PARIS -- France's President Francois Hollande has headed off on vacation this year by train – not plane – in a break with his flashy predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

Frugally-minded Hollande, who promised during spring's presidential campaign to save money by catching trains, took high-speed rail on Thursday from Paris with his girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler.

They're headed for the Fort de Bregancon, an official retreat in southeastern France.

They travelled first class. But it's a stark contrast from the unpopular Sarkozy, who was criticized for vacationing using a Dassault Falcon 7X jet and an Airbus dubbed "Air Sarko One."

Hollande has carefully cultivated a "Mr. Normal" image. He says traveling by train is an important symbol at a time when "many French want to go on vacation...and can't."

Also on HuffPost: