French Train Mix

A lot of people love to travel. I am not quite one of them. Sure I love wandering through exotic markets, exploring restaurants in new cities, and sitting under an umbrella on the beach. But the hard part for me to deal with is getting there. I know that travel used to be romantic and fun, but it’s not anymore. And people like the woman sitting across the aisle from me who just couldn’t believe that her enormous suitcase won’t fit in the overhead bin just above her seat and was refusing to put it elsewhere, and hassling the flight attendant about it, doesn’t add to the allure.

bag of mix

The main thing I don’t like about travel is this: I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like being trapped in a plane, unable to move (even when seated), I never sleep well unless I’m in my own bed, and call me crazy, but I like the option of going to the bathroom when I need to go to the bathroom. I’d make a horrible prisoner. And after fifteen minutes trapped in my seat, one can only read about electric butter slicers, portable water washers, and the latest in nose-hair removal technology so many times in the Sky Mall catalog.

What makes travel much more enjoyable are taking French trains. Lightening-fast, the TGV trains run on schedule, are clean and spacious, and if you buy them at the right time, you can snag first-class tickets that are pas trop cher. But even the regular train cars are pretty great. But as a friend once said to me; “I don’t do drugs, so I figure I can use that money to go first-class on the train.”

As I’ve learned, though, France is a country of great highs, and an occasional low. When the French do something right, it’s wonderful. But sometimes the results are decidedly different. If you want to see an excellent example, compare the Opéra Garnier with the Opéra Bastille, and you’ll see what I mean.

French cuisine a source of national pride and I would guess that when you mention the words “French cuisine” to anyone, no matter where they are in the world, the image of wonderful meals and fine dining comes to mind.

carte sncf

So why is the food on the French trains so regrettable? It’s one of the very few times that French people don’t get so excited about tucking in a meal. I try to avoid the food at all costs, but because I love hanging out in the café car, I’ll sometimes have a coffee, and on my last trip I ordered a café noir for myself and a noisette (a café express with a bit of milk) for Romain.

I had my hopes up when they were advertising that the coffee they were using was Lavazza. And while I watched her unwrap the packaging from each individually-wrapped hard-plastic disposable capsule, I figured if there was going to be all that ecological waste, at least something decent might come of it. Namely, a decent cup of coffee.

train coffee

Instead, I do believe that this was the worst cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life. I’d say it was tasteless, except for the rank, tastebud-torturing flavor of what could only be described, as the French do, as eau de chausettes—sock water.

Wisely, Romain took a bit of milk in his coffee, since that can soften the effects of bitter coffee. But when she handed him a large cup full of hot, sterilized milk, make beige by a teaspoonful of the dreaded brew, he handed it back to her and told her it wasn’t a noisette, which she agreed—but shrugged it off. (Next time you’re in France, try returning your coffee and you’ll see why I hide behind Romain when he does that.)

I won’t even bore you with stories about the food, but let’s just say I didn’t think it was possible to mess up a simple sandwich, which they manage to do. I mean, how hard it is to slice a fresh baguette in half, smear it with butter and add a few slices of jambon de paysanne or Comté? It’s not like a good baguette and terrific cheese are all that hard to come by around here.


So like many French people, I never get on a train without bringing food with me. Sometimes it’ll be a simple sandwich, but once I was preparing for a voyage with a group of people from the states and we were shopping, putting together a grand pic-nique. When I added a few bottles of wine, they ask me; “Can you drink wine on the train?”

“C’est obligatoire!” I responded, loading a few bottles of Touraine rouge and a corkscrew into my basket.

Still, sometimes the trip may not merit a full meal. So I call this my French Train Mix and I refuse to get on a train without it. My idea of hell is to be trapped on a TGV train and being forced to order something from the café car.

But I substitute “plane” for “train”, and always pack a bag of this American-style trail mix along with me on trips. (I’m not so familiar with train food in other countries, but I think when it comes to airlines, the country of origin doesn’t matter.) Mine’s usually a mix of dried cherries and snipped apricots, disks of dark chocolate, and plenty of crisp, well-toasted nuts, and jumbled together. I’d add peanut M&M’s, but I’d probably end up picking those out and only eating them instead of the healthy stuff, so I think it’s wise not to use them.

