Homes on rail routes in France and Spain

If you can't face more cancelled flights take the train instead. Cathy Hawker finds homes on routes through France and Spain
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Villa in Dompierre sur Charente
£260,200: a four-bedroom villa in Dompierre sur Charente, Cognac. Cognac Property Services (+335 45 32 4641)
Erupting volcanoes, striking cabin crew and punishing flight taxes: the patience of many air travellers has certainly been tested. Alternative ways of travelling to your overseas destination have therefore become more appealing.

Using Europe's ever-improving highspeed rail services, for example, can mean swapping crowded airports and cramped planes for a more comfortable seat with a view.

Rail travel is also clearly the greener option. Independent research has shown that Eurostar from London to Paris cuts CO2 emissions by 90 per cent compared with flying.

It can be mighty good value, too. Train tickets may seem pricey but add in taxis to out-of-town airports or costly airport parking and the train, which delivers you to the city centre, often turns out the winner.

French high-speed train
A French high-speed TGV train speeds over the Ventabren Viaduct

South-west France: Cognac

Poitou-Charentes, midway down the Atlantic coast, is home to the wooded island of Oléron and the popular beach resorts Ile de Ré and La Rochelle. There are the canals of the Marais Poitevin, known as The Green Venice, and the Romanesque architecture of Poitiers. The TGV from Paris powers through Poitiers and Angoulême on its way south to Bordeaux.

This is true Cognac country, France's second-largest wine production region after Bordeaux where charming market towns and villages cluster along the Charente Valley.

Villages such as Jarnac with the Courvoisier château and Cognac itself are 20 minutes from Angoulême. You can leave St Pancras at lunchtime and be sampling the wines by 7pm.

"Brits want old Charentaise stone houses with pool and views over the vines," says Graham Downie of Cognac Property. Outside Cognac a four-bedroom house costs £139,250 though Downie suggests budgeting £217,280 to £261,100 for a detached property with views. "In Cognac or Jarnac a two or three-bedroom town house costs £87,030, or £130,550 for something special," says Downie.

Cognac Property Services:; +335 4532 4641.

Apartments at Juan-les-Pins, Nice
From £314,000: in Nice, a small development of 16 one- to three-bedroom apartments at Juan-les-Pins. Call Chesterton Humberts on 020 3040 8210

South-east France: Nimes and Avignon

British sculptor David Horsman travels by train every two months between his houses in Nîmes and London, often spending a few days in Paris en route.

"There are up to 14 trains a day from Paris to Nîmes," says Mr Horsman, 49. "The green fields of Burgundy lead to the Rhône Valley where the sun always seems to emerge. Then it's the vineyards and distinctive roofs of Provence."

London to Nîmes, the most popular destination in the Languedoc, takes six hours and 16 minutes and costs from £109 return. Work commitments mean Mr Horsman is selling his six-bedroom villa for
£1.8 million through Aylesford International but he plans to buy an apartment in Nice.

The planned extension of the TGV line along the Cote d'Azur into Italy has already sparked interest from buyers, according to Winkworth France. In the region, Le Hameau du Temple is a completed development of 16 stone houses in a rural location outside of Uzes and 50 minutes' drive from Avignon's TGV station. Prices for the houses start from £512,630 through Chesterton Humberts.

Turnkey villa, Girona, Spain
From £335,080: in Girona, Spain, plots and ultra-modern villas are available at PGA Catalunya Resort. For more details call Knight Frank on 020 7629 8171
Eurostar runs summer services (10 July to 11 September) from St Pancras to Avignon. Eurostar has limited tickets for London to Avignon changing at Lille for £69 return, this month only.

Aylesford International: 020 7349 5100;
Chesterton Humberts: 020 3040 8210;
Eurostar: 08432 186 186;

Further south to Spain

Spain has one of Europe's best high-speed rail networks and refreshingly, no mañana attitude to timetabling. If a Madrid to Seville AVE train is more than five minutes late, passengers receive a full refund.

Rail Europe sells tickets from London to Barcelona from £202, a 15-hour journey including an overnight section on Elipsos Trainhotel from Paris. Take an afternoon Eurostar to Paris, catch the 20.34 from Gare d'Austerlitz and wake up in Barcelona at 08.24 ready for the day. Engel & Volkers has one-bedroom apartments in Barcelona's fashionable El Born from £217,580 for one bedroom and £252,400 for two bedrooms.

Farmhouse half an hour from Riberac in the Charentes
£342,700: a neat, 19th-century farmhouse half an hour from Riberac in the Charentes. Through Latitudes (020 8951 5155)
Further north on the same train line, Knight Frank is selling plots and turnkey villas on PGA Catalunya Resort 10 minutes from Girona station, with prices from £335,080. The resort, with two established golf courses, is 20 minutes from the Costa Brava's beaches.

Rail Europe: 0844 848 4064;
Engel & Völkers: +349 3295 4516;
Knight Frank: 020 7629 8171;

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