Europe by rail

Document Sample
Europe by rail Powered By Docstoc
					     SPECIAL REPORT            March 26-27, 2011




Europe by rail
                        Fast
                      tracks
                      Scenic and seamless
                        travel adventures

                                     FACE-OFF
                               Train v plane
                       On the Paris to Amsterdam route
                                               Page 5

                              BRITISH ISLES
                               Steam ahead
                           Journeys from a bygone era
                                              Page 8

                                          ADVICE
                                   Going loco
                              Top tips for a smooth trip
                                                Page 15




                                                           1HERSA1 S001
  The Sydney Morning Herald                                                                  SPECIAL REPORT                                                            March 26-27, 2011 EUROPE BY RAIL 3


                                                                                                                                                            Hamburg


On the                                                           IRELAND
                                                                                                  KINGDOM

                                                                                             London
                                                                                                   UNITED

                                                                                                                   Amsterdam
                                                                                                                                NETHERLANDS
                                                                                                                                                Hanover

                                                                                                                                            Dortmund   GERMANY
                                                                                                                                                                                Berlin
                                                                                                                                                                                    POLAND



move                                                                                                        Lille

                                                                                                          Paris
                                                                                                                  BELGIUM Aachen Cologne
                                                                                                                        Brussels Luxembourg
                                                                                                                                                Frankfurt

                                                                                                                                                   Stuttgart
                                                                                                                                                            Nuremberg
                                                                                                                                                                         CZECH
                                                                                                                                                                        REPUBLIC
High-speed rail has made                                                                                               Reims Strasbourg      Karlsruhe      Munich                      SLOVAKIA
                                                                                         Rennes                               Mulhouse      Freiburg                            Vienna
Europe more accessible,                                                                                             Dijon                                          Salzburg
                                                                                                           Tours                  Basel        Zurich         Innsbruck
writes Megan Johnston.                                                                       Nantes                                         Bern                  AUSTRIA              HUNGARY
                                                          KEY                                                               Lausanne
                                                                                                                                    Geneva  SWITZERLAND             SLOVENIA
                                                                   High speed rail lines


F
          ew forms of travel hold as much                                                               FRANCE         Lyon                         Brescia            Trieste CROATIA
          romantic appeal as the railway. With                     Proposed                                                                  Milan              Venice
          panoramic views, plush cabins and spa-                   high speed rail lines                          Valence              Turin Bologna
                                                                                                      Bordeaux                                              Padua
          cious seating, the pleasure of the journey                                                                                                                          BOSNIA AND SERBIA
is as much a part of the trip as the destination.                                                             Montpellier     Avignon                     Florence
   Faster trains and cheaper tickets are now also
                                                                                                                                                                              HERZEGOVINA
                                                                                                           Toulouse             Marseille                    ITALY
making rail travel a reality for more Australians                                              Vitoria                 Perpignan                                                     MONTENEGRO
on holiday.
   “It’s now very easy to travel across most areas                          Valladolid                            Huesca     Figueres                                         Rome
                                                                                             Saragossa
of Europe,” the Australasian manager of Rail                                                                            Barcelona
Europe, Richard Leonard, says.                                                                                                                                               Naples              Bari     ALBANIA
   “The rail service is sophisticated, reliable and                             Madrid                                                                                        Salerno
not so weather dependent. It’s also very safe and                                                                                                    Sardinia                                          Lecce
quick – and it’s very, very comfortable.”                                                                      Valencia                                                                         Lamezia
   The growing expanse of the network and the                                                SPAIN
extensive use of high-speed trains, which travel at       Lisbon                                                                                                                               Calabria
more than 300km/h along key corridors, now                                               Cordoba             Alicante
make rail a viable alternative to air travel,                                                                                                                                    Sicily
Leonard says.                                                        Seville
   Rail also takes travellers directly to and from                                       Malaga
city centres – and avoids the time and hassle of
airport security.                                      ney but that journey now costs about $10. And           the introduction of the euro currency and open-      travellers and family groups are all catered for.
   “[Usually] there’s no check in – you simply turn    because Australians tend to book much earlier           border travel, getting around Europe by train is     “[There’s] everything from wide, comfortable
up and get on the train,” he says.                     than European travellers, they can also take            easier than ever.                                    seats to large, panoramic windows ... and power
   The price of British point-to-point tickets in      advantage of some of the best promotional fares            “Trains will get people to where they want to     sockets and Wi-Fi on some trains,’’ Leonard says.
particular has dropped dramatically for Australi-      and discounts.                                          go – country to country, region to region, city to      As a popular mode of travel for many Euro-
ans who buy their tickets before leaving for Euro-        The growth of e-ticketing and integrated ticket-     city,” Leonard says.                                 peans, rail is also a great way to mix with locals.
pe. Two years ago, passengers from London to           ing is taking the hassle out of buying passes for          Faster trains and denser networks are not the        “Europeans love to talk, they want to engage
Oxford might have paid about $90 for their jour-       longer or complicated journeys. Combined with           only improvements. Up-market tourists, business      and find out where you are from,” Leonard says.

                                  A Herald Special Report ■ Editor Bellinda Kontominas ■ Advertising Jessica Jenkins, 9282 2307; JJenkins@fairfaxmedia.com.au
                                                                   Readerlink 9282 1569 ■ Cover Switzerland’s Glacier Express




              WIN A EUROPEAN TRIP FOR TWO
              WORTH MORE THAN $15,000!

              Europe is shrinking                                                The Prize Includes:                                              To Enter:
              thanks to high-speed rail.
                                                                               · Return economy airfares for 2 people ex                          Tell us which 3 countries you would most like to
                                                                                 Sydney with choice of flying into or out of                       experience by high-speed train and why?
                                                                                 5 French destinations.
                                                                                                                                                  Visit www.smh.com.au/competitions/
                                                                               · Eurail Select Pass 1st class for 2 people 15 days                europeisshrinking enter your details and you
                                                                                 travel in 2 months covering up to 5 countries.                   and a friend could zip off to Europe very soon!

                                                                               · Swiss Rail Pass 1st class for 2 people with
                                                                                                                                                  Win this fantastic prize and
                                                                                 unlimited travel on train, bus and boat for 1 month.
                                                                                                                                                  experience Europe shrinking thanks
                                                                               · 5 nights’ accommodation for 2 people in Accor                    to high-speed rail.
                TGV travelling at 300 km/h                                       Hotels throughout Europe including breakfast.

                                                                               · 7 nights’ holiday package for 2 people in
              Enjoy distinctly French styled service from Australia              Switzerland. A 3* hotel of your choice in the
              into 5 French destinations with Air Austral, ‘the                  Jungfrau region, on a half-board basis.
              French Airline of the Indian Ocean’. Explore
              Europe from cities to regions to countries on Rail
              Europe’s high-speed rail network. Experience
              European hospitality thanks to Accor Hotels and                    ENTER HERE
              a Swiss holiday experience in the Jungfrau region                  www.smh.com.au/competitions/
              courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.                                   europeisshrinking
                                                                                                                                                    Air Austral’s Premium Economy Cabin




                                                                                                                                                                                                              1HERSA1 S003
4 EUROPE BY RAIL March 26-27, 2011                                                            SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                           smh.com.au




 DESTINATION
 FRANCE




Adventure
for the senses
A walking tour of Burgundy’s villages reveals culinary and
cultural delights, writes Louise Southerden.



