Luxury houses in France you don’t have to fly to

It’s a common topic of conversation whatever happened to the fabled glamour of air travel? Even if your flight does actually leave on time, the indignity of removing one’s clothing, having to stand in bag-drop queues for hours and being forced to suffer increasingly bad-mannered service have combined to make passing through airports an inevitable ordeal.

And, although the ash cloud of last April may seem like a distant memory, there are those who expect a neighbouring volcano to Eyjafjallajökull, the even more fearsome Katla, to be next. Whether she blows or not, the president of Iceland was quoted this summer as advising Europeans to ‘learn to handle volcanoes better and learn from experience’. Combine this potential threat to air travel with the ongoing strikes at BA, and it’s looking less attractive to fly this winter, particularly to France.

Trains seem to be the answer, even for ski properties. The Eurostar Direct Ski Train leaves from London St Pancras to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne or Bourg-St-Maurice. A trip to La Plagne, for example, takes 7½ hours, with a transfer to the resort of about 30 minutes. The direct Eurostar to Bourg St Maurice takes about eight hours, with transfer to Les Arcs by the free funicular or local buses taking about 35 minutes.

For more information, contact Rail Europe at; Eurostar at and Brittany ferries at

Provence: farmhouse, 20km from Avignon
A direct service runs throughout the summer; Paris to Avignon is 2½ hours. The journey takes five hours in total from London to Avignon
This beautiful farmhouse is only a few minutes outside St Rémy de Provence and sits in a glorious location with views of Les Alpilles. There are four bedrooms, a covered terrace, sun room, landscaped gardens and a swimming pool. €1,050,000 Knight Frank Frank (020-7629 8171;

Paris: flat in the 20th arrondissement

The Eurostar from St Pancras to Gard du Nord takes two hours, 15 mins
This bright duplex apartment with 100sq m of living space is in the neighbourhood of Ménilmontant. It has recently been renovated to a high standard, and has two bedrooms, good living space and views over the city. €658,350 Chesterton Humberts (020-3040 8210;

Angoulême: neo-Gothic château, 10km from station

Angoulême is 2½ hours from Paris; journey time five hours in total
This recently restored château has huge stone fireplaces in every room and internal shutters, plus stained glass. It has numerous outbuildings, including a caretaker’s house, a barn, a wine store and stables. €2.592m Savills (020-7016 3740;

Provence: Maison de mâitre Five hours in total, 20 mins from Avignon TGV station

Believed to be located on the site of Saint Albergati’s monastery, this wonderful eight-bedroom maison de mâitre has been beautifully redecorated. €1.7m Wink-worth (020-8576 5582;

Bordeaux: town house in city centre
Journey 5½ hrs, taking the TGV in Paris
This eight-bedroom house in the centre of the historic town of Bordeaux has a marbled entrance hall and an elegant drawing room, whose double doors open onto a walled garden with terraces and a swimming pool. €1,431,000 Knight Frank (020-7629 8171;

Aquitaine: House 10km from Langon station
Three hours and 40 minutes from Paris on the TGV; 7hrs in total
Set in rolling countryside five minutes from the pretty spa town of Casteljaloux is this magnificent south-facing Metairie. It has a superb wine cellar, an orchard, a swimming pool and stables. €1.4m Savills (020-7016 3740;

Normandy: farmhouse near Orne

The ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg takes three hours, followed by a 1½-hour drive. It is about six hours by train, changing in Paris
This elegant 18th-century farmhouse has seven bedrooms, four reception rooms, cellars and a self-contained four-bedroom apartment. The grounds feature a pretty pond and there are stables, too. €1.1m Chesterton Humberts (020-3040 8210;

Alps: chalet in Plagne Montalbert

St Pancras to Aime La Plagne takes about 7½ hours, with a transfer to La Plagne of about 30 minutes, which only runs on a Saturday between December and February
The chalet is located about 150 metres from the centre of the village, which has a quaint, pedestrianised high street with a number of shops. The newly built chalet is spread over three floors and can sleep up to 18 people, in eight bedrooms, all with en-suite facilities. The relaxation area on the ground floor features a Jacuzzi and a sauna. €1.5m Erna Low Property (020-7590 1624;