Why I shun cars

Two of my best friends in the blogging world and I have a bit of an ongoing joke: they don’t do public transport and I don’t do cars. Yesterday I wrote this blog post sitting on a train on my way to a family holiday in Wales, and I thought I would try and explain why I will always favour public transport over cars.

Family holiday, train journey www.FranglaiseMummy.com

Heading off on holiday yesterday, on our first train of three.

When Hubs and I first met, on the French Riviera, we both had cars – I had a bit of a crappy Citroën AX, however Hubs used to LOVE his cars, and he had a Clio RS sports car.

Within 2 weeks of Hubs moving in with me his beloved car was stolen from outside our house overnight. Whoops. Welcome to the neighbourhood new boyfriend!

He decided to replace it with a, less tempting to car thieves, standard Clio. Once we were living in the same house and working in the same location it was more fun to go into work together. So day after day we left my banger at home and took Hubs’s car to work.

After a year of this we decided to get rid of my car and see if we could survive on one car. That was in 2004. In 2006 L was born and everyone told us we’d need to buy a second car then. In 2010 we left France and in all that time we’d survived on just one family car.

When we left Nice we knew we wanted to settle in London. Part of the reason being that we were sick of driving. Nice and the French Riviera are beautiful but the traffic is literally unbearable. I recall sitting in traffic jams in Nice at 2am, mid-week. And the drivers there are the most disrespectful ever – everyone I know who lives on the French Riviera agrees with me.

Driving had become a chore. Stressful. Having a car had become a weight around our necks, not the freedom I once dreamed it was, aged 17, when I passed my driving test.

When we sold my car in 2004 we said we would buy another one, as and when we needed to. We never did.

When we sold our only car in 2010 we said we would buy one in London as and when we needed to. We still haven’t.

People often ask how we get by without a car, and with kids.

Well we live 7 minutes’ walk from our local train and tube station, which will take us all over London easily and around the country too.

If we need to go locally we walk. Or Hubs sometimes cycles.

If we want to go away for the weekend or on holiday we either hire a car or get the train.
Take this week. We’re on holiday at Bluestone National Park in Pembrokeshire, Wales, to review on this blog (watch out for posts on this over the next few days). The car journey, according to Google, would have taken us around 5 hours, and we all know that never means 5 hours. The train journey is also around 5 hours. Except we don’t need to stop for toilet breaks, stretch your leg breaks, lunch breaks etc.

So we made our way to Wales from London by train.

When I told my lovely blogging friends (you will remain anonymous this time but you know who you are!) we were getting the train to Wales, this was their response:

“WHAT???!!?? If ever I’m a millionaire I’m buying you a car.”


“WTF?!? The train? All the way to Wales? With kids?”

The funny thing is, even if we had a car I think we’d still do it this way. I am certain it’ll end up faster, less stressful and more fun.

This is how our train journey differed from a car journey:

We had lunch on our journey without having to stop:

Family lunch on the train www.FranglaiseMummy.com

Hubs, L and C tucking into their lunch on the train.

Hubs and L were able to play cards together “le jeu de 7 familles” or “Happy families” in English.

Father & daughter playing cards on the train www.FranglaiseMummy.com

Hubs playing cards with L on the train

C was able to lie down in her pushchair, in the dark, and had a good hour long nap.

Pushchair on the train, with snooze shade

C having a good nap in her pushchair on the train

I was able to sit and write this blog post.
Hubs was able to take numerous, picturesque photos of Wales from the train.
No one got achy legs as we were all able to walk/run up and down the various trains throughout the journey.

What happens if there are hiccups on the journey?

Every journey runs the risk of delays. In the car you have the risk of traffic jams, which are mostly out of your control. You get stuck in the car. Often with fractious children. And there’s not much you can do.

On public transport there are delays too. We had one such delay. On our First Great Western train from Paddington to Swansea there was a delay of around 20 minutes nearing Cardiff, as a train in Cardiff station had been vandalised (the front windscreen smashed in). The knock-on effect being that we would miss our connection at Swansea for our final train to Narberth. The next train being 2 hours later. Not much fun with a 7 year old and a 19 month old who’ve been travelling all day.

So I spoke to the train manager, Warren, on our First Great Western train, and although the delay was not the train company’s fault, he wanted to try and help us out. He made various calls to see what he could do.

Despite our connecting train being with a different train company (Arriva Trains Wales), he managed to get our train to be waiting for us, at an adjacent platform, on our arrival at Swansea station. Thank you Warren!

You wouldn’t get that solution in a traffic jam.

L kept telling us how much she loved the train journey, as against a car journey, and there was such amazing rail staff every step of the way, both on trains and at stations.

I wouldn’t hesitate to get the train again for a family holiday, so thank you A, my real life friend who suggested not hiring a car, but getting the train down here.

To my lovely public transport-averse blogging friends, I will continue to love you and your dislike of all things train, bus and tube for as long as you are ok with my love of public transport and the freedom it gives me and my family.

And I really can’t see Franglaise Family giving in and buying a car anytime soon…..

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6 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    I agree, although I do have a car and use it for the majority of journeys. However we’ve travelled to Devon, Norfolk and even Dijon by train and it’s been fab. There’s been a missed connection or two – the worst in Paris when eurotunnel (who should know better) allowed us less than an hour to get across Paris. We arrived at Gare de Lyon after running up the platform (yeap we were in the coach furthest away from the ticket barriers) at Gare de Nord at the time our train was departing so we did well to get there for then. But we spent some time in a part of Paris we’d not really visited before!

    In some ways train travel feels indulgent and a tad decadent (we don’t have kids!) and it’s nice to enjoy a train picnic or open a bottle of fizz and actually talk to each other in a way we wouldn’t in a car, or even a plane. And you get some great views – our favourite was/is coming into Teignmouth on the intercity. Beautiful.

    It’s true though some people think you’re nuts for travelling this way – but they clearly haven’t tried it 🙂
    Stephanie recently posted…500 Miles: With five weeks left, will I complete my challenge?My Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      We did another train journey this weekend: London to the West Midlands and back in the day, with both girls (and buggy). The first train had to stop halfway to its destination, making us miss the next two connections, cue 2 tubes across London to Euston to try and get a different train to Birmingham. Yes it was stressful, but you get stuck in traffic jams in the car, so I don’t see it as any different. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. We’re a family of eight and haven’t had a car for over five years, it’s saved us a fortune!
    Alexandra Mercer (Life of mummy) recently posted…Pregnancy diary: Week 12, baby 7My Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m not surprised! Occasionally I wish we had one but it’s very rare. In all honesty I love the freedom of not worrying about it starting, or breaking down 🙂

  3. Sally says:

    I agree but for me, the issue is financial as much as anything – taking the train into London for me, on a weekday, costs around £280 for a return ticket. The petrol if I drive costs around £80. I prefer the train and sometimes I splash out because it’s very early and I know I want to sleep, but when funds are finite, the car is very tempting!
    Sally recently posted…The End of Term ReportMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Whereas for us it’s the opposite – as we don’t own a car it means we have to factor in the cost of hiring as well as petrol, so the train is nearly always cheaper. I do try to book tickets in advance to get cheap deals where I can though.

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