer whether they run on New Years Day and when.

Posted by
2287 posts

The TGV station in Aix (Aix-TGV) is closer to Barcelonnette, and the better choice for your car rental. The drive is doable in a morning, taking perhaps 3.5-4 hours with winter Saturday traffic in mind (less than 3 hours on clear roads). Snowy weather could affect the first 20 miles or so, so check the forecasts (and leave earlier if snow is forecast).

With this in mind, I would be comfortable with trains leaving around 3-4 PM or so. And if you happen to reach Aix early, you could always stop in town for a coffee or lunch; there is convenient and secure parking at the Rotonde car park.
Trains run normally on New Year's day in France; rental car offices at the station may be closed but you can still return cars (just make sure to take a video and photos of the car once parked to avoid liabilities).

By the way, if your rental car is diesel-powered, make sure to refuel it in the mountains (the diesel there has cold weather additive) or you might have trouble starting it if the weather is cold!

Oh, and I remember your earlier questions re. ski resorts in that part of the world. I forgot to mention Risoul-Vars, to which I have never been, but it has excellent facilities (especially on the Risoul side) and a reasonable snow record, a bit better than the Ubaye resorts.

Posted by
7590 posts

New Year's Day is a good day to travel because on the 1st people celebrate with a large lunch. The 2nd, the roads and trains will be jammed.

Posted by
6514 posts

Trains will be running on a reduced holiday schedule on the first — so you will be able to get a train, there just won’t be as many choices.

The bigger issue is that the car rental return place will almost 100% certainly be closed.

Posted by
122 posts

I'm pretty sure that the car rental places at Avignon-TGV operate 365 days a year. The smaller companies might have a deal with the larger ones for dropping off cars if they are closed that day. You have plenty of time to check that out.

I would feel less secure about driving from the mountains at that time of year -- the weather can be extremely variable and make even major roads impassible. It appears that your schedule has enough possible leeway to deal with such eventualities, so you shouldn't really worry about it. In the case of a real weather emergency, all of the rules become very lenient.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks to you all for this input--gives me plenty to think about and will try to nail down the details of drop off & holiday scheduling by direct emailing to car rental company of choice. (Appreciate the additional skiing advice, Balso--your previous comments have had a helpful effect on our planning!) Cheers--

Posted by
16860 posts

Historical schedule “plans” on bahn.com show the direct TGV departing from Avignon TGV station to Paris roughly every other hour between 7:30-19:30 last Jan. 1, similar to most days, with a 3-hour gap around lunch (plus other departures that include a connection). I would confirm the car rental before booking train tickets.