I
       t’s 10.28am, Gare de Lyon,                                         walk through forests of black
       Paris. Our high-speed TGV                                          pines and oak trees (used to make
       is on time, of course. In                                          wine barrels). Now and then we
       comfortable first-class seats,                                     emerge at storybook villages with
we watch the countryside scroll                                           ivy-covered walls, roses leaning
past our large windows like a                                             over picket fences and melodic
French movie: villages, clock                                             names such as Morey-St-Denis
towers, green hills. The trip is                                          and Chambolle-Musigny. One
about as long as a movie, too; an                                         reminds me of the movie
hour and a half after leaving Paris,                                      Chocolat, which, we discover
we’re in Dijon, the largest city in                                       later, was indeed shot in Bur-
Burgundy, just in time for lunch.                                         gundy, in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.
    What better way to begin a                                               We stop for wine tasting at         ’’Golden slope’’ ... vineyards of the Cote d’Or; (left) Burgundy pinot noir. Photos: Getty Images, Louise Southerden
tour of Burgundy than by sam-                                             Chateau de Clos de Vougeot, built
pling local specialties such as                                           by Cistercian monks in the 16th
oeufs en meurette (eggs in red-
wine sauce) with a glass of kir, an
                                                                          century at the edge of the largest
                                                                          grand cru (highest-quality wine)
                                                                                                                    FAST FACTS
aperitif of local creme de cassis (blackcurrant         vineyard in the Cote de Nuit. The charming som-             Getting there Thai Airways has a fare to                  Getting around UTracks has guided and
liqueur) and white wine? By mid-afternoon we’re         melier, Claire Naigeon, explains that Clos de               Paris for about $2170, flying to Bangkok                  self-guided itineraries throughout France,
ready to stretch our legs on a walking tour of          Vougeot’s wines are all organic, like most Burgun-          (9hr), then Paris (13hr). This is low-season              including a seven-day Burgundy Vineyard
Dijon, which is a petit Paris. There’s a little         dian wines, and made by hand – or foot. ‘‘We                return from Melbourne and Sydney                          Walk between April and October. It costs
Champs-Elysees shopping street, a mini Arc de           crush grapes with our feet, as we did 200 [to]              including tax and allows you to return from               from $1850, including accommodation
Triomphe, even a bike rental scheme called              300 years ago,’’ she says.                                  another European city. A point-to-point                   en route, most meals, welcome briefing and
Velodi, after the original Parisian version, Velib.        Such is the food culture of Burgundy that even           Paris-Dijon ticket costs $27 second class,                transfer, maps and itineraries, wine-tasting
    Dijon is one of the best-preserved cities in        in the village of Vougeot, a short stroll from the          $48 first class and $134 for flexible first               tips and recommended restaurants, picnic
France. We walk down cobbled streets, step              chateau, our lunch includes Burgundian truffles,            class. We travelled on Rail Europe’s France               spots and cellar doors. Your luggage is
inside churches that have wooden chairs instead         snails, Charolais beef and, for dessert, ile flottante      Rail Pass, which was valid for four days                  transferred between hotels, so all you carry
of pews and look up at mediaeval turrets and gar-       – a ‘‘floating island’’ of meringue, almonds and            within one month and cost $289 second                     is a day pack. See utracks.com.
goyles, stopping for treats along the way: caramel      vanilla-bean custard.                                       class or $356 first class, plus a $10 booking             More information See bourgogne
eclairs, gingerbread owls (a symbol of Dijon) and          Our day walk ends in Beaune, the unofficial              fee. See raileurope.com.au.                               -tourisme.com.
sweetly boxed chocolates at Fabrice Gillotte, one       capital of the Cote d’Or, where we visit the Hos-
of France’s top chocolatiers.                           pices du Beaune, a hospital for the poor, built in
    The next morning, we drive 20 minutes south         the 15th century. Today its Hotel Dieu (church)          sweet delights such as cassis jams, creme de cassis             Our last stop is the Fallot moutarderie (mus-
of Dijon to Gevrey-Chambertin to walk in the            looks much as it did then, sans patients: there are      liqueur, cassis concentrate (poured over white               tard factory) in Beaune. We taste mustard seeds,
Burgundian countryside. There are more than             30 beds, each enclosed by red velvet curtains but        cheese or added to water like Ribena) and even               see centuries-old granite millstones and learn
100,000 kilometres of marked walking trails in          open to the vaulted ceiling, all the better to pray      cassis-flavoured ketchup, mustard and vodka.                 what makes Dijon mustard special: verjus.
France and because they all use the same ‘‘sign-        for a speedy recovery. Because this is Burgundy,            It’s still raining when we pull up at the Olivier            Apparently, touching mustard seeds brings
posts’’ of painted lines on walls, posts and trees      the hospital has its own vineyard. Patients drank        Leflaive winery, run by brothers Patrick and                 good luck, not that our 9.16am train the next day
it’s easy to go self-guided. We opt for a               wine with every meal and there’s a display of            Olivier Leflaive. During a pre-lunch tour, Olivier,          needs that – it’s on time, bien sur. We head south
10-kilometre trek through part of the Cote d’Or,        antique silver wine-tasting cups, tastevins, once        an 18th-generation winemaker, says his mission is            to Avignon, Provence, watching vineyards and
the ‘‘golden slope’’, a 50-kilometre stretch of wine    given to boys to teach them how to taste wine            to make wines more accessible, while also being              villages flash by. Burgundy is an adventure for
country divided into the Cote de Nuits in the           (girls apparently used goblets).                         inventive: ‘‘When I meet a wine, I don’t want the            the senses, with its cassis farms and mustard
north and the Cote de Beaune in the south.                 We plan to go cycling on our third and final          same one as yesterday. I want to every day dis-              shops, not to mention its friendly, unpretentious
    History infuses this place. Our ‘‘vineyard walk’’   day (Burgundy has 800 kilometres of signposted           cover something new.’’ The degustation lunch at              people. And for all its foodie fame, it still feels like
starts at a 12th-century chateau and the first vines    bike routes) but rain spoils that idea so we tour by     winery restaurant Olivier’s Table is one of the high-        a well-kept secret.
were planted on these hills in 603BC. We follow         car instead, starting at the Fruirouge cassis fact-      lights of our trip: six courses, 14 wines and by the
narrow lanes edged with wild red poppies, past          ory. Inside its all-pink showroom we discover that       time we’re offered coffee and Valrhona chocolates,           Louise Southerden travelled courtesy of Rail Europe,
men faithfully tending their bonsai-like vines and      cassis is good for more than kir while tasting           my palate, not to mention my head, is spinning.              UTracks and Thai Airways.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                               AG3676206AA-

1HERSA1 0004
  The Sydney Morning Herald                                                               SPECIAL REPORT                                                              March 26-27, 2011 EUROPE BY RAIL 5




                                                     ‘Tortoise’ and the air
                                                     Louise Southerden
                                                     compares plane and train
                                                     travel on the route from
                                                     Paris to Amsterdam.



