Just got back from a short weekend (i.e. one night) in Paris. However with Strasbourg being 4 hours away by train* making a trip to the capital is rarely stress-free particularly if you’re travelling with children.

However I discovered, purely by accident, that some trains have a ‘family carriage’, which eases the pain considerably, not just for the parents, but for the kids and all the other non-parental passengers too.

Don’t confuse this with the UK’s idea of a ‘family carriage’ which is just a regular carriage with ‘family carriage’ written on the windows. A french family carriage has space for 18 adults, 6 toddlers, 8 wheelchair users and about 6 bicycles, it also has a play area and a vast toilet with baby changing facilities.

Problems do arise however when someone who is travelling without children books themselves into the family carriage. This can be done simply by fibbing to the booking agent that you will be bringing an infant with you – who travels for free so there’s no extra charge. While most people are honest (or oblivious) it seems the tantalizing possibility of having so much space (a regular carriage carries up to 100 people and all their luggage) results in the occassional dishonest reservation.

Hopefully we have discouraged one old lady from doing that next time, as it can’t have been pleasant being rammed by our pushchair, having her toes run-over with the same, or having to endure “Snow White and the seven Dwarves” at full blast on our portable DVD player for two hours plus? Tch – and the way she reacted – you’d have thought we were annoying her intentionally?

*until the TGV line opens in June 2007