The Euro Love Train

Have you ever wanted to go on a truly epic railway journey but didn’t know where to start ?. If you are a European there’s good news. You don’t even need to leave the European Union to put together a journey that will leave you amazed. Europe can deliver a greater variety, both inside and outside the train, than anywhere else on Earth. It’s not even a contest once you start counting languages, cultures and landscape types that you can cover in western and central Europe by train.

For the same price as you can travel second class from Moscow to Beijing, including cheap flights at either end, single hotel nights in both those cities, your Russian and Chinese visas, and paying for a limited range of sustenance options, you can travel in first class to every mainland European Union capital inside 18 days, with a hefty working budget to feed yourself from the finest delicatessens in civilization.

You could extend your scope to include all of western Europe and go via the Arctic Circle, the roof of the Alps, hit most capitals in what was once Yugoslavia in a total of 23 countries, and find yourself back on The Euston Road 17.5 days later, all for the same price. If you wanted to include Helsinki, the Baltics, Warsaw and Athens in some ultimate Interrail expedition, you could do a combo of these two trips in 3 weeks for less than £1,600 in first class. (the Baltics aren’t on your pass, but it’s just local trains and connecting buses that you have to hopscotch your way down, it’s less than 50 Euro to get you from Tallinn to the Polish rail network).

I have run several of these marathon expeditions over the last 10 years. We call them Tourisme Grande Vitesse. They are essentially mobile adult picnics lasting a fortnight and covering what feels like the entire continent. Recent political events have provoked us into re-living our experiences in 2013 when a dozen of us went from London to the Arctic and back home via Skopje and Lisbon. This time we will visit all 27 EU capitals without leaving land or sea, until we get to the last two Cyprus and Malta. Leaving Dublin on an auspicious Friday 13th, arriving in Athens two weeks on Tuesday almost entirely by train and 3 boats (the Baltics takes a bit of road to sew things together). We’ll travel first class the whole way and have a hell of a time as we go. We will then get two very cheap flights to Cyprus and on to Malta. In less than 21 days we will have visited the capitals of every EU member state. With the exceptions of Helsinki (90 mins) and Vienna (56 mins) we will at least have time to sit down and eat and drink something in every city.

Here’s a route map of what we will to do this time

route

copyright OpenStreetMap

And here’s a sample schedule of it for 2017, https://www.dropbox.com/s/j5zn6yw9qtlccxj/elt-schedule.ods?dl=0

We wont be going till next year 2018.

A bit too stupid ?, here’s the route map of what we did last time

rr51

This blog itself is originally of that trip and links in turn to 3 other daily blog reports. It might not convince you that this is a good idea for you, but you can’t argue that it didn’t have a massive impact on all of us who did it.

This is, to all intents and purposes, a continuous trip. There are no day-offs in Tallinn, or Madrid or anywhere else. You get around 4 hours on the whole, unless we are forced to stay for the night, as we are throughout the north. There are many candidates for “World’s Greatest Railway Ride”. At roughly 18,000km a piece, spanning a kaleidoscope of culture and geography, these two European super trips take some beating. You could of course just be less daft and do half of either of the above and still be blown away.

Three or four hours in any of our capitals, let alone a whole night, does not have to be a wasted opportunity if you have a plan of action. In our case that organization will invariably be centred around the details of resupplying the picnic baskets (all 12 or so of them). This makes eating and drinking to excess much cheaper, and exposes us to our host’s most exquisite culture via their markets and delicatessens. If you have a wallet to cope you could spend a lot more time in the restaurant car that is on most of our trains, at least up to Budapest, and spend your time off the train in the best restaurant you can find. Posh picnics are more fun, but you do need a group of you to make them work.

The accumulative effect of hitting a new capital or two or three, every day, for a fortnight will leave you in awe of your civilization, and perhaps change who you think you are. The experience will live with you for years, may be even a lifetime.

How much does it cost ?