                                                     T
                                                                 rain travel is the new black. On some
                                                                 European routes, such as Paris to Brus-
                                                                 sels, flights have been phased out alto-
                                                                 gether and it’s not hard to see why.
                                                     Europe’s trains are, on the whole, clean, comfort-
                                                     able and punctual.
                                                         For journeys of less than four hours, high-
                                                     speed trains such as the TGV (which travels at up
                                                     to 320km/h) can be faster than planes, particu-
                                                     larly when you include the time spent getting to
                                                     the airport, checking in, passing through security
                                                     and waiting at the departure gate. Trains usually
                                                     arrive in the city centre instead of the outskirts,
                                                     where airports often are, saving taxi and shuttle
                                                     fares to a final destination.
                                                         You don’t have to remove liquids from your
                                                     hand luggage when you travel by train, luggage
                                                     doesn’t have to be weighed and train passes offer
                                                     the freedom of flexible travel dates and discounts
                                                     on accommodation and attractions.
                                                         Staying on the ground has the advantages of
                                                     scenery and the use of electronic devices as soon
                                                     as you’ve boarded. And you’ll also be travelling
                                                     ‘‘green’’. Rail Europe says high-speed trains gener-
                                                     ate 96 per cent less carbon dioxide than other
                                                     modes of travel. Some trains, such as the Euro-
                                                     star, which links Britain with France and Bel-
                                                     gium, are carbon neutral due to offsetting (at no
                                                     extra cost to the traveller).

Concierge to
                                                         Here we compare a journey from Paris to Am-
                                                     sterdam by plane on Air France with the renov-
                                                     ated Thalys train, which has travelled high-speed

call your own
                                                     all the way on this route since late 2009.

                                                     Time
                                                     Plane Takes one hour and 15 minutes (direct),          Air v rail ... train travel is more technology-friendly and luggage isn’t weighed. Photo: Getty Images
TRAVELLERS who want to make the most of              plus check-in 40 minutes before departure (if
their visit to France can splash out on a new rail   travelling with luggage) or 20 minutes before          ing up to 23 kilograms for premium economy              Holland Herald), French and international news-
concierge service to be launched next week.          departure (no luggage), plus pre-boarding secur-       and business class, respectively.                       papers. No interactive entertainment provided on
  From Friday, the new France Rail Pass              ity check (for bags; there’s no passport control be-   Train Seats are 55 centimetres wide in Com-             short flights.
Premium ticket will include a private concierge      tween France and the Netherlands). Total time:         fort 2, 65 centimetres wide in Comfort 1; some          Train An on-board magazine titled Thalyscope;
whose job is to offer personal assistance to         about 21/2 hours. There are 12 flights a day.          seats face forward, some backwards. Renovated           newspapers and magazines are available free to
luxury passengers.                                   Train Takes three hours 18 minutes (direct), plus      18 months ago, Thalys trains have new features          Comfort 1 passengers.
  After booking their ticket, travellers either      boarding (10-15 minutes before departure; plat-        in both classes, such as individual seat lights,
phone or email their concierge, who can then         forms close two minutes before departure). Total       wide armrests, wool-velvet seat coverings and           Technology
organise all of their requests on their behalf.      time: about 31/2 hours. There are 44 trains a day.     space for mobile phones. Each carriage has toilets      Plane Electronic devices such as laptops can be
Requests can range from booking hotels or                                                                   at one end and luggage storage at the other. Lug-       used except during take-off and landing but there
restaurants to tailor-made activities such as        Cost                                                   gage allowance is two suitcases and one other           is no in-seat power source; mobile phones can’t
VIP events or shopping with a personal stylist.      Plane $463.20 (premium economy) or $766 (pre-          piece (no weight limit), which can be stored on         be used. No Wi-Fi internet access.
  The concierge can also book tickets to             mium affaires, also known as business class),          overhead racks, between back-to-back seats or at        Train Mobile phones and laptops can be used at
exhibitions and galleries, reserve last-minute       including taxes, plus a $20 online credit-card         the end of the carriage.                                any time throughout the journey. Every seat on
seats at the ballet or opera or arrange a            booking fee. (There is no economy class available                                                              the Thalys has a 220-volt power point to
personal chef. They will also have access to the     on this sector.)                                       Food and beverages                                      recharge devices. Wi-Fi internet access (since
best luxury deals and discounts and can even         Train $110 second class (called Comfort 2) or          Plane Beverages including alcohol and a snack           2008) is free in Comfort 1 and costs €6.50 ($9.20)
arrange special trips via boat, helicopter or        $123 first class (called Comfort 1), plus $5 online    are part of the fare.                                   an hour or €13 for unlimited time in Comfort 2.
sports car.                                          booking fee.                                           Train In Comfort 2, meals and alcohol are avail-        There is a talking area at the end of each carriage
  The ticket costs ¤255 ($362) for one                                                                      able to buy at the bar, including salads, hot dishes,   so the use of mobile phones doesn’t disturb
traveller over three days, ¤462 for two adults       Comfort                                                organic food and sandwiches. In Comfort 1,              other passengers.
over four days and up to ¤1260 for five adults       Plane Seats in the Airbus A321 are 45 centi-           meals, including alcohol, are brought to your seat
over five days. Services booked by the               metres wide, all face forward, recline and have a      and are included in the fare.                           Costs and travel times are for a one-way flight from
concierge are at the customer’s expense.             reading light and tray table. There are toilets on                                                             Paris Charles de Gaulle to Amsterdam Schiphol with
  See francerailpass.com.                            board. Carry-on baggage limit is 12 kilograms.         Entertainment                                           Air France and a Thalys high-speed train from
Megan Johnston                                       Checked baggage: two or three items, each weigh-       Plane Inflight magazine (Air France Magazine or         Paris Gare du Nord to Amsterdam on Friday, April 15.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1HERSA1 0005
  The Sydney Morning Herald                                                                  SPECIAL REPORT                                                             March 26-27, 2011 EUROPE BY RAIL 7




Find the right ticket to ride
Megan Johnston lays out
the rail-pass options — and
there are plenty of them.


D
            eciphering the range of ticket combin-
            ations can seem complicated and con-
            fusing. Your first step is to choose
            where you want to go, then decide
between a rail pass or point-to-point ticket. Here
is a brief guide to which option is best for you.

Rail pass
These are the cheapest options if you are plan-
ning to take more than three or four rail journeys
and know which countries you would like to visit.
After you buy a pass, most high-speed, panor-
amic and overnight train services require a seat
reservation for an extra fee. Passes must be
bought before travelling to Europe and seat book-
ings made before you leave home in order to
ensure you aren’t left standing. Passes must also
be validated at a ticket office before use. Pass
holders can access special benefits such as hotel
discounts, bus tickets and other offers. Of the
various country rail passes, Eurail Select Pass and
Eurail Global Pass are among the most popular.         Decisions, decisions ... there are many ticket choices for the rail traveller in Europe — even before the dilemma of first- or second-class seats.
Discounts are often available for young people,
couples, seniors and groups.                           Eurail Select Pass                                      local trains throughout 22 countries. There are        First-class seating
                                                       If you want to travel throughout three to five bor-     different pass formulas that are valid for up to       If you opt for a first-class ticket, expect to pay
One- or two-country rail passes                        dering countries that are directly connected via        two or three months of travel.                         about 50 per cent more than second class. For
Most European countries allow extensive travel         the Eurail network, then this pass allows six to                                                               your money you’ll get wider recliner seating,
within their national rail networks. Depending on      10 days of travel for up to two months from the         Point-to-point tickets                                 quieter carriages and more privacy. Some first-
the countries you are travelling to, different pass    date of validation.                                     If you plan to only travel up to four times via        class seats will also offer meal service as well as
formulas are valid for up to one or two months                                                                 train between specific cities, then point-to-point     Wi-Fi connections.
over different combinations of days. The Swiss         Eurail Global Pass                                      tickets will be your best option. Tickets are
Pass and France Rail Pass are some of the most         If you want to travel widely across Europe, this        cheaper if you can buy them before travelling          To decide where you would like to travel to, use the trip
popular among Australians.                             pass covers a vast network of high-speed and            to Europe.                                             planner at raileurope.com.au.