On this journey, we had the best sandwiches ever: smoked ham, wedges of pungent chèvre, sliced cornichons leftover from a not-entirely-successful baking experiment, and a generous coating of tapenade verte slathered on both sides of a poppy seed baguette from my favorite secret bakery in Paris that I can’t tell anyone about since the place is, as the French would say; un peu triste, or, a little sad. Which actually means it’s kind of depressing. And truly, from the cracked Formica walls to the bare-bulb light bathing the place in a grimy-yellow hue that would make a 1940’s mental institution seem cheery in comparison. (But oh, those baguettes!…)

Speaking of depressing, they’re about to serve us lunch on the flight I’m on right now. And from the look (and smell) of things coming down the aisle, I’m really thankful we brought those sandwiches along, although due to some silly rules, we couldn’t bring along any libations. And I know we’ll be dipping into my American Plane Mix a lot during the next few hours. But I’m not sharing any with the woman across the aisle from me. She’s been hassling the flight attendants about everything, and I’m sure if they had their way, they’d place her in front of the open door 40,000 feet up here and give her a push.

As someone who’s worked in the hospitality business, I know there’s one golden rule that should never be broken: Don’t f-ck with people serving you food.

Years ago I worked with a woman who was a flight attendant with Pan Am for something like twenty-five years before becoming a baker. And hoo-boy…the stories that girl had! One in particular that stuck in my mind involved a special dressing for a pilot’s salad that a male flight attendant prepared en privée for a, particularly homophobic pilot.

Which is probably another reason that I bring my own along. Even though I always make an extra effort to be nice to folks working on planes, I’m afraid they might mix up 16E with 16F, and I wouldn’t want to eat whatever they’re planning on serving her.



  • February 28, 2009 9:13am

    Right on the mark! I fly a lot for work and and your apt descriptions pretty much explain why it is no fun at all. Hope that your final destination and company makes getting there completely worthwhile.

  • Jessica
    February 28, 2009 10:14am

    J’adore le TGV. Actually, I love all of the high speed trains and I think that train travel is so much more civilized. I always feel the inclination to “moo” when I’m boarding a plane — I hate being treated like a head of cattle. I hope that you survived the trip and now you can enjoy your holiday!

  • Tom Coady
    February 28, 2009 10:34am

    100% agreed concerning individually-wrapped hard-plastic disposable coffee capsules. Sadly 90% of expresso machines sold in the UK are now geared to these landfillers. What the hell is wrong with people these days? Not only can they not be bothered to blend, roast and grind their own beans, now they cant even fill a filter holder with ground coffee.

    I recently upgraded from my trusty old krups expresso to a bean to cup version, but it never delivered the same flavour for reasons that are beyond me so I’m back to my 12 year old F884.

  • noah
    February 28, 2009 11:22am

    There are actually lyrics from an early-80s (I think) hit by Renaud about train sandwiches, where he sings, “C’est vrai que je suis épais, comme un sandwich SNCF.”

    That one made no sense to me at first; the explanation I got was that the singer was talking about how scrawny he was, and compared himself to the scrawny, meat-less sandwiches from the cafe car.

    I have gotten those yogurts in the ceramic containers on the tgv, though. those I like.


  • michaela
    February 28, 2009 11:30am

    i travel each week for work and must agree that carrying a snack pack along is essential. it is however, a great discovery when you can find an airport restuarant with decent food.

  • February 28, 2009 11:49am

    Does anyone else remember in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, how Ford always ranted about “hating the actual traveling-through-space part of space travel”?

    Or am I the only nerd out here today? Anyway, I feel exactly that way about flying… love to travel, hate the method of getting there.

  • Janet McAndrew
    February 28, 2009 12:35pm

    No Tracey, you’re not the only nerd out there…I personally never travel without my trusty towel. ;-)
    Having experience travelling by plane & TGV, I would choose the train everytime. I have had more pleasant conversations on the train then on a plane. I think not being on old terra firma may have something to do with it.
    David – enjoy your time off.

  • February 28, 2009 1:01pm

    The fun fact about SNCF (french train) sandwitches is that they cost much more than the price asked to the clients on the train. The quality is supposed to be high and the ingredients fresh… when they come out of the factory :D.
    Part of the price is then paid by the company, at least by everyone tickets. I’d say : get rid of this cost on the ticket, and allow private companies to offer many different kind of meals in the train :D.

    I’d surely pay to have one big sachet of your train mix, its seems to be the perfect thing à grignotter during all trip !


  • February 28, 2009 2:06pm

    david said> “And after fifteen minutes trapped in my seat, one can only read about electric butter slicers, portable water washers, and the latest in nose-hair removal technology so many times in the Sky Mall catalog ”

    I had exactly the same problem in the train, and worse : I used to be a smoker, and I was bored AND en manque at the same time. Then I’ve discovered crochet and knitting (when quitting smoke). have you ever considered learning those ? :D

    with a good glass of wine and a charming lover faisant les yeux doux, this the third way I know to enjoy the travel time to anywhere :D


  • Connie
    February 28, 2009 2:21pm

    A little spunk has its place but really, in someone’s salad dressing? Ewwww…

  • February 28, 2009 3:51pm

    Ah, but I ate one of the best meals of my life on a European train. I was 20, had just survived a plane trip from Chicago to Brussels where the food was inedible (and I’m not picky), plus I’d been so excited that I was going to study in *Europe*!! that I hadn’t eaten before leaving. I had to take the train to Paris to meet my friends, and exhausted and starving I stumbled into the restaurant car. I don’t know if there even was a cafe car, but I wound up spending more money than I should have on a lovely lunch of coq au vin, wine (!), and an actual cheese trolley for the cheese course — and a chocolate mousse for dessert I think. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Twenty years old, on my own, eating a real meal like a big sophisticate while watching France go by outside the window. It was lovely.
    But yes, I agree that travel is dreadful. I rely on hard boiled eggs, cheese, crackers and an apple. Although once in Salt Lake I got a lovely sandwich at Granato brothers before getting on a plane — the smell of salami made my neighbors jealous.

  • Kristina
    February 28, 2009 7:54pm

    David, Totally unrelated to this blog post (although I do agree with you that traveling especially in coach is just awful), I wanted to say . . . I was at Quince last night in San Francisco and mentioned that a famous food blogger had posted an article about white chocolate and it made me feel justified in my love of this sweet treat . . . They all lambasted me! Sheesh. I mean, I do love dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate–I love it all! Anyways, I wanted to share my annoyance with you.

  • Donna McClure
    February 28, 2009 9:38pm

    Having just returned by plane from Italy via San Francisco, I truely believe air plane seats were invented to be as uncomfortable as humanly possible! I got three men talking in German for the entire 12 hour flight over and two crying babies on the 12 hour flight back. Italy was wonderful but when are they going to invent some way to travel by air in “comfort”? I love the train! I even like the slow train and a bullet train in the vast USA would be WONDERFUL!!!

  • georgie
    February 28, 2009 9:59pm

    One reason I don’t travel (besides the expense) is because the getting to and from your destination is no fun. Screaming children-wouldn’t it be nice if they had something like the cone of silence seating for them? Before Mom was aware that you could get good coffee in Europe she always packed a small jar of Folgers instant coffee. This was the same woman who packed along one or two cans of Lysol if we took car trips to the Midwest or California. She wasn’t too sure about hotel/motel sanitation standards.

  • February 28, 2009 10:30pm

    Hey D-
    I don’t think anyone got that last paragraph!!!

    xo, j

  • March 1, 2009 12:24am

    jaden> or maybe that’s so creepy funny that no one finds how to bounce on this in the comments :D. (ewww, bounce on this… well, you see what I meant)

  • Victor in Montreal
    March 1, 2009 12:30am

    “sliced cornichons leftover from a not-entirely-successful baking experiment” – David, I hope you’ll expound on this!