The ticket for the entire run including all boats and buses where needed, comes in at a stupendously low £1,300 in first class. We will spend that amount again on hotels where forced, getting quite tipsy very regularly and eating some of the finest and varied picnic food available to humanity. If you are happy dorming it, travelling in second and not going overboard on the deluxe picnic stuff, you could do the entire trip for £1,500 including board and lodgings, and enough beer and wine to make a party. I know that’s still £100 a day for you students, but this will change your life.

Can you come too ?

Yes of course you can, but unfortunately not with me. We had thought about turning this into some kind of mega party and getting hundreds to do it. If we drilled down the costs to under £1,500 we could potentially fill a whole train. I would have been prepared to throw myself at that but the problem is, with that many people, the love is going to crack somewhere along the line, probably round about Amsterdam. There’s only so much first class going, and me and my mates have bagged virtually all of that already. 1st class on night trains means showers. No showers on back to back sleeper trains means either feel crappy or have to muck about and lose time getting washed. So it’s already an us and them scenario. This trip, more than any other I have devised, is an act of expression. I don’t want this to become the Euro Hate Train.

It needs to be done as relatively tight groups of a dozen or so. This is just a plea for you to do something like this yourself before you regret not having the chance again, or wish you’d spoken out more at the time but couldn’t find a way to do so. I’ll even help you if you want advice. You need to get a group together, I’d say at least 4 of you, better 6+. Obviously if you are picnicking, the more the merrier, and as this is a mobile party it helps if you don’t have to look at the same person for 2 weeks solid. You don’t need a doctor or medical expert on this kind of expedition, but someone who knows their way around a continental food market and prepare a salad would come in handy.

We aren’t going till summer 2018. If you want to do this, most likely with your own mods, be my guest. If you want to run something like this yourself and charge an organizing fee (I don’t, it’s just for friends), please be my guest. If you are a travelling blogger and this has inspired you, please take the idea for yourself.

Don’t delay!

In recent years we have lost the whole of CityNightLine, DeutscheBahn’s sleeper train operation. Austria’s ÖBB still runs two sleeper services into Germany, and they are very nice ones, but that’s it. SNCF have pulled out of overnight operations completely, there is now just one Italian train down to Venice that you can sleep on. The low countries and Denmark have no sleeper services at all any more. Any of Oslo-Tromsø, Stockholm-Boden or Lisbon to Madrid and Hendaye would be grievous losses. Scandinavia will surely be keeping theirs, but Portugal-Spain/France is less safe. The East and South is even more concerning. In much of south-eastern Europe you are lucky if there are cross border services, let alone magic sleeper trains that whisk you off to a brand new international destination every morning. If you leave this another five years you could find there’s hardly anything left to sleep on outside a handful of ÖBB super trains and the two Arctic services in Norway and Sweden.

A more pressing issue is the rapidly deteriorating political situation. At the time of writing we are in the midst of the French election. The British meanwhile are having their third national vote in two years. We are threatening to break from our kindred nations in a manner far worse than most of us thought thinkable. No one could seriously expect us to have to get 23 visas to be able do this if we wait another two years. If the worst were to happen you just never know.

We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace.

We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European Continent, they will truly feel “Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too”.

Let us meet together. Let us work together. Let us do our utmost—all that is in us—for the good of all. How simple it would all be, how crowned with blessings for all of us if that could ever come, especially for the children and young men and women now growing up in this tortured world. How proud we should all be if we had played any useful part in bringing that great day to come.

If you’d like to share the love and let everyone on the mainland know that there are very many people in the UK who agree whole heartedly with Winston Churchill, love our collective culture and will always consider themselves intrinsically European at no cost whatsoever to their identity as English, Irish, Scots or Welshmen, then perhaps get yourself a T-shirt something like this, and maybe go for a continental train ride.

That’s my T shirt for the trip. If you want one just for the sake of it, be my guest, you can have the source docs, and the PDFs and I can even show you where I have had them made which should make it cheaper as the set-up charge is already paid, (you can get the front and back designs from C2O here and here)  but use anyone you like including yourself.

I may do a second run with “twelve beers please” which might have more practical value, or perhaps “I love your train” which my straight laced English male friends might prefer.

Mark Lester

mc_lester@yahoo.co.uk

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If Carlsberg Did Train Trips….

Whether you consider this to be the greatest train trip video ever made, or just a bunch of holiday snaps from some kind of continental scale pub crawl, depends on whether or not you were on the train. Anyway, 2 years on here’s the slide show replete with music you will find either deeply irritating or irritatingly catchy.

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Conclusions

What is Tourisme Grande Vitesse ?

This trip isn’t a world record for cities or countries visited in a given time, e.g with a 22 day InterRail pass. Guinness seem to claim the record is 30 countries in 6 days. I haven’t a clue how you might do that. It would surely have to be based in Europe and I don’t think I could concoct more than 48 hours at an average border crossing of one every 5 hours before being reduced to barely a country a day. I am aware of a number of reports of journeys which exceed ours in length. But they are all over a much longer time scale and have included numerous stop overs in excess of 24 hours. Other than Guinness’s preposterous claim that someone has travelled solely by rail to 30 counties in 6 days, I am unaware of anyone doing anything quite at this pace with some degree of style. i.e over 1,000 km and about 2 capital cities or as good as per day for over 2 weeks, and at least some off train exposure to every country. Including the main 47 trains of the route proper, we all made over 80 different journeys on trains, trams, metros, funiculars, buses, taxis and boats.

But anything definable in a world record can’t include points for things like visiting the Arctic circle, or quantify and accept the need for “cheating” and getting a bus from Fauske to Narvik, or Ploče to Split, in order to maintain convexity of the route. Two astonishingly beautiful bus rides. Nor can it evaluate the beauty or interest of numerous journeys through the Balkan Mountains, not to mention every yard of our trip through Switzerland. Nor can it value the geeky fun of the Rødby Puttgarden train ferry, and numerous super high speed trains, and not to mention every yard of our trip through Switzerland.

And it certainly can’t take into account how much patronage of the train bar has been achieved and varieties of local beverage sampled. Or how many different types of cheeses and salamis and insanely huge sandwiches that have been consumed.

And then there are my friends, for whom no calculation is possible. Without them there certainly wouldn’t have been a party. I have stopped short of publishing the x-ray of my back that the chiropractor took on my return. I look like Richard III. I had injured myself in an altercation with an ancient washing machine just before Christmas. I thought I was cured but perhaps through too much water carrying and heavy bag helping on and off trains, it gave way round about Markaska on the bus to Split. Without my buddies I fear I may not have managed all this on my Jack Jones. They have also documented the trip in wonderful words and pictures which I hope you’ve also enjoyed during my serialisation. Every single one of the pictures used in the account of the trip, including all the station place names, was taken by one of the group during the trip. We have thousands of photos on Flickr with which to remember our incredible journey. Thank you again guys.

This wasn’t a record attempt. It was a mobile party. One travelling at over 300 kmh at times, through night and day, over and under seas, right over mountains, and more mountains, to the extremes of Western Europe. Venice and Prague are undeniably two of the finest tourist destinations anywhere on the planet, and we had a good shot at both of them, as we did Lisbon and Budapest. And boy, did we do Switzerland justice ?.

It was the most fantabulastic railway ride I could devise to be executed in a time-scale and budget manageable by almost anyone. The participants, several of us familiar with epic railway rides, have all been profoundly affected by this particular adventure.  Including Catalan in Barcelona, Basque at Irun/Hendaye, and Romanisch at St Moritz, we had 21 different local languages at stations we changed at to go with our 23 countries.  That all translates to a spectacular kaleidoscope of our civilisation. We feel like we’ve seen the entire continent in an instant. The effect has been 18,000 kilovolts of culture shock and scenery overdose to go with the 18,000 kilometres of rail we covered in a fortnight and a bit (not to mention about 600 km of road).

This works. You need to plan, and psych yourself up. Because for sure, this isn’t intended to be a conventional kind of trip. But it works. You can do this brand of extreme rail tourism in other places, notably India and Japan where they have both the infrastructure to make an intensive trip possible and the rail pass to make it affordable. But only Europe can give, at least to this European’s eyes, ears and mouth, such a range of cuisine and climate, creed and culture, landscape and railway experience.

What is the next Tourisme Grande Vitesse ?

fuhrerJapan is the next target network. Stay tuned for GCJRC in 2015. It is a spectacular country with fantastic railways. To paraphrase from, as you can imagine, one of my favourite films Trainspotting, it’s precision railways, and also it’s culture and especially it’s food, are custom f***ing designed for my needs. I will also return to my old friend India next year, where you can spend all of every day with the vestibule door wide open. If you have either been on any of my trips, or I know you, even if I haven’t seen you for decades, and you wanna do either of those epic countries TGV style with me, then get in touch ASAP. But I do not expect any railway trip I ever do to quite match what just happened in my native continent, which I now love more than ever.

To be continued ……

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Day 18 – Back To Blighty

It’s early. These Renfe sleepers are so tiny that they don’t have any pull down seats in the corridors. There’s a restaurant car. It’s got seats, and big windows, and coffee.  How civilised. Out of the window we pass ramshackle villages in ravines. The place names invariably include an X and no obvious way to pronounce them. We are in Basque country.

We wind our way up the East side of the Northern Pyrenees, before bursting into an Alpine landscape. Despite witnessing just about every European mountain range worth seeing in the last 2 weeks, this is still a remarkable and delightful start to the day. The towns start to look more affluent, and eventually we arrive in Hendaye, France.

We are required to show passports to change platform. Our TGV to Paris is waiting for us on the other side of the station. There are, yet again, loads of school kids. One of them appears to be smoking a fag with his mother. A bunch more with their teacher. Grief!, what is the world coming to ?.

The usual coffee, pastries and sarnies detail is dispatched. I make a vain attempt to score a bottle of decent brandy for the final leg this evening. I return with a tarte de basque or some such. It’s a sort of Pays Basque Bakewell tart. The kids smoking fags on the platform (you can get busted for that in Slovakia you know) extinguish and we are allowed to depart on our journey through Aquitaine and homeward.

The landscape is generally flat, which is almost a relief in itself. I think one more gob smacking thousand metre rock-face and we’ll all explode. On the second half of the journey we hit the high speed track, and whoosh, straight up to 280+ kmh and we are in Paris before you know it.

One last city traversal. My back is now shot to pieces. We are all emotionally and physically trashed. At one stage I think the French haven’t got a metro at all, just tunnels you walk along between stations. We arrive at garedunord. We have 20 minutes to play with. I am now firmly in the red zone but with my final reserves of stamina and showing devotion to the cause worthy of decoration, I hurtle off to source a decent bottle of cognac for the last hurrah. Back at the station and after way too much unnecessary hoo hah and irritating queuing, making Eurostar the most difficult train in Europe to actually get on, we board. The brandy is cracked open and is demolished in two rounds, the second as we emerge onto home soil.

Photo @ Paul Clarke Photo @ Paul Clarke

At St Pancras we have a  welcoming committee, including mothers and fathers, wives and girlfriends and even an avid fan. We climb up to the John Betjeman pub where we had convened two weeks last Saturday. Drinks are drunk, and hugs are given with what strength I have left. And we are shooed away from whence we began 17 days ago ? It feels more like half a lifetime. I will reflect on the impact of all this tomorrow in the final post of this blog.

tix tix2

Start: Basque country
Train 44 continued sleeper from Lisbon
Train 45 – 12:36 Hendaye to Paris
Train 46 – 20:13 Paris to London
Finish: The John Betjeman Arm’s, St Pancras Station, London

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634765568655/
Lloyd’s Blog http://www.lloydshepherd.com/2013/07/23/day-18-back-to-the-island/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/home-stretch.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/they-think-it-all-over.html

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Day 17 – Extreme Europe

Lisbon. Our final unconquered capital. Number 23 on the list. We are at both the most Westerly and Southerly point of the trip, and as near as damn it on the Atlantic Ocean. We have ultimately run out of continental landmass.

Steve Dobson

Steve Dobson

We have all day here, several of the group know the city a little. We can give Lisbon a decent shot, but we urgently need to have a shower to make it all work. Our research team direct us to the municipal piscina, a few yards up the hill from the station. It’s a quaint but tiny little place. We don’t want to swim as such, we just desperately need to use the showers, luv. We must look a pathetic sight. Eventually she agrees we can have a rinse for a nominal fee, which I as good as double despite the good lady’s protestations.
bicaAfter half a pint of the elixir from the obliging piscina, we are ready to face 12 hours of lovely Lisbon. And what a lovely place it is. Trams, funiculars, great cafes, great views, ancient buildings, more trams, more funiculars. A shot of some cherry stuff from a quaint little booth in the main square. We end up in a restaurant. I have my espetada. Others take their pick. Darren eats everyone’s desert. The street number of the establishment is 23. It’s all part of the plan you know.

Steve Dobson

Back down the hill, and that lift. Those of us who haven’t been to Belem before, or just want to carry on tramming, catch a ride out there. The monastery is witnessed, Pasties de Belem are consumed. A train back into town is caught.

Mick Pope

The Museum of Beer had been noticed by everyone earlier, and I feel certain I will find them all sat inside the bar there. My intuition is correct. We debate what should be our final evening meal. It really should be piri piri, but somehow curry wins the day. When we get there it’s shut. But there is another just up the alley. Everyone thinks it’s great. I know not why.

Back to the station, bags are retrieved. Wine and water and some decent port is acquired. We board, and the journey home can begin.

Start: On the approaches to Lisbon
Train 43 – continued sleeper from Madrid
Train 44 – 21:18 Lisbon to Hendaye sleeper
Finish: In a bar, travelling north-west.

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634747665089/
Lloyd’s Blog http://www.lloydshepherd.com/2013/07/22/day-17-a-sense-of-an-ending/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/the-last-supper.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/the-23rd-capital.html

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Day 16 – The Iberians AVE It

I awake at crack of dawn again. We are parked but I’m not really paying attention. We are at Port Bou and we are undergoing a transformation. Gauge conversion. Our Talgo carriages can actually change the width of their axels. That news either floats your boat or it doesn’t. Through the tunnel to Cerbère and we are into Spain. Catalunya to be precise. A morning’s high speed sight seeing and lunch break in Barcelona await.

First job is to get all the bags from Estacion de Franca where we have just arrived, to Barcelona Sants where we will depart for Madrid in another 5 ½ hours. Metro passes acquired we get to shiny new Sants station and dispense with the bags. Free play is declared and those who haven’t seen the Sagrada for 10 years go to see how it’s getting on. Others go to the beach. Darren employ’s his now tried and trusted method of locating a Guinness serving pub and is subsequently overwhelmed with hospitality.

I proceed to do Barcelona’s most iconic tourist attraction with Mick, Dave and Steve. The Sagrada Familia has made great progress over the last decade, it no longer appears more building site than cathedral. If you fancy having a look and not spending most of your day in the epic queue spanning most of  the buildings perimeter, I suggest you chose a Tuesday in October, and not a Sunday in July. Museums and places of worship are explicitly prohibited in the TGV terms of issue. I would have unquestionably needed intensive care if I’d had to wait in that queue for hours. We engage in some unrewarding metro tourism by way of the funicular on the metro, which is really a launch pad for the cable car which we don’t really have the time or energy for. So we retreat to nearby the station and a shady café. Paellas are consumed, beers are sunk and we all do our best to keep going. On old Yahoo! colleague meets us in the sunshine.