Make a meal of fast food
European train travel offers sophisticated fine dining — at 300 exhilarating kilometres an hour, writes Kate Gibbs.



N
            ow that we have modern, high-speed         Somewhere between departure and arrival, the            tled over the snow-capped foothills of the Pyren-
            services running to the heart of cos-      buffet car fills up, while polite, British queues wax   ees and through olive groves with a menu and
            mopolitan European cities, trains are      lyrical about their South-of-France weekender.          glass of fino sherry in hand. In Club class, a green
            no longer the dog-eared refuge of rail        Eurostar knows a culinary crowd and now              salad with cured duck breast, mango and poppy
enthusiasts or those who can’t afford to fly. Ams-     does hot and cold options all day. A light after-       seeds arrives as the train pelts between Seville
terdam is brought an hour closer to London, and        noon meal can be an organic Camargue brown              and Madrid.
Seville 40 minutes closer to Madrid as high-speed      and wild rice salad with celery and English cox             On the Thalys trains that operate in Germany,
links have significantly cut journey times be-         apples and toasted sunflower seeds. Or a pan-           Belgium, France and The Netherlands, the soph-
tween European destinations in recent years.           fried chicken breast with sage and onion stuffing,      isticated evolution of train food is perhaps most
   There are still some networks offering food         olive and tomato sauce, roasted new potatoes and        evident. First-class passengers travelling from
that is, in train terms, stalling somewhere be-        spring greens.                                          Brussels are served dishes concocted by Michelin-
tween steam and diesel. But many European                 Even in standard class, most inter-country           starred Belgian chef Alexandre Dionisio and
trains are now offering in buffet carts food to        trains now offer trolley services where you can         chocolate macaroons by renowned Belgian pastry
match that found in the villages, castles, hillside    pick up a packet of cheese biscuits, a proper cof-      chef Jean-Philippe Darcis. Pork pies, celeriac in
chapels and farmhouses blurring past.                  fee and a made-that-day croissant. A bistro cart in     remoulade, rich chocolate cake and tarte tatin
   The Eurostar leaves from London’s St Pancras        most TGV trains through France will at least turn       with vanilla are standard fare.
terminal and spends about 45 minutes in dark-          out a decent Croque Monsieur, if not a four-                As long as they’re serving food like this on
ness under the English Channel before reappear-        course meal.                                            high-speed trains across Europe, it’s almost a
ing in the poplar-lined expanses of France’s fields.      On Spain’s high-speed AVE trains you’re skit-        shame the journey is over so quickly.                  Speed eating ... indulging on the Eurostar.




                                                                                                                       Accor and Rail Europe, your
9401




                                                                                                                       ticket to the best of the continent
                                                                                                                       Rail Europe can get you where you want to go efficiently, affordably and in
                                                                                                                       style. And when you arrive, Accor has over 2500 hotels across Europe – many
                                                                                                                       centred near train stations, so you will have a wide range of accommodation
                                                                                                                       options for every budget and taste.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1HERSA1 S007
8 EUROPE BY RAIL March 26-27, 2011                                                          SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                    smh.com.au




 DESTINATION
 BRITISH ISLES




Travelling in
fine surrounds
Kristie Kellahan nominates six picturesque rail journeys that
combine history and grandeur.

West Highland Line                                        See raileurope.com.au for rail tickets. See
Consistently voted the best train journey in the       viator.com for Magical Mystery Tour tickets.
world, the West Highland Line from Glasgow up
the west coast of Scotland is an incredibly scenic     Class act
railway trip of lush green hills and valleys. It has   Leave the jeans at home for this trip and – oh hor-    Golden age ... (from top) the Jacobite steams through Scotland; luxury lodgings in the British
been immortalised in film – in Trainspotting and       ror! – don’t even think about wearing sneakers.        Pullman, which departs London’s Victoria station. Photos: Getty Images, Simon Brown
as the site of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry       When the British Pullman Golden Age of Travel
Potter series – making it a big drawcard for movie     steam train pulls out of London’s Victoria station     in the world, it weaves its way through Snowdon-      made the history of this part of the world so rich
buffs. During the warm summer months, a steam          for a four-hour round trip, its hosts will be          ia’s impressive scenery. Joining with the Welsh       and fascinating.
locomotive-hauled daily return service, the Jacob-     dressed to the nines in 1930s garb. Guests are         Highland Railway, it is heritage steam rail at its      See railplus.com.au.
ite, operates between Fort William and Mallaig.        asked to wear smart day wear. As the Orient-           best: trainspotters welcome.
This is one very Scottish experience.                  Express people say: ‘‘Dressing down is just not           See festrail.co.uk.                                Luck of the Irish
   See raileurope.com.au.                              our style.’’                                                                                                 Enjoy views of the sweeping scenery and grand
                                                          Every detail of the train’s interior and exterior   Royal treatment                                       landscapes for which Ireland is famous on this
A trip down Penny Lane                                 has been considered and appointed to reflect the       An adventure on the Royal Scotsman is regarded        three-day rail trip to Cork, Blarney Castle, Ring of
A musical odyssey awaits fans of the Fab Four on       golden era of travel, when manners and style           as one of the great iconic travel experiences.        Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher. Departing from
the 14-hour Beatles Liverpool Rail Day Trip from       were paramount. A five-course lunch is served by          With only 35 guests on board, each is guaran-      Dublin, you’ll travel to the Blarney Castle for a
London. Arriving at Lime Street, you’ll consult        liveried waiters, along with fine champagne and        teed dedicated service and attention to life’s lux-   quick kiss, before heading to Cork. Two nights in
the provided city map and information booklet to       wine, before returning to Victoria station.            uries, such as a glass of rare malt whisky at the     bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Killarney is
make your way to the Beatles Story. Map in hand,          See orient-express.com or email railjourneys        end of the day. State cabins are decked out with      included, as are castle and cliff tours in Limerick,
you’ll retrace the steps the Beatles took on their     @railplus.com.au for details and bookings.             wood panelling, tartan trim and private bath-         Moher and Galway Bay. This is a great taster tour
way to fame: from the Cavern Club, where the                                                                  rooms. The Scotsman departs Edinburgh and             of the many attractions of Ireland.
boys played 292 times, to the pubs where they          Steaming ahead                                         explores the rich landscape of the Scottish High-        See raileurope.com.au for rail tickets and
drank and dreamt of success. In the afternoon,         The Welsh Ffestiniog Railway is just the ticket for    lands on journeys that last two to seven nights.      viator.com for tour options.
the two-hour Magical Mystery Tour takes in the         anyone keen to take in North Wales’s spectacular,         Feast on authentic Scottish cuisine and be
homes, schools and birthplaces of the Fab Four,        mountainous landscape from the comfort of a            entertained after dinner by a Highlander with         For more information on rail travel throughout Britain and
before it’s time to head back to London.               passenger seat. One of the longest steam railways      stories of the battles, myths and legends that have   Ireland or to buy tickets, see raileurope.com.au.