  • carol in paris
    March 1, 2009 2:41am

    hello—just a quick agreement with your travel commentary— with one exception, having nothing to do with the travel part—The Bastille may not be gorgeous outside but it is wonderful for opera and we often go. On the travel side—remembering what Samuel Johnson once said about egregious nature of sea voyages applies here for me and air travel: It has all the charm of a prison cell plus the possibility of a sudden death.

  • March 1, 2009 5:32am

    You are so right on! Always try to pack my own when traveling by TGV as it is true the food is dreadful! And when you are traveling with two young kids, you often gotta do the cafe car. Yuck! I did however eat for the very first time the moelleux au chocolat from Paul bought at Gare Montparnasse the last time we traveled by train (was smart enough to buy some supplies before boarding that time) and it wasn’t half-bad. Though maybe I was just starving! Train mix is definitely a great idea and I’ll think of you the next time I prepare some! :)

  • March 1, 2009 9:10am

    Wow, your trail mix looks exactly like the snack I take with me when I fly. I’m surprised that French train food is so dismal.

  • Ruth
    March 1, 2009 9:38am

    Travel destinations are great , getting there is something altogether different.
    When on the long haul this is how I survive. Settle into the cramped place you will occupy for the next 8-14 hrs.Drink a glass of red wine, put on Bose headphones, pop an Ambian, turn on a movie, when groggy put eye mask on , use neck pillow and cover self in a comfy throw. With any luck you will wake up after breakfast has been served with only enough time to brush your teeth before landing.

  • Mrs Redboots
    March 1, 2009 10:18am

    One wouldn’t mind train food being so naff if it wasn’t so expensive! I always take a picnic, and am looking forward to packing one at the end of this month when we are coming to the City of Light for a few days.

    In January we went to Avignon on the TGV. I wasn’t well and slept most of the way; my husband said “Three hours travelling through France in pitch darkness – we could be anywhere!” Coming back, in daylight and I was feeling better, was much more fun we could see where we were.

  • Axelle
    March 1, 2009 10:22am

    That’s so funny ! I’m french, so, please, excuse my english. I don’t use to speak your language as often as I would like. But, what you describe from TGV and the awful sandwiches is so TRUE ! You’re totally right, food is so important for us that it’s incredible to find such a terrific meal in trains !… And it’s true, I never get in a train without MY food ! Even bought in station.
    2 weeks ago, I had to go in Paris, but there was a “tempest” (??) and we didn’t know if our train could arrived in Paris, without stopping on the road. I said to my friends :”We have to be in station very early, because I want to buy something to eat, before to leave ! No possibility for me to think that I could be OBLIGATED to buy the train’s food !”
    Thank you for your site, that I have discovered the last week, that I like and which gives me a little image from how Americans watch Frenches. That’s always very instructive and funny, sometimes.
    Sorry again for my english.

  • March 1, 2009 10:55am

    i know airplane food isn’t all that good… but for some reason, i’ve always loved them. Even when they taste like cardboard or weird. and i love those little packets of snacks they give out. but i’ve only flown asian countries… so, i can’t speak for anywhere else.

    i used to be very excited when flying… but the last few years, i usually end up falling asleep as soon as we take off. wake up for meals, then back to sleep until we land. UGH!

    btw, david, thanks for the response for the marshmallow question. my family loved the chocolate marshmallows i adapted from your recipe. very soft and spongy. making another batch tonight to see how they hold up to hot chocolate tomorrow. now, i’m going to have problems with leftover yolks and i don’t have an ice cream machine. lol


  • March 1, 2009 1:18pm

    Too right. TGV food is dreadful and overpriced. A missed chance to spread the word about French cuisine! I’m surprised that they are not embarrassed.
    I’ve always wanted to go on the Transiberian Express. Apparently it is very interesting the switch in cuisines from Soviet to Chinese…

  • March 1, 2009 1:54pm

    I could not agree more! I rarely get on a flight without my trusty lamb sandwich in pita from the place across the street from my apartment..perfect self-contained plane food!

  • Sunny
    March 1, 2009 2:27pm

    Kayenne, any time you have leftover egg yolks, make yourself a batch of pasta — mix the egg yolks and a pinch of salt in a mound of flour. Make a *very* stiff dough by beating flour into the yolks, then kneading in more flour until you have a very stiff mass. Let it rest for a while to relax the gluten.

