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Tag Archives: trains

Plane vs. Train? No contest!

8 Mar
Flying may get you across many miles quickly, but there is nothing enjoyable about the experience. NOTHING. Trains, on the other hand, are simply a pleasure.
Not long after we had returned from our Christmas trip to Paris, London, and Switzerland, our son informed us that his company was sending him to the U.K. for work. Would we meet him in London for a week? How could we not? We had really enjoyed our time in London in December, and had immediately booked a return for April, but when your child is going to be on the same side of the ocean, you go. We don’t get to see any of them often, so this was a treat.
There was just not enough time between our Austrian adventure and an upcoming visit from American friends to allow us to take a leisurely journey by train, so we bit the bullet and bought tickets on EasyJet. (We prefer taking the train and stopping in Paris for a couple of nights.)  I popped for seats in the front of the plane and early boarding to try and minimize our discomfort. We abandoned our reliable roll-aboard cases in favor of large, uncomfortable backpacks so they would fit in the EasyJet overheads. I felt like I was going to tip over backward carrying that pack (although it only weighed about 20 lbs.) on buses and through the terminals.
EuroStar interior, photo taken on our December 2015 trip. Spacious. The TGV and FrecciaRossa trains are excellent, too. We like the configuration with the table between us, like you see on the right.

EuroStar interior, photo taken on our December 2015 trip. Spacious. The TGV and FrecciaRossa trains are excellent, too. We like the configuration with the table between us like you see on the right.

Now to the Planes vs. Trains discussion.
If we have a 3-hour train trip to Milano, we can travel door-to-door—from our apartment in Roma to our hotel in Milano—in 5 hours. We are relaxed, have been given espresso and wine on the way, we probably would have had WIFI access, and there would have been no need to disrobe and be x-rayed to prove we are not carrying anything hazardous.
Our 2-hour-and-40-minute flight to London took 8 hours door-to-door. In fact, 4½ hours after leaving home, we were just leaving Roma, taking off from FCO. I don’t need to tell you what the security experience was like, but we walked about a kilometer through the airport just to get to the bus that would drive us to the gate. On board we ate sandwiches that were 75% bread and the coffee was undrinkable.
Interior of Easy Jet airplane with passengers. Courtesy of EasyJet. Yeah, this is fun.

Interior of Easy Jet airplane with passengers. Courtesy of EasyJet. Yeah, this is fun.

We will return to London in April–a trip scheduled and partly paid for before Derek’s surprise voyage so no sense canceling. However, we will do the April trip in style: TGV to Paris for a few days, EuroStar to-and-from London, and a 3-night stopover in Dijon on the way home just because. Our roll-aboard bags will be back in service.

 

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The Great Railway Adventure

2 Jan
I love to travel by train. Even hours and hours is fine by me. Train travel beats air travel and its many indignities. Four hours in a plane makes me want to slit my wrists whereas four hours in a train is just a good start.
The Bernina Express on the famous Brusio spiral viaduct.

The Bernina Express on the famous Brusio spiral viaduct.

To my husband, trains are a religion. Not only does he enjoy riding in them, he can watch them for hours. He delights in rolling stock of all types, and thrills at seeing railroad workers address their tasks. How many thousands of photos he has taken! He also is fascinated by all types of transportation from pedicabs to delivery vehicles. There’s not an Ape 50
Action shot.

Action shot.

that escapes his camera’s eye.
When I suggested London for Christmas by train, with a stop in Paris and return through Switzerland, he had agreed before I finished saying “Bernina Express.” While we did, in fact, sleep in four countries over the two-week period, this was not “If it’s Tuesday it Must be Belgium.”
I’ll leave you at the end of this post with a few photos,  but first the route. The final plan included nine train trips in 15 days. Good thing we have time.
Roma to Milano – 2h:55m
Milano to Paris – 7h:26m
Paris to London – 2h:17m
London to Paris – 2h:29m
Paris to Zurich – 4h:03m
Zurich to Chur – 1h:15m
Chur to Tirano – 4h:13m
Tirano to Milano – 2h:32m
Milano to Roma – 3h:55m
During the last segment, the full-to-capacity train broke down and we had to transfer to a new train resulting in a 1-hour delay. We were only a little annoyed, and we got a partial credit from Trenitalia as a result of the delay.
Yes, that is a remarkable 32 hours-or-so in trains, blissfully snoozing, chatting, reading, writing, and watching the lovely scenery. I would not recommend this type of schedule for people on their average trip to Europe. One would not want to spend as much transit time as we did on a typical two-week vacation; However, we have time, a true blessing of retirement and living in Europe.
I have more to blog about in the coming days. Stay tuned! Click on any picture for a slideshow or a closer look.