               ALL ENGLAND, SCOTLAND & WALES TRAINS




1HERSA1 S008
10 EUROPE BY RAIL March 26-27, 2011                                                           SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                  smh.com.au




 DESTINATION
 SWITZERLAND




Follow the laugh lines
On a journey from Lucerne to Lugano, Lance Richardson discovers storybook towns and the Swiss sense of humour.



Z
           urich Airport is a temple in steel and       via a boat and two trains, Lucerne in central                                                                  and ferries are simply capillaries connecting the
           glass, full of cavernous spaces and long     Switzerland with the wealthy lakeside playground                                                               country’s far-flung places to its central routes.
           boulevards lined with terminal gates.        of Lugano, near the Italian border. ‘‘Express’’ may                                                               On the express to Lugano, we change trains for
           To reach the city centre, most travellers    be something of a misnomer in this case, as the                                                                the second time at Bellinzona. We’ve travelled the
descend from its main building into a subter-           focus of the trip is on luxurious appreciation of the                                                          length of the Reuss Valley and the Gotthard Rail
ranean train station. Everything is automated           countryside over several languid hours.                                                                        Tunnel, which burrows directly through the
here; a driverless shuttle arrives to collect passen-      It’s Sunday morning when I step out from the                                                                mountain’s base for more than 15 kilometres.
gers and shoot them down a tunnel in what               train station in Lucerne, grab a fresh pretzel and                                                             Amazed by an apparent lack of industry to sup-
appears to be the human equivalent of a pressur-        board a white paddlesteamer heading south.                                                                     port such feats of infrastructure, I ask a Swiss
ised message tube.                                      When people say something looks Swiss, they’re                                                                 man what people around here actually do.
   It’s part-way through this transit that the car-     often referring to the storybook quality Lake                                                                     ‘‘Well, we enjoy life,’’ he replies. ‘‘And count
riage fills with the sounds of cows, bells and          Lucerne exemplifies.                                                                                           money.’’ This is said, of course, with that same
yodelling. Everybody laughs, the nervous jitter            Fog-clad mountains and tiny lakeside towns                                                                  sardonic humour I recognised at the airport and
of a crowd in a confined space. But behind the          appear to be spring-cleaned daily. Docks are trim-                                                             moments later the snow-capped Alps and breath-
comic soundscape it’s possible to imagine               med with flowers. There are swans in the water                                                                 taking villages out the window are joined by
another laugh, this one from the Swiss who              and a young nun moves past me on the boat                                                                      quarries and factories. They’re so fastidiously
recognise the old-fashioned stereotype of yodel-        holding a map and wearing a backpack. As the                                                                   clean, one wonders how productive they are.
ling milkmaids and, tongue-in-cheek, contrast it        boat moves from stop to stop I dine in the first-                                                                 When we arrive at our destination of Lugano
with a transport system so modern that Sydney           class restaurant and my Swiss guide tells me the        Night and day ... Gandria on Lake Lugano; (top)        in the canton of Ticino, we’ve moved from the
and Melbourne’s trains seem steam-powered               lake is so clear you can drink out of it. Perhaps       the old town of Lucerne. Photo: Remy Steinegger        German section of the country to the Italian-
by comparison.                                          sensing things are becoming perilously twee, she                                                               speaking region; architecture and food has shif-
   Tall mountains are rendered no more frustrat-        adds: ‘‘I’ve never seen anyone do it, though.’’                                                                ted accordingly. Lugano is filled with designer
ing than a temporary impediment to views as one            From the city of Lucerne – where Renaissance-           The Swiss are famously stubborn when it             shops and expensive real estate (it isn’t nick-
enters yet another tunnel and there’s an extraor-       style buildings nestle harmoniously alongside the       comes to change. France and Germany had laid           named the Monte Carlo of Switzerland for noth-
dinary ease to how rail travellers can jump from        gravity-defying black slab of the KKL convention        thousands of kilometres of train track before they     ing), though the sight of the city accreting up the
bustling metropolises to high-altitude country          centre – we travel three hours across the tur-          bothered to lay a single sleeper. But when the         hillsides like lines of oysters makes it a must for
retreats in a single day. Both are experienced on a     quoise lake to Fluelen. The train station here is       Swiss decide on something, they take the deci-         travellers on any budget.
trip on the Wilhelm Tell Express, which connects,       conveniently located directly opposite the dock.        sion very seriously.                                      If it were to end here, this would be an
                                                                                                                   That first sleeper turned out to be an import-      impressive journey across one of the country’s
                                                                                                                ant one and it’s arguable that no integrated trans-    most beautiful routes. Instead, I walk down to the

    Premium-class panorama                                                                                      portation network today is more impressive than
                                                                                                                the trains, boats and buses now connecting
                                                                                                                Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
                                                                                                                                                                       Giardino dock on Lake Lugano, determined to
                                                                                                                                                                       have a final adventure in one of the country’s far-
                                                                                                                                                                       flung capillaries. Bodies lie prostrate in the neigh-
    LIKE most places in the world, ultra-               tour guide, as well as a three-course meal                 Say you want to get up Monte Generoso with-         bouring Parco Civico in an attempt to escape the
    luxurious first class on trains waned in            on the paddle-steamer in its first-class                out taking a single upwards step. Then take the        the thrumming heat.
    Switzerland with the rise of the middle             dining room.                                            rack-and-pinion train, which rumbles past cows            After a short boat-ride I’ve reached Gandria, a
    class and the increasing availability of              But it is the unusual swivel-chair coach              in misty paddocks almost to the summit. If you         traditional village otherwise connected to Lugano
    quick flights.                                      on the train from either Lugano or Fluelen              want to walk on top of the Rhone Glacier in the        by a lakeside trail called the olive path. Walking
       What was once second- and third-class            that is the highlight. Passengers are                   canton of Valais, it’s no problem. (And since          its labyrinth of steep streets is to be transported
    accommodation became, in 1956, the first            escorted into a panorama carriage filled                you’ve come all this way, they’ve drilled a            back in time so I wander into the trees behind the
    and second class we recognise today. But            with comfortable free-standing chairs that              100-metre tunnel into the ice so you can duck in       belltower and sit down to watch the lake in the
    history often repeats itself and the launch         can be turned in a full revolution, meaning             and have a glass of glacial wine).                     afternoon glow. Hours later, tired but content, I
    in May last year of a premium class on the          the best view no longer requires a crane of                To the outsider, the combination of trains,         walk back to Lugano. From high-tech airport to
    Wilhelm Tell Express heralds a renewed              the neck. There’s also an attentive wait                boats and buses is marketed as the Swiss Travel        historic olive groves – a journey of hundreds of
    demand for refined travelling.                      service for the full journey.                           System, though locals rarely think of it as a single   kilometres over difficult terrain – and this is the
       A premium ticket comes with a number               These carriages only run once daily, so               entity. It can seem dizzying in complexity but it’s    furthest I’ve had to walk all day.
    of benefits: a welcome drink and                    travellers should check the schedule. Visit             actually fairly straightforward. Intercity trains
    personalised attention from a multilingual          swisstravelsystem.ch.                                   connect the major cities and act, metaphorically,      Lance Richardson travelled courtesy of Swiss Tourism
                                                                                                                as arteries across which regional trains, postbuses    and Swiss International Air Lines.
1HERSA1 0010
The Sydney Morning Herald                                                         SPECIAL REPORT                                                            March 26-27, 2011 EUROPE BY RAIL 11




                                            Mercury, heavy metal
                                            and a jazz explosion
                                            Kristie Kellahan discovers a
                                            monument to the Queen
                                            frontman in the festival town
                                            of Montreux.