    Roll it out on a floured surface until paper-thin. Let rest on a floured cloth until leathery to the touch (not dry, but not sticky or wet, either)

    Now…decide what type of pasta you want. For fettucine, or what my great-gran (who taught me how to make them) called noodles, roll the sheet of leathery dough into a tight spiral. Cut with a very sharp paring knife into ribbons about 5-6mm (1/4″) wide. Spread them out on a baking pan, or hang them over a broomstick balanced between two chairs (drape a dishcloth over the broomstick for hygiene’s sake). Let dry, then bag and store in the freezer til ready to use.

    To cook, drop them into a simmering pot of hot liquid (broth or good stock is best, but salted water will do) and simmer until tender but still al dente — 8-10 minutes, usually.

    You’ll never look at storebought pasta the same way.

  • Ms B
    March 1, 2009 4:53pm

    I couldn’t agree more on the current necessity of having “travel food” with you on the plane. In fact, I view it as essential to know where I can pick up my “airplane meal” before I catch a flight on the way home.

    In L.A., LaBrea Bakery (next to Campanile) has yummy sandwiches and something that I believe they call “farmer’s tarts” that are much like a crustless quiche in a muffin shape. They travel very well. In Vegas, we hit Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian for open-faced savory tarts, macaroons, and (if they are in stock) the house-made “moon pies”. The Bouchon Bakery in Yountville also is a good option after a trip to the Napa Valley. Leaving New York, the only right choice is bagel and smoked whitefish salad (especially because Zabar’s is quite happy to pack your fish products so that you can carry them on in cooling bags!). And when we went to London, we carried an assortment of Pret-a-manger sandwiches and sides with us. Of course, the whole process is facilitated by the fact that we generally pack a small foldable cooler with us so that we have cold storage until after we board!

    I think that we incite hatred among our fellow passengers when we turn down the airline offerings and dive into the treat of the day! Top it off with the fact that we never travel without our own movies to pass the time, and flying becomes almost pleasant again! I can hardly wait until TSA revises the liquid rules and we can carry on small bottles of wine again (500 ml bottles of many drinkable white wines have screw tops and can be easily hidden from the flight attendants).

  • Bob Y
    March 1, 2009 5:19pm

    A charming piece, David. But your Garnier/Bastille argument is specious. Its comparing les pommes et les orange. Garnier is a supreme achievement of 19th century beaux art architecture. Bastille is an expression of the 20th century, despite its dreadful architecture. Surely you don’t want to freeze time, or do you??

  • March 1, 2009 8:23pm

    I now take sushi on the planes, it occupies my time and is healthy…


  • March 1, 2009 8:38pm

    The last time I was on a French train, going to Frankfurt, I survived very well on fresh figs I picked up at a market stall before boarding. As for airplanes…I think they did us a favor by dropping the meals.

  • March 2, 2009 2:16am


    thanks for the push. i’m ashamed to say i completely forgot about fresh pasta… (David Lebovitz makes me think ice cream all the time!) and i was just looking through ruhlman’s website a couple of days ago and had bought a bag of semolina flour to mix into APF. i’ve made lasagna and ravioli before. but i recall my ravioli being too dense and thick. lol

    funny you should mention a broomstick. i’m currently using a sawed off end of a broomstick as my rolling pin. it was my aunt’s decades ago when she used to bake a lot and later gave to me. i’ve been considering buying a french rolling pin lately. i never liked those with handles on the side.

    looks like dinner has been decided for me now. and the other half of the leftover eggs are going into a rich leche flan for dessert!



  • March 2, 2009 4:58am

    Love the SNCF. It’s really amazing to think that I could be in Paris in an hour and a half or across the country by mid-afternoon. And the trains really are comfortable.

    I have found, however, that bringing your own food is a must and so I always stop by the boulangerie next door (I don’t think you can live in France without living next to a boulangerie) and snag a good, hearty loaf of bread (at the very least) to tide me over until I can make it to something more appetizing than train food.

  • March 2, 2009 6:32am

    Hey David…being a flight attendant I DID get the last paragraph! Probably worse than that scenario is eating the boxed pizza served in coach that has a shelf life longer than the Skymall magazine. Flying to Paris regularly for years, I truly get all aspects of your travel experiences. Flight attendants are expert at the movable feast and never being caught without good food. Thanks for the Train Mix idea.
    PS……if I spot you on my airplane, I’ll do my best to pluck you out of steerage with a glass of French Champagne in my hand. Cheers!

  • Sandra
    March 2, 2009 6:38am

    In November 2001, we took the TGV from Paris to Brussels when our son was spending a semester abroad there. It was crowded, and we didn’t bother with food because it was mid-morning and about a 2 hour trip. Since there were 3 of us,we didn’t go first class either. But the trip was very pleasant and moved so well that the nap I had was also a bonus.
    A year later, we took a train from York, England to Edinborough ( the day after a family wedding there). Fortunately we were told to book first class tickets in advance, and found that they were cheaper than regular seats–but the benefit of the reserved seats along with good food service was a huge improvement over Amtrak regional trains in the Northeast corridor–food-wise.( One has to walk several car lengths to a food car and wait on line for snack stuff–nothing healthy at all.) A charming woman came around with a trolley cart with all kinds of great choices and china service. We had a table and also the friendly English who pointed out interesting sights along the way near the North Sea. There was also pastry, etc.

    Taking Amtrak after that from Newark to DC was okay in terms of comfort ( Plenty of leg room and overhead storage for reasonable size bags), but the lack of the food convenience like the English trolley ( ie “Harry Potter books and movies ) was a definite disappointment.
    And now the American airlines charge for everything under the sun–why bother to travel at all–more hassle than it is worth? Although USAirways just backed off charging for beverages, in view of lower fuel costs.

  • March 2, 2009 9:56am

    The “special dressing” reminds me of a scene in Fight Club with some bisque. YIKES. My husband has 2 bosses (twin brothers) who send back their food as many as 4 times. My husband just shakes his head and tells them they’re crazy.

  • March 2, 2009 2:07pm

    I’m not in the hospitality business, but oh, boy, is that a good rule!!! I always try to be nice to stuards and stuardesses on the plane – their job is not easy! Although every time I fly Lufthansa, they seem to have guys so scary that I’m afraid to ask them for some water… :) Last time I flew, I smuggled in little bottles of chocolat liqueur and that made the flight ALL BETTER.

  • March 2, 2009 5:08pm

    I feel your pain. I, too, feel that travel- AIR TRAVEL in particular, has become a downright miserable experience. I used to look forward to the smiling flight attendants and the novelty of flying, but now I feel like passengers are treated like cattle, and I rarely get those smiles anymore. The cost of air travel has risen but the standard of service has just gone down the tubes, and I’ve gotten treated like some necessary evil by many a flight attendant. Of course I can’t really complain, since I’m at the mercy of the crew who could deem me a security threat if I cause too much of a stir, I’m sure. Don’t even get me started on the food, which used to be free (as it should be- it’s crap!) but now costs money. Honey, you couldn’t PAY me to eat that food! Oh- and did you see the story about RyanAir thinking of charging people to use the bathroom on flights? I’m not kidding.

    Trains in Japan, where I lived for many years, are exactly as you describe the ones in France, minus the bad food. Clean, on-time and comfortable, it’s a pleasure to take the bullet train or airport express train to and from anywhere. I only wish the US would come up with a comprable system of travel. Luckily for the Japanese, the eki-ben (train station lunch boxes) are excellent and come in many varieties.

    PS- I enjoy your blog very much!

  • March 2, 2009 5:46pm

    I started carrying my own food with me when I travelled a few years ago. I usually take bread, cheese, some crudites, and something snacky like crackers or nuts. The smell of plane food is really quite nauseating. And I do love the TGV. I used to take it from Geneva to Paris all the time. I miss the train.

  • March 2, 2009 8:46pm

    Should we be guessing here? Are you at the food bloggers bash in the Bahamas?

