From Clermont-Ferrand to Murat takes about 90 minutes by train, and cost me £17 one way. Then it was a transfer by car to Bruno and Valerie’s Auberge d’Aijean, our inn for the night. Just past Murat, you can see the snowline appearing for the first time.
The winter here has been mild. It is still scenic in a wintry way but I can imagine how this notches up quite a few extra beauty points when covered in snow. Still, Valerie guided me on a nature hike this afternoon, which was pretty and helped me acclimatise from my sedentary job to actually walking. Tomorrow morning we get to snowshoe on the Puy Mary volcano peak.
So, the press trip is about to start – the two other journalists are arriving in half an hour and we will begin with a Nordic bath, which I believe is a a sort of alfresco hot tub, before chef Bruno’s dinner.
Apologies for awkward wordflows. I’ve been speaking in broken French for two days and my writing is stuck in transit.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said in 1881:
“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive..”
The journey can be its own reward – unless you’ve ever endured an overnight bus journey in Asia – and I admit, I was very much looking forward to today’s 11-hour multi-rail trip. Here was the route:
Bournville-Birmingham New Street-London Euston-St Pancras International-Paris Gard du Nord-Paris Bercy-Clermont-Ferrand.
I didn’t go by rail for any amazing views, though there were some to be had, but I badly needed the chance to watch the world go by for a few hours and just catch up on ‘stuff’. There is also something of the romance of travel in the variety of rail stations you pass through – something you don’t get with modern airports.
The other thing that fascinates about ground travel is that everything is looked at afresh, eagerly and vividly – from the continuous line of graffiti on the approach to Paris to patterns in the paving stones in historic Clermont. I didn’t manage to snap the unexpected tropical garden, complete with palm trees, beside the No 14 line from Gare de Lyon (update: got it on the return journey) but I snapped all else that caught my eye today.
Below is the story of the journey in pictures and there are more in the full set of lo-fi phone pics is on Flickr. Continue reading
Having heard nothing but bad things about the dank smell, rip-off prices and tourist hoards, none of these appeared to be true of Venice in mid-February.
The Paris-Venice train cost just £25 for an overnight journey and the early morning train chugged in across a sunny causeway before parking up right on the Grand Canal. Here is the train station… Nice, eh?
You couldn’t ask for a better way to arrive in Venice, though we were slightly confused at travelling in backwards – the train had reversed at Milan in the night. I still have a picture book of paintings of the Grand Canal from my childhood but the canals, gondoliers, streets, bridges, architecture and St Marks Square were just as painterly in real life.
Would love to go back one day but, in a way, the six hours we spent there waiting for an onward connection to Ljubliana in Slovenia, was just perfect as it was.