                                            A
                                                        hhh, Switzerland: postcard-pretty
                                                        mountains, stylish timepieces, creamy
                                                        milk chocolate and Freddie Mercury.
                                                        Hang on a minute ... Freddie Mer-
                                            cury? As in the outlandish late frontman of
                                            Queen? Indeed.
                                               Mercury fans travel from all over the world to
                                            pay homage at his striking three-metre tall statue
                                            on the banks of Lake Geneva at the foot of the
                                            Alps in the Swiss town of Montreux. Visitor
                                            numbers swell for Freddie Mercury’s Montreux
                                            Memorial Day, held annually in September.
                                               You see, Montreux was the home of Mountain
                                            Studios, bought by Queen in 1978. The town was
                                            the inspiration behind the 1995 single A Winter’s
                                            Tale on the album Made in Heaven, one of the last
                                            songs Mercury ever recorded.
                                               It’s one of the many surprises in store in Mon-
                                            treux, an alpine town of fewer than 25,000 peo-
                                            ple. That number swells almost ten-fold in early
                                            July each year for the Montreux Jazz Festival.
                                            Considered one of the most prestigious music           Swiss ease ... next stop Montreux; (below) the statue of Freddie Mercury. Photos: Getty Images, AFP
                                            events in Europe, it has attracted high-profile per-
                                            formers including Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald,        and hotels buzz with a friendly atmosphere.            simply cross the street with luggage in tow, check
                                            Sting, David Bowie and Paul Simon. Festival-           Switzerland is also surprisingly affordable for        in to the hotel and enjoy an evening cocktail on
                                            goers enjoy concerts, intimate performances,           Australian travellers, with the Swiss franc trading    the terrace. Like many visitors to town, we make
 FAST FACTS                                 themed dinners and a roaring trade in local bars
                                            during the two-week event.
                                                                                                   at close to parity with the Australian dollar. This
                                                                                                   makes accommodation, meals and tours easier on
                                                                                                                                                          a stop at the casino, a glittering behemoth of
                                                                                                                                                          entertainment and gaming opportunities. More
 Getting there Swiss International Air         British band Deep Purple headlined the festival     the hip pocket.                                        sedate thrills can be found at Chateau de Chillon
 Lines has a fare to Zurich for about       five times, and even wrote the famous song                At the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic, a classic la-   (Chillon Castle). Switzerland’s most visited his-
 $1950, flying to Hong Kong (about 9hr)     Smoke on the Water about the events of 1971,           keside European-style holiday resort, a deluxe         toric monument, the castle has 1000 years of his-
 with Cathay Pacific or Qantas, then        when a fan wielding a flare gun set the Montreux       room with lake view, including breakfast and din-      tory and guided tours are available.
 Swiss to Zurich (about 13 hr). This fare   Casino ablaze.                                         ner at the nearby casino, costs from $180. It             A gentle stroll along the lake or through the
 allows you to fly via a number of Asian       Montreux is the sort of place where million-        would be difficult to find a prettier spot for a       main square, Place du Marche, is a great way to
 cities and to travel beyond Zurich to a    aires retire and minor European royalty spend          hotel. Opening to the lakefront and with the Alps      get a feel for Montreux, an unexpectedly diverse
 number of European cities. Fare is non-    summer breaks, when they’re not in residence in        in the distance, the hotel is conveniently located     pocket of Switzerland.
 seasonal return from Melbourne and         Monte Carlo. But the attitude here is not elitist;     across the street from the train station.
 Sydney, including tax.                     travellers are welcome and the local restaurants          Once we arrive by train in Montreux we              Kristie Kellahan travelled courtesy of Rail Europe.
 Getting around The Swiss Pass is
 your best option. Available for four,
 eight, 15, 22 days or one month, the
 Swiss Pass must be bought while still
                                                                                                                                                              FAST FACTS
 in Australia. Along with unlimited                                                                                                                           Getting there A four-day first-class
 travel over the entire network, it also                                                                                                                      Swiss Pass costs $416 for unlimited
 gives you access to more than                                                                                                                                travel across Switzerland’s train, bus
 450 museums across the country.                                                                                                                              and boat network.
 A first-class 15-day adult ticket costs                                                                                                                      For online bookings and to check
 $727; see raileurope.com.au.                                                                                                                                 schedules see raileurope.com.au.
    The first-class Swiss Pass or Eurail                                                                                                                      Staying there Grand Hotel Suisse
 passes are also valid for the Wilhelm                                                                                                                        Majestic is centrally located near the
 Tell Express. Standard or premium                                                                                                                            train station on Avenue des Alpes. It is
 travel requires a supplement of                                                                                                                              in the Belle Epoque style but recently
 39 Swiss francs ($42) or 79 Swiss                                                                                                                            underwent a major renovation. Rooms
 francs, which includes seat                                                                                                                                  start from 163 Swiss francs ($180);
 reservation, lunch and a travel guide;                                                                                                                       suisse-majestic.com.
 see swisstravelsystem.ch.




                                                                                                                                                                                                         1HERSA1 0011
12 Europe by rail March 26-27, 2011                                                           SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                   smh.com.au




 DESTINATION
 ITALY




Stars and
nymphs
On the shores of Lake Como, Sue Wallace finds a playground
of the rich and famous. But where’s Signor Clooney?