  • adrian
    March 3, 2009 5:00am

    thanks for the idea with the trail mix, David. I just made me a bag for the office with plain M&Ms, dried cranberries, raisins and plain cashews. It’s still a bit sweet though. I tried to find some decent dark chocolate to put in, but couldn’t find any here in Munich (any small enough at least). What kind of dark chocolate disks did you use? I know Quai Süd has small chocolate chips, but they might be too small and expensive.

  • March 3, 2009 8:37am

    adrian: I used Callebaut disks (called ‘calets’) which can be purchased at G. Detou and Metro.

  • Teryll
    March 3, 2009 11:15am

    I too, am not the greatest traveller. It’s about the destination, not the journey! LOL! I used to love flying when I was younger, but now I’m 30. I’m pretty set in most of my ways and I just want to get where I’m going. I totally can relate to your travel angst! Sounds like you’re having a great time!

  • adrian
    March 5, 2009 5:26am

    Many thanks, David. I will look them up immediately. Have a nice vacation!

  • bruessel
    March 5, 2009 6:56am

    Unfortunately, the days when you could have a real meal in a proper restaurant car on the train from Brussels to Paris are gone forever.
    The first time I took the TGV from Brussels to Avignon I almost starved to death: finally having resigned myself to go and buy a sandwich from the buffet car, they told me they had run out.
    Thanks for all the tips on what to take.

  • kim
    March 9, 2009 8:43am

    Ah, I once took the TGV from Brussels to Bordeaux (6 hours!) and yes, the food wasn’t good at all. We survived thanks to a box of ‘Dinosaur cookies’ from Lu – but your mix seems way better.
    Your salad dressing anecdote made me think of the book ‘Air Babylon’ which I just read. You’ll never dare to eat on planes again…


  • Steve G
    March 10, 2009 3:11pm

    Being not just polite but friendly with flight attendants definitely pays dividends. Providing exact change for two drinks, making their life much easier, yielded this one: “the FAA won’t let us serve you two drinks at once, but I promise I’ll be RIGHT BACK with your second one!” Then there was the time a nice flight attendant loaned me his personal stash of cayenne pepper to spike my United Airlines Incipient Bloody Mary into something resembling a tasty drink. So much better than special sauce…

  • March 13, 2009 6:36am

    I thought the TGV coffee was the only thing worth touching! For the most part, it’s drinkable, and comes with a lovely sliver of valrhona… I don’t take too much pride in British food but have you checked out your carry-on lunch options at St. Pancras? Chop’d and a bunch of others couldn’t be better, wish they’d try a bit harder at Gare du Nord!

  • March 13, 2009 6:59am

    Clementine: I haven’t taken the Eurostar in a while, but when I last did, in the Eurostar terminal (after you pass through security) there was a branch of Paul, a very passable French chain that has very good sandwiches.

    I think there’s also another one in the gare du Nord, although the rest of the options around there are indeed, regrettable.

  • March 13, 2009 10:22pm

    “Train mix” is exactly what I eat for dessert at home — we rarely have dessert food in the house, but we always have a bag of chocolate chips for last-minute baking. When I absolutely need chocolate (often) I pull out the little tubs of walnuts, pecans, dried apricots, and chocolate chips (but probably eat them in a less healthy ratio than you do).

  • Danna
    July 8, 2009 12:17pm

    Great article – any thoughts on where one might pick up something tasty in the train station at CDG? Or should we merely fast until we get to Lyon 2 hours later?

    I keep an open bag of chocolate chips in the pantry. I like to keep some chocolate in my system at all times.

  • david
    July 8, 2009 12:23pm

    Danna: Nope. There might be a branch of Paul there (see my comment above) but otherwise, I’d do as I do, and plan for the worst.

    (Note: The food at CDG airport is just as bad as the food on the train. Unfortunately.)

  • Jean Marie
    August 17, 2009 12:20pm

    I am going with some girlfriends to see Julie & Julia tonight and will be packing little bags of your trail mix for us to munch on. It did not seem right to rely on American movie theater snacks – popcorn with yucky ersatz butter, etc.

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