Photo @ Paul Clarke

Photo @ Paul Clarke

Back to Sants and bags are collected before we have to go through airport style security to get on our next train, the high speed AVE to Madrid. It’s a very flashy train. Before long we are nudging 300 kmh according to the in-carriage speedometer. We decide to delve into the picnic supplies and then we discover a tragedy. My bags have been carried, since I forgot when, by everyone else.  I can manage to roll my super lightweight suitcase along a platform, but the two heavily stocked picnic bags are everyone else’s responsibility. Probably during the security phase at Sants one of the bags, the one with all the cheese and chocolates, has been abandoned. It is sad news, though I at least feel less guilty about troughing my way through the chocolates for my breakfast earlier while the world slept.

Lloyd Shepherd

Lloyd Shepherd

Lloyd Shepherd

The high speed views of spaghetti western country contrast with anything we’ve seen to date. The AVE zooms across precipitous viaducts at full whack. We then hit heavy rain on the plain in Spain. We have to slow down, to a mere 280 kmh. At 170 mph, torrential rain becomes sucked horizontally down the sides of the carriages. It feels like we are in a supersonic submarine. This is one very impressive train. After just a few hours of this we are at atochas, and capital No. 22 of 23. All we are fit for by this stage is to perform another station, metro, station city traversal and then hopefully locate somewhere near Chamartin station to have tapas. Which we do. Too much tapas of every variety is ordered. Everything is eaten.

We stagger back into the station and board our sleeper to Portugal. The bar is located and a few drinks are had with incredulous Australian, or were these American, tourists. Then, before you can say “back to back British winners of the Tour de France” we are all zonked out.

Tomorrow Portugal and Lisbon, our final target before we bank north for the dash back to Blighty.

Start: Port Bou on the French Spanish border having our boggies played with.
Train 41 – continued sleeper from Paris
Train 42 – 15:25 Barcelona to Madrid
Train 43 – 22:25 Madrid to Lisbon sleeper
Finish: On a sleeper bound for Lisbon

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634747403979/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/barca-loner.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/scorchio.html

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Day 15 – Lyon, Paris, Geneva, Zurich. Everybody Talk About….

We’ve stopped. We’re still stopped. What’s wrong with this train?. Oh, it’s not a train. It’s a 2 bunk 4 person mini-dorm in Zurich. We are all cracking up by now.

Our day on the rails starts at 08:32. The river front by the Old Town area is delightful at this time of the morning. The usual coffee and pastry procurement exercises are completed and we move to the platform. It’s heaving. Loads of commuters and loads of school kids and assorted other tourists. The train is a huge double decker affair. We haven’t any reservations for this one so it’s going to be tricky.

We get on and once upstairs we see two sets of 4 with another free pair behind them, ideal. After collapsing one of us notices that these are actually reserved, damn it. Hang on, I’m not sure if I do have reservations for this after all. I take out my dwindling stack of tickets and yes!, we do. OK guys, we need to be in Wagen 5. “We are already in it skip”. Cool, what luck. OK, seats 101 to 110. “Er Mark , you are sitting in seat 101”. We all freeze, it seems preposterously unlikely that on a train holding about 5,000 seats that we’ve accidentally landed in the right ones. But we have.

We set off on another traversal between Europe’s great river basins. Today from the Rhine into the Rhone. Nice day, rolling hills, a series of very Germanic medieval hilltop towns and villages are passed. At Bern, the only capital we travel to but don’t change trains at, some of us take the trouble to get off and on. Alas it is an ugly subterranean affair, reminiscent of Birmingham New Street  Over the Rhone valley watershed and into French Switzerland. The French Alps, the stuff with Mont Blanc somewhere in there, comes into view. It’s grand. It gets grander. Then POW!. Make sure you are on the left side of the train going Zurich-Geneva. The line suddenly bursts into the Geneva valley, the huge lake appearing out of nowhere. For a moment you feel like you are parascending. One of the most dramatic views of the whole trip. Now that’s saying something.

We are surrounded by vineyards. Special vineyards. Some of the finest wines available to humanity are nurtured here. This stuff hardly even gets out of this valley, let alone Switzerland. But no fear. Agent Saturno is waiting at the next station, Lausanne, with a bag full of wines, cheeses and chocolates. The best money can buy. Our saviour arrives with cooler bags, and more cooler bags, stuffed full of the best his adopted home can muster. Superb cheeses with truffles. Chocolates worthy of disputing my infuriating claim that “I reckon the Belgians have it in the chocolate department”. And a selection of these glorious wines.

