Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails
One of the things I love about living in France is that when the desire hits I can hop on a train and in the time it takes me to get to Washington back home, I can find myself in some foreign land soaking up the sights and sounds of a different culture.   In fact, I have yet to fly anywhere in Europe because train travel is so wonderful—it’s fast, convenient, and allows you the chance to see a bit of the countryside to boot.  Okay, okay, so it doesn’t hurt that since 9-11 my aversion to flying has turned into a full-fledged phobia, but nonetheless train travel in Europe is wonderful and  takes me practically anywhere I want to go.  And if you plan it right you can save a lot of money as well. My first weekend getaway from Paris was an overnight train to Venice.  My friend and I boarded the train on a Thursday evening, had a bite to eat, and then were lulled to sleep by the sound of the training whizzing across France and through Switzerland, on its way to Venice.   By the time we awoke early on Friday morning we were just pulling in to the magical city of Venice.  We spent the weekend seeing the sites, riding gondolas and stuffing ourselves with pasta and other Venetian specialties.  Sunday came and we said good-bye to Venice and made it home to Paris just as the city was beginning to stir on Monday morning.  It was the perfect weekend get-away. The next trip took me to London aboard the EuroStar, the super sleek high-speed train that transports you from the Gare du Nord to Waterloo station in just over three hours.  This time, I traveled first class and must admit that I could get used to first-class treatment—Champagne, gourmet meals, big comfy chairs and impeccable service.  And now the trip takes only an incredible 2 hours and 35 minutes, so there really is no reason to fly. As much as I adore Paris, it felt a bit like home being in an English-speaking country for the first time in nearly two years.  I was tickled pink at having the full command of the native language for once.   The following weekend I boarded the train to Lausanne, Switzerland, to visit a friend who lives in a nearby village.  The trip through Switzerland was stunning as we made our way through the mountains, something I would never had seen had I flown.  And Chexbres was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  The house was tucked into a cliff surrounded by vineyards, with Lake Geneva and the Gramont mountains stretched out before us.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  We feasted on Swiss specialties like fondue and raclette, washed down with the local wine from the vineyards.  I left Sunday evening, refreshed from the peaceful surroundings. Next was a long weekend to Germany to visit a friend whose family lives in Brehman.  The old section of the town was entirely charming, with tiny cottages lining cobblestone streets.  And how wonderful it was leave Paris in the evening, only to arrive in a new city with a new language and culture overnight.  One of the things I regret about my travels is not buying a railpass.  If I had planned right, I could have saved quite a bit by buying a rail pass from Rail Europe.  If you’re doing a lot of travel, I would recommend, the Eurailpass Flexi, which gives you unlimited travel in and between Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.  Any ten days of first-class travel in two months is $694.  If you travel with a friend you will save an additional $100.  I should have bought the Eurailpass, which offers 5, 6, 8, 10 or 15 days of rail travel within any 2-month period on the national rail networks of any 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries that are connected by train or ship.  The first-class six-day pass would have cost $436,  a considerable savings, considering that I traveled during the height of summer. Next time I’ll know better.  I’m already dreaming about my next trip.  Perhaps down through France, stopping off in Carcassonne and a few other villages, before heading to Spain, to explore, yet again, another way of life. Click Here to buy a Eurail Pass before your next Paris trip! —Bonjour Paris’ senior Paris correspondant Phyllis Flick, lives–naturally!–in Paris. 
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