Now you can lunch on jellied eels in London's East End, then dine that evening on the best bouillabaisse in Marseille. without leaving the ground. On June 10, SNCF, the French national railway, launched a new high-speed train, the TGV Méditerranée, that does Paris-to-Marseille in three hours flat. Combine that with the London-to-Paris Eurostar and the trip from the Thames to the Mediterranean is a six-hour straight shot. SNCF won Europe's high-speed title with the 1981 launch of the futuristic Paris-Lyon TGV, which, cruising at 168 miles an hour, rendered France's first and second cities a mere commute apart. This new railway, with glamorous stations at Valence, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, will do the same for the south of France. Nervous flyers will have to wait until 2006 for the next phase in the TGV takeover: the two-hour-and-20-minute connection between Paris and Strasbourg. This is all good news. We only wish the French would bring back dining cars. with menus reflecting the terroir they're zooming across (888-382-7245).

-K. S.