The meeting with Fernando is short but very sweet. He trundles us under and round to the special international departures entrance at Geneva station. Brotherly hugs and it’s all over all too soon. Our next stop is Lyon. There’s loads of school kids again. We definitely don’t have reservations on this one. But we are getting good at this. A foursome with a table is obtained and the rest find sanctuary near by. Chief Gastronomy Officer and I investigate the booty. All the cheeses are delicately sliced into nibble size, and labelled. This identification is very important to a trainspotting food tourist. We couldn’t be worse prepared in a way, having cheesed our way round three quarters of Europe in the last fortnight. But these really are superb. CGO is actually of Belgian heritage and it’s difficult for him to admit their supremacy, but the choccies are really bloody good.

There’s still loads of kids moving about. They are about 9 or 10 years old, their teachers still trying to settle them all down. We have a spare seat in our 4 and so insist that one of them join us. We are rewarded with the most enchanting little girl. Apart from being as pretty as a little girl can be, she is delightfully confident. It’s a party, please help yourself, and she does, with gusto. Steve and I are bewitched and her every wish is our command. Outside the Rhone valley is spectacular. I wasn’t expecting Zurich-Geneva-Lyon to be especially fantastic after spending the previous day flying about at hors catégorie level. It is yet another superb day of views.

Steve Dobson

We arrive in Lyon. It’s a great place. You must come here sometime. Unfortunately it is about 200 degrees centigrade. I am now capable of walking about 10 feet without the need of an ambulance. Everyone else is physically and emotionally busted. The Tour de France is reaching it’s climax just round the corner from where we’ve just been. John locates a bar where we can have a plate of the day and watch a bit of cycling. It’s as French as we can manage.  We return to the platform for the TGV to Paris.

My jaw falls off. It’s a double decker. We are going to be travelling at over 180 miles per hour in a 20 unit DOUBLE DECKER train. Getting on is another struggle. Is every bloody school in Europe on the rails today ?. We set off and the mental calculation I had started on the platform continues.  I guestimate that the kinetic energy of this thing, full of people and at full whack of about 300 kmh, is between 500 and 1,000 lorries travelling at  60 mph up the M6. There was a train crash in France the other day. You don’t want to be in one of these when it’s flying if bad things happen. We hit full whack. It feels very fast.

Darren Foreman

At Paris Gare du Lyon we have to merely cross the Seine to find ourselves at Austerlitz. Both the tower, just, and the cathedral, can be seen from the bridge. We will cross France 3 times, and it’s capital twice.  But the Pont d’Austerlitz is as much off train sightseeing as we will manage. We locate a base in a tabac café to consume croque mr and croque mrs. And I am able to restock my depleted nicotine fluid reserves. Then off to the train.

Yet more bloody tourists, billions of the buggers. All with two rucksacks each. Since when did this become the normal way to travel ?. The girls look like they are on a pregnancy training regime. The boys like they are arriving at a hall of residence with their entire belongings. My spine twitches every time I look at them. We board. It’s 2 berth but small. But the real downer is, contrary to the implications of a number of sources, there are NO showers on ANY 2nd class European sleepers ANYWHERE. Got that ?. We will have one shower on-board on the entire trip. That is in a 1st class carriage conveniently open for our use in Romania. That’s as good as it gets.

Barcelona here we come.

Start: In a dorm in Zurich
Train 38 08:32 Zurich to Geneva
Train 39 11:29 Geneva to Lyon
Train 40 17:04 Lyon Paris
Train 41 22:08 Paris Barcelona
Finish: Somewhere in France

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634712390061/
Lloyd’s Blog http://www.lloydshepherd.com/2013/07/21/day-16-slingshot-around-paris/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/tourisme-grande-vitesse.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/transport-of-delight.html

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