jardi train1A landscaped miniature railway park between Venasque and Carpentras, the JardiTrain is an attractive family outing which will also appeal to train enthusiasts. As the name suggests, the surrounding jardin (garden) is an additional pleasure.

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It's the brainchild of Grégoire Porté, a music teacher who decided to indulge his childhood passion, originally for his own personal pleasure. It opened to the public in 2004, and since then has been going full steam ahead.

The rolling stock consists of around twenty model trains on a scale of 1:25 (that's 'G' gauge to you train buffs): in other words, significantly bigger than any toy train set you might have at home.

They're a good 15 cm / 6 inches high and can be up to 8 metres / 26 feet long. Locomotives from a range of decades and countries are represented, including Switzerland (the Mallet) and the US (the Santa Fe Warbonnet, pictured top left).

More recently, Inès Feneuil, one of Porté's employees, took over the driving seat and brought her own interests - namely gardening and design - to the project.

The JardiTrain park is planted with over three thousand slow-growing, bonzai-style Mediterranean shrubs and trees, is dotted with typical local features such as stations, viaducts, lakes and mountains and is populated with around 500 figurines of provençal characters chatting, shopping, playing pétanque and going about their daily business.

jardi train model train park near avignonNot that the trains have been neglected. They're still chuffing around furiously and the rail network continues to expand with the same attention to detail and authenticity.

For instance, the metal bridges were recently restored by a family which worked for Alstom, the French multinational company which manufactures (human-size) TGV high-speed trains.

An indoor area offers wooden trains for kids to play with, laid out on a range of levels suitable for different ages. There's also a place for parents to relax, a film showing the creation of the JardiTrain, drinks and (in summer) snacks for sale and a small gift shop where you can buy books, toy trains and local crafts.

The JardiTrain isn't huge (1,200 square metres / 13,000 square feet, with 650 metres / 710 yards of track). A visit might take roughly between an hour and 90 minutes - quite a bit longer if your kids get involved with the toy trains afterwards. The park is push- and wheel-chair accessible. Pets not allowed.

There's no fixed circuit and you can stay as long as you like, though a little game inviting you to spot certain characters and features dotted around the site helps give a structure to the tour.

The JardiTrain remains open in bad weather during the summer. It closes for the winter between early November and late March.

Where: Le JardiTrain, 186 chemin neuf, 84210 Saint Didier. Tel: (+33) 4 90 40 45 18. Website for the JardiTrain

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Photo credits: all images © JardiTrain.

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