C
           hauffeured limousines, speedboats and        is no wonder one guest booked in for two weeks
           private helicopters are the usual form       and stayed two years.
           of transport to Lake Como’s most fam-           Lake Como is close to the Swiss border in the
           ous address. Instead we are dragging         northern Italian Lake District and is Italy’s third
our bags over the cobbled roads of the village of       largest lake. Like Villa d’Este, the lake itself is a
Cernobbio. It’s a noisy exercise but the gate-          magnet for actors, artists, poets, musicians and
keeper of Villa d’Este assures us we aren’t the first   fashion designers. Charming villages dotted
to arrive in this fashion.                              around the lake are full of expensive shops, chic
   Wearing the mantle of one of the world’s best        cafes and restaurants.
hotels, Villa d’Este serenely overlooks the blue-          We pass by the Villa’s Veranda restaurant with
green waters of Italy’s popular Lake Como. Our          electronically controlled glass screens that disap-
animated Italian bus driver says you can’t move         pear into the ground at the touch of a button and
around here in the warmer months and we’re              I spot the hotel’s famous floating swimming pool
pleased it’s the end of the season and the num-         that appears to sit on top of the lake. It’s appar-
bers have dwindled.                                     ently where Arnold Schwarzenegger loves splash-            She recalls Hitchcock was paranoid about the        work of art and tastes sensational. The next
   We have had a dream run getting here – first         ing around with his children.                           paparazzi and when he spotted photographers he         morning I join him for a tour of the chef’s garden,
a quick trip on a high-speed train from Bologna            Our spacious suite, decorated in sumptuous           demanded staff throw them out. Only later did he       which features an array of herbs and vegetables,
to Milan in reclining first-class seats, with a com-    Como silk, overlooks the manicured terraced gar-        discover they were covering a society wedding.         and he shares his risotto secrets: don’t wash the
plimentary drink and newspaper, before chan-            dens and the lake and is full of artwork and               Winston Churchill was also a regular and            rice before cooking and don’t overcook it – it
ging to a regional train. An hour later we arrive at    antiques. The bathroom has a large marble bath          would come with the sole purpose of painting.          should take no more than 20 minutes.
Como Station and catch a bus to Cernobbio.              and shower and there’s a dressing room.                 And it was here that the first photo of Ed-               I explore the historic gardens where a 600-year-
   Built in 1568 as a summer residence for Car-            Each of the 152 guest rooms and suites are dif-      ward VIII and Wallis Simpson was taken.                old plane tree takes centre stage. It’s believed to
dinal Tolomeo Gallio, Villa d’Este has been a lux-      ferent in size and decor and although modern                                                                   be among the oldest in Lombardy and over the
ury hotel for the past 138 years.
   The rich and famous come here to play (along
                                                        facilities such as plasma televisions have been
                                                        installed, the rooms have lost none of their old-
                                                                                                                It is no wonder one guest                              centuries kings, queens, cardinals, empresses,
                                                                                                                                                                       aristocrats and heads of state have sat in its shade.
with a few curious onlookers) and never want to         fashioned grandeur.                                     booked in for two weeks and                               I climb to the fortifications that overlook the
leave. The hotel registry dates from 1873 and lists        I wander through the villa looking at its his-                                                              gardens and take in the views below before head-
Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor,        toric artworks and discover that even as recently       stayed two years.                                      ing to the Fountain of Ercole, where water flows
Clark Gable, Jose Carreras, Mel Gibson and              as 2004, exquisite late-18th-century frescoes were                                                             over 130 granite basins and leads to the
Madonna among its guests.                               uncovered during renovations in the Column                                                                     Nymphaeum. As I stand there, taking in the
   George Clooney, who lives nearby, is also a reg-     Room. ‘‘Workmen saw them through a hole in                                                                     splendour, a motor bike pulls up ... could it be? I
ular visitor and is often spotted riding his motor-     the ceiling and the ceiling was then torn down,’’           Now, about George Clooney, I ask. ‘‘Oh, we see     hotfoot it back to the foyer – just as a leggy
bike along the cobbled streets.                         says the villa’s historian, Jean Govoni Salvadore,      him all the time,’’ I’m told. But not tonight.         blonde removes her helmet.
   A first glimpse of the lake lives up to the          who has been the public relations director here             The villa’s executive chef, Luciano Parolari, is      All too soon our stay is over – but this time we
description penned by the English romantic poet         for more than 40 years.                                 known as the ‘‘King of Risotto’’ and it seems only     leave in style – a chauffeured limousine whisks
Percy Shelley: ‘‘This lake exceeds anything I ever         At dinner Salvadore shares wonderful stories         fitting to order a specialty he taught Elton John’s    us to the nearby station and for 10 minutes all
held in beauty.’’                                       about the villa’s history and many who have             chef how to cook.                                      eyes are on us.
   Standing on the shore, looking out across the        stayed here. Alfred Hitchcock, for example,                 We order lemon and shrimp risotto followed
lake as the sun shimmers on the water, and with         decided to shoot his first movie, The Pleasure          by a chocolate bauletto with a white chocolate         Sue Wallace travelled courtesy of Leading Hotels of the
historic villas and magnificent gardens in view, it     Garden, on the premises in 1925.                        sauce, pistachio sorbet and wild berries – it is a     World and Rail Europe.
1HERSA1 0012
 The Sydney Morning Herald                                                       SPECIAL REPORT                                                               March 26-27, 2011 Europe by rail 13




                                                                                              Watering holes ... canalside diners at dusk; (below) Cantina do Mori. Photo: Getty Images




                                                                                              Secret flavours
                                                                                              of the city
                                                                                              Kate Gibbs samples bars and restaurants favoured by the
                                                                                              locals among Venice’s network of canals.



                                                                                              T
                                                                                                          he writer Truman Capote once
                                                                                                          remarked that going to Venice was like
                                                                                                          eating an entire box of chocolate
                                                                                                          liqueurs in one go. Rich, in all the ways.
                                                                                              Luxurious. Inducing a little giddiness, perhaps. It
                                                                                              is, as well, the romantic idyll.
                                                                                                  It’s no wonder 18 million tourists pile into the
                                                                                              floating city each year.
                                                                                                  Chocolate metaphors aside, Venice is not
                                                                                              known for its epicurean strengths. But amid a
                                                                                              sea of tourists, residents of the sinking city man-
                                                                                              age to carve out a home town for themselves via
                                                                                              a pastiche of restaurants and bars hidden
                                                                                              throughout the intricate network of streets, pas-        with the addition of grappa (found all over town)
                                                                                              sageways and canals.                                     is a warming solution to the cold weather.
                                                                                                  Venetians know the best places to eat and               To combat the city’s reputation for high prices
                                                                                              drink. One authentically local pastime is bacaro         and mediocre food, a consortium of restaurants
                                                                                              snacking. The small and crowded food-and-wine            has formed the Restaurants of Good Welcome or
                                                                                              bars are short on tables but habitues typically          Ristoranti        della     Buona       Accoglienza
                                                                                              stand by the counter to consume local wine by            (veneziaristoranti.it). Under this umbrella, res-
                                                                                              the glass and fresh titbits known as cichetti, the       taurants pledge pricing transparency and commit
                                                                                              Venetian version of tapas.                               to culinary traditions.
                                                                                                  Salt cod or baccala is beaten into a creamy             Among the outstanding members of this club
                                                                                              whip with olive oil and milk; tender baby octopus        is Osteria Alle Testiere (Castello 5801;
                                                                                              is served fried or fritto, or warm, tossed with bit-     osterialletestiere.it), a tiny, 20-seat restaurant
                                                                                              ter purple radicchio leaves. Artichoke hearts, ri-       known for its seafood and wine. Sweet spider
                                                                                              sotto in cuttlefish ink, the Venetian soppressa          crab comes laden with herbs, brandy and scallops
                                                                                              salami, polpette (meatballs) and even nervetti –         with wild fennel. Owner-chef and recent cook-
                                                                                              boiled and chewy bits of calves’ hooves served           book author, Bruno Gavagnin, will help pair the
                                                                                              with olive oil and parsley – are bacari specialties.     extensive menu with wine.
                                                                                                  In Venice, maps fail. To be in this city is to be       In summer Venice is a torrid, tourist-
                                                 FAST FACTS                                   disoriented, as if in a labyrinth of romantic cli-
                                                                                              ches and real-life rabbit holes. But getting lost is
                                                                                                                                                       overwhelmed city. Visitors clog its famous
                                                                                                                                                       bridges, swell its gondolas and vastly outnumber
                                                 Getting there Catch the high-speed           the whole idea – it’s how a traveller will make          locals turning the city into a floating Disneyland,
                                                 train from Rome to Milan (3hr 30min) or      discoveries. Stumble, for example, on Mascari            a Venetian-masked, kitsch shadow of its real self.
                                                 Bologna to Milan (1hr 5min) on the           in the Rialto Market, where whole candied cit-              In the cooler months, pigeons peck about in
                                                 Trenitalia line. Change at Milan for a       ron, saffron, condiments containing white truf-          ones and twos. The light is either brilliant and
                                                 regional train to Como S Giovanni — a        fles and local quince mustard are bought to fill         clear or grey and water, sky and land merge. It’s
                                                 direct train takes 33 minutes or 1hr         local kitchens.                                          brisk and damp but much easier to explore (and
                                                 17min if changing at Monza. A Eurail             Find Cantina do Mori (Calle dei do Mori, near        get lost), all the while pretending to be a local.
                                                 Select Pass allows five days’ travelling     the Rialto Market), a bacaro that since 1462 has
                                                 over two months in three countries from      been famous for its ambience and legendary vis-
                                                 $474 first-class or from $403 second-
                                                 class. Book a Eurail pass and compulsory
                                                                                              its by Casanova.
                                                                                                  Sample tramezzino, a sandwich found all over
                                                                                                                                                          FAST FACTS
                                                 seat reservations before you leave           Venice that encloses an infinite variety of stuff-          Getting there Catch the high-speed
                                                 Australia. As well, the Eurail Select Pass   ings, from truffle-laced prosciutto to grilled vege-        train from Rome to Venice (3hr 48min)
                                                 allows unlimited rail travel on the          tables, often slicked with mayonnaise. Here, tra-           on the Trenitalia line. A second-class
                                                 national rail networks of any three, four    mezzini are stuffed with truffles or goose breast           ticket will cost $116, or a Eurail Select
                                                 or five neighbouring countries that are      and accompanied by a glass of ombra.                        Pass is better value — from $475 first
                                                 connected by the Eurail network or ship.         Osteria al Mascaron (Calle Lunga Santa Maria            class or from $403 second class — if you
Reflections of grandeur ... (clockwise from      See raileurope.com.au.                       Formosa 5225) is a short walk from Piazza San               plan to travel further, as it allows five
main) Villa d’Este overlooks the stunning Lake   Staying there Villa d’Este has rooms         Marco in the Castello district. It’s a popular spot         days’ travelling over two months in three
Como, the hotel’s garden featured in Alfred      from ¤295 ($419.72) for a single             with excellent wines, long queues outside and a             neighbouring European countries that
Hitchcock’s first film, The Pleasure Garden;     courtyard-view room or ¤1320 for a one-      front door completely plastered in guide-book               are part of the Eurail network;
the lake is a favourite haunt of the rich and    bedroom lake-view suite; see lhw.com.        recommendation stickers. And in the winter                  raileurope.com.au.
famous; garden artwork.                                                                       months a caffe corretto, or espresso ‘‘corrected’’
                                                                                                                                                                                                 1HERSA1 0013
14 Europe by rail March 26-27, 2011                                                                         smh.com.au