 

Up one side and down the other

15 Oct

Saturday it was supposed to rain, a rather large disappointment when one is in the Cinque Terre as the major activities here are out-of-doors.  Luckily the day dawned partly cloudy and we refused to believe the forecast pushed out to our cell phones.

The path begins climbing gently from Monterosso al Mare, but the climbing continues for 2 km.

The path begins climbing gently from Monterosso al Mare, but the climbing continues for 2 km.

The Sentiero Azzuro or “Trail No. 2” is still closed in some sections, plus it is the trail most tourists gravitate to, so we headed in another direction, north out of Monterosso al Mare to the town of Levanto.  As we were staying in Manarola, we had to take a train to Monterosso, about an 11 minute ride. Any adventure that begins with a train ride scores extra points with Ric.

Train station with a view, and Ric.

Train station with a view, and Ric.

The fact that we also started the day with freshly-baked, flaky pastries filled with chocolate,  still warm from the oven… well, need I say more? Yes, I must say more, because we topped off with a torta di noci e marmelada di albicocchi (pie-like pastry with walnuts and apricot jam) before leaving Monterosso. SIGH, I love vacation.

Tower above Monterosso, along the path. A residence? A hotel? Non lo so....

Tower above Monterosso, along the path. A residence? A hotel? Non lo so….

We enjoyed almost complete solitude for the first 2 kilometers of the hike, only encountering three people.  This was a tough trail with steep and unending stairs placed into the hill.  Some scrambling was required where hard rock refused to yield to trail building.

Unending stairs.

Unending stairs.

By now the path is steeper. Ric says try not to show how much he is sweating.

By now the path is steeper. Ric says try not to show how much he is sweating.

Monterosso from above.

Monterosso from above.

After an hour of constant uphill trekking we reached the ruins of the Eremo di Sant’Antonio, a 13th century monastic hermitage at Punto MescoStupendissimo!

Eremo di Sant'Antonio. Imagine buidlng this in the middle ages?

Eremo di Sant’Antonio. Imagine building this in the middle ages?

Ruins of Sant'Antonio

Ruins of Sant’Antonio (Not me! The rock walls!)

Three years ago, in October 2010, we first traveled to Italy and were in the Cinque Terre about this time. We were daunted by the 60-or-so stairs we had to climb to our room in Vernazza! We hiked a portion of the Sentiero Azzuro that trip but nothing nearly so ambitious as this 10 km hike-and-scramble. Now, with a level of fitness we never thought we could achieve, it was a challenge but one we knew we could accomplish.

On the way down, different surfaces through a piney and then deciduous wood.

On the way down, different surfaces through a piney and then deciduous wood.

This is not an environment of “groomed” trails and sometimes it was difficult to tell where the trail was.

At a junction we couldn't decide if this was a stream bed or a path.... The path was in fact hidden to the right and then merged into he stream bed.

At a junction we couldn’t decide if this was a stream bed or a path…. The path was in fact hidden to the right and then merged into he stream bed.

Where's the path? This rock formation presented right in the middle of the path. Where to go? Upon scrutiny, there was a "path" to the right...sort of.

Where’s the path? This rock formation presented right in the middle of the path. Where to go? Upon scrutiny, there was a “path” to the right…sort of.

From Punto Mesco most of the 2.5 hours was in descent, but the extent of trail maintenance seemed to be clearing off fallen trees. Not that it was a bad trail, but in some places it required some creativity in finding the best path. We encountered a number of people hiking up from Levanto, intent on reaching Monterosso.  Looking back at our route, we were happy we hiked Monterosso to Levanto, and equally happy we started quite early as we hit Levanto at just the right time for lunch, allowing us to call this hike yet another Path to Lunch.  And how nice is it to start with pastry and end with wine?

How cute is this? On the outskirts of Levanto, a little cat-feeding station protected by an umbrella.

How cute is this? On the outskirts of Levanto, a little cat-feeding station protected by an umbrella.

Boardwalk in Levanto

Boardwalk in Levanto

It was windy that day.

It was windy that day.

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