venice to bern

up very early to catch the vaporetto to the station, it’s very quiet. though the skies are grey, there is a bit of blue above one of the islands which makes for a great picture with a church and other buildings highlighted by the brightness. the vaporetto goes to several stops, including some unscheduled ones through the working area of venice where supplies arrive by train or truck for redistribution through the islands. it is very much alive with men loading long barge like boats with every conceivable commodity from the morning papers to bags of flour and bottled water.

at the station we encounter what we hope will be our last set of stairs in a public system. it is absurd that there is no ramp, elevator or other means of getting your bags into the station, italy has been the worst for this, however paris comes a close second for dealing with tourists hauling bagage, or worse yet anyone with a severe mobility problem.

we’d hoped to have breakfast at the station but with the extra stops we have less time than expected, and any hope for a sit down breakfast is dashed by discovering only stand up coffee bars with no take-out. we settle for a machine dispensed espresso and a hot chocolate. all aboard and we’re off to milan.

we’re supposed to have an hour plus in milan and look forward to breakfast again as nothing was available on the train. no such luck, another stand-up coffee bar. i find a sandwich shop and buy two egg and cheese sandwiches, bottles of fanta and chocolate cookies….yum.

ok, italy is one big bad joke (or so it feels right now) as we’re standing on the platform in milan with a hundred or so others all wondering which platform the train will actually come in on. the schedule sez 7, however the board and platform signs offer nothing to confirm this. in fact, all other trains and platforms are up but not ours. even the people working on the train have no clue as to where to go!

the train is officially late as they put a 10 minute rettardo sign up. after another 20 minutes of waiting we’re advised the platform has changed to 4. we move en masse hoping an actual train will show up. it does, with the usual scramble to find luggage storage, seats and elbow our way down the aisles to our seats. 30 minutes late we head off for the alps (not that we’ll see anything as it has been raining since we left venice and there is no sign of the skies clearing.)

we must be getting near to switzerland as things are looking more prim. the clouds have lifted a bit and we get glimpses of lakes and treed hills. it quite picturesque as many of the islands in the lakes have old buildings and churches on them.

hello switzerland. bern is very cold, happily our hotel is just across the street from the station.

Publicités

night train

we boarded the train at innsbruck at 11:02 p.m. and departed at 11:04. the gentleman looking after us gave us the instructions on operating items in the cubicle and how the door locks worked…trust me, you need these details.

within a few minutes we were in our respective bunks…i had to climb the ladder and set up the safety net; we fell asleep within minutes rocked like babies as the train moved over the brenner pass and into the italian alps. we awoke quite refreshed in the morning. i passed on the mini shower as i had visions of being tossed about as i lathered up (not a pretty sight.) a boxed breakfast was served with an endless supply of good coffee. i have not adapted to the idea of cheese and assorted sausage meats for breaky but hey, we’re on a german train. it’s 7:00 a.m. as we pass through tuscany, we expect to arrive in rome at 9:00 a.m.

buon giorno

now you see it, now you don't

get up, brush teeth, get dressed, get out…and its only 5:55 a.m.

we’re on our way to gare de lyon and our first ride on the very fast tgv train to nimes in the languedoc region of southern france. the trip is only 2 hours and 50 minutes to go about 700 kilometres (first class by the way and very comfortable) things zip by so quickly there was no point in trying to get a photo (a relief for you who are following this on flickr.) i did manage to fire off 250 though for the the day 🙂

this was a bit of an indulgence trip. on our last visit all of my photos of nimes and pont du gard were stolen when someone broke into our car and swiped my shoulder bag with the memory card still in it and i was determined to get them back.

the day did not look promising in paris, or nimes when we first arrived — quite a difference from the last time we were there. however, the travel gods were with us yet again and the day warmed up and the skies cleared (see the pictures). we caught a local bus at the train station which dropped us off a kilometre from the site after a rather circuitous journey to drop some of the locals (we think).

after an easy walk we were there and before us, covered in sunshine was pont du gard, an incredible and even beautiful structure of many arches all aglow in amber as the sun bounced off it. 2000 years old, it is the highest aquaduct that the romans ever built. i don’t believe my last pictures were as good or as varied, however, i did take a pass this time on climbing to the top as my right knee is bugging me (advancing years i’m afraid). needless to say i took a shot at every angle i could think of and hope most turned out ok.

rick and i had the foresight to take along a picnic lunch of baguette, jambon, fromage (and wine…of course!) as well as some fresh fruit. we ate on the rocks overlooking the viaduct (can’t think of a better view for lunch)

following our ramble around pont du gard we headed back for the bus and the ride into nimes. while waiting for the bus we met a young polish woman who now works in england and got a bit of an education on the situation in both countries. she was on a spontaneous trip because ryan air an english airline had a 10 pound deal – round trip! with no extra fees to nimes and she’d never been there before and was able to take a few days off work. she says she does this whenever she sees a good deal to a destination she has not visited before.

the five minute tour of nimes. we had about two hours before the train headed back to paris and we tried to cover the high points remembered on our last visit, we did not go inside the coliseum (we’d toured it pretty thoroughly last time here.) nimes is a beautiful small city with a long history of roman occupancy. some of the antiquities are in perfect shape including the coliseum, a temple known as the maison carre and remnants of a temple to diana the huntress and tour magner which we did not have time to climb up to. there are also amazing formal gardens – jardins de la fontaine which have been there since the 1700’s and includes a large canal lined with plane trees and has a gushing fountain at a central intersection. our time in nimes is over and following a stroll through the old section of town we’re back at the station and onto another fast train for paris. i sleep most of the way while rick reads the history of marie antoinette. a late supper at a nice chinese restaurant up the block from us and home to bed.

bon soir

catch-up

its been a few days since my last entry…didn’t want to bore anyone. must say that instinct is a good thing! i had planned to hold off for at least another month before buying eurail passes but economics 101 kicked in – and couple of weeks back and i took the plunge and paid up; thank the gods for that. 3 days later up went the price; those trains may run on electricity but the juice comes from oil.

on another front, knowing everyone will want to following along with the two of us, i finally settled on a used laptop to take along (the accountant is not happy). yeah ebay, i bought a refurbished 14 inch ibm thinkpad t41 1.6/2gb ram/40/cdrw/dvd/xpp/WiFi for less than you’d think. canada post sez it’s on the way.

that’s all folks. ya gotta start voting for my cropped up images.

eurail

busy times! the eurail tickets arrived, now we need to read all the fine print…and there’s lots of it! what seemed like a fairly straight forward process has gained about 10 degrees of difficulty. it seems you can’t take anything for granted including your right to get on the train…who knew? more of that later.

€uro

well, it’s done! the eurail saver pass is on its way. five countries 8 days of travel and many reservations to go. some of the trip will depend on bargains as we go; short rail trips bought at the counter.

at 7 p.m. today the euro was at $1.53 which is a decent drop, considering it was pushing past $1.60 a few weeks back. i was beginning to worry that the price of the rail pass would go up to match the rising cost of fuel, though most of europe runs on nuclear power or hydro…you never know, so i plunged.