My obsession with train travel continues. This time I was able to incorporate it into my journey: all the way from London to Florence. By train. For those of you that live on mainland Europe, that fact that you can go to another country by train is nothing new. Even for those in the UK it should be nothing new, but for me there’s still a twinge of excitement. It seems so obvious with ‘planes, but still a novelty with trains for me.
Stage one was London to Paris – another benefit of international train travel is that you can make easy stops, right in the centre of town with no restrictions on popping out for a bit of sightseeing. It wasn’t raining in Paris so I headed along the Promenade des Plantes ascending after browsing the artisans at the Viaduct des Artes. Not necessarily the obvious choice in November, but a bracing stroll is always welcome. It’s a genius idea and fabulous to get a higher than street level view of of the place. I’m pretty sure you could still tell it was Paris from whatever angle.
Further on through Bastille and the Marais, ending up cafe hogging to stay warm. Finally there was time to go picnic shopping before heading back to the station.
Stage two was Paris to Florence – 12 hours through France and Switzerland to wake up in the Tuscan countryside. The first thing to do was to eat the aforementioned picnic – simple fare, because to be honest the facilities aren’t that great for anything complicated. It’s quite cosy in the compartments. You have to coordinate carefully for any movements and there’s often some spillover into the corridor. Your best hope is that your travel companions will head to the restaurant car.
This will give you an opportunity to make the beds (in a literal sense). My advice would be to avoid the bottom bunk – you seem to get a bit short changed with space here – go for the top bunk, which is already installed and there’s enough head room to be able to sit up.
There’ll be minor battles through the night over temperature: window open + noisy vs window closed + quieter. It is sweltering and usually the window closed wins. The usual noisy people, light on, light off, doors open, doors closed. But with ear plugs and an eye mask it’s not too bad!
Come the morning, it’s time to eat the remains of the picnic, or head to the bar and then a bit of time to freshen up before arriving at our destination.
And from the station, no more than 15 minutes walk to my central apartment.
It was something I’d wanted to try for a long time. If i do it again, I’ll probably upgrade to a sleeper compartment rather than a couchette. It’s a little bit uncomfortable travelling as a lone female because you don’t know who your couchette companions will be, and as I said earlier there’s not a lot of space to move around etc. But keep your wits about you, be prepared for tropical temperatures overnight and it works as a viable alternative to flying.
For amazing information on train travel in Europe check out the man in seat sixty one
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