                    Catch the French fast train
                    and travel in style
                    Go fast, relax and enjoy travelling through France at 300km p/h!
                    Travel to Bordeaux, Brittany, Burgundy, Champagne, French Alps, Normandy, Provence...
                    all within 3 hours from Paris with TGV!


                    • Paris - Dijon :              01h37
                    • Paris - Avignon :            02h37
                    • Paris - Aix en Provence :    02h54
                    • Paris - Marseille:           03h02
                    • Paris - Reims :              00h45
                    • Paris - Strasbourg :         02h20
                    • Paris - Tour :               00h56
                    • Paris - Bordeaux :           02h59




                    BOOK NOW


1HERSA1 S014
  The Sydney Morning Herald                                                                 SPECIAL REPORT                                                                  March 26-27, 2011 Europe by rail 15




Inside scoop on
riding the rails
Long-time train traveller Andrew West offers his tips: slow
down, always pick the middle bunk and never overpack.



L
           ong ago, I determined the only civilised    few years ago, a French friend was ‘‘embarrassed
           ways to travel were by boat and train.      for France’’ when I told her I had taken the five-
           Sadly, passenger ships no longer oper-      hour train between Strasbourg and Paris. For me,
           ate, other than for commercial cruises,     the trip was a highlight.
so from Australia we have no choice but to fly
into Europe.                                           Pack light and efficiently
    But I cannot fathom why anyone would fly           This does not mean two tracksuits, a pair of jog-
within Europe. A one-hour flight between capitals      gers and a bumbag. That would make you an
is likely to become a four-to-six-hour ordeal when     embarrassment. In Europe, intercity trains are
you factor in transport to and from the airport,       integrated with local metros, trams and buses.
pre-flight security, boarding time and the likeli-     If you have, at most, a medium suit-
hood of delays. Unnecessary flying is also bad for     case on wheels, one piece of
your carbon footprint and deprives you of an           hand luggage and, in
authentic travel experience.                           winter,     an
    Here are seven tips to get the best out of rail    overcoat,
travel in Europe.                                      you will be
                                                       able to save
Be sure you like trains                                money       using
It’s not all Hercule Poirot, with compartments         public     transport
draped in velvet and chintz, three-course meals        instead of taxis. Your
and well-cushioned berths. In fact, unless you’re      luggage must be light
prepared to pay up to $17,000 for a suite on a lux-    enough to carry up and
ury train – such as the Venice Simplon-Orient-         down stairs at older metro and
Express between Paris and Istanbul – it is never       underground stations that don’t
like that. Mostly in western Europe you will be        have lifts or escalators.
aboard trains that are modern and crowded
(which is good because high patronage keeps the        Eat and drink sparingly
service going). In eastern Europe, the trains will     Even aboard the modern fast trains of western
sometimes be old, poorly ventilated and a rough        Europe, 60-plus passengers can take their toll on      close to the ceiling, while the bottom bunk, used       travel. Ride the slow, all-stops trains on branch
ride. This has its own appeal but you need to          the hygiene standards of a bathroom. Unless you        as the seat during the day, is often too narrow. It’s   lines through the English countryside, rural
enjoy rail travel. There’s nothing worse than shar-    are travelling in a first-class sleeper with private   better to upgrade to a four-berth room. While           France and the Swiss and Austrian mountains.
ing a compartment with a whinger.                      bathroom, do not attempt a shower en route. Just       more expensive, it’s cheaper than a hotel room          Remember, the journey itself is the objective.
                                                       floss, brush and wash your face. During a Euro-        and you will sleep restoratively. The overnight
Slow down                                              pean winter, you can comfortably skip a shower         train from London to Cornwall is a particular           The Man in Seat Sixty-One
If you’re on holidays, what’s the rush? By all         here and there. In eastern Europe, the carriages       pleasure, its only downside being the brevity – a       Go to seat61.com and you will see why this
means, take the high-speed trains – the Eurostar       are often not cleaned until the train reaches its      mere seven hours – of the journey.                      award-winning website is an indispensable
between London, Paris and Brussels, the TGV in         final destination.                                                                                             resource for true adventurers. Its founder, Mark
France, the ICE in Germany – once or twice for                                                                Get off the highway                                     Smith, is an authentic railway man who habitu-
the experience of an intercity service that oper-      Book the middle bunk                                   You wouldn’t spend a motoring holiday on an             ally favours seat 61 on the Eurostar out of Lon-
ates quickly and efficiently. But aboard the TGV       If you’re travelling overnight and on a budget, six-   eight-lane freeway; you would explore the wind-         don towards the great mysteries of the east. His
you may feel like you’re travelling in a first-class   berth sleepers (three on either side of the com-       ing lanes, with their hedgerows and stone walls,        website won a top travel award from the Guard-
airline seat. There’s comfort and speed but the        partment) are the cheapest. Try to get the middle      as we did in the Cotswolds and Chilterns of Eng-        ian and a TV series is in the making. Routes are
landmarks and beauty of the country flash by. A        bunk. The top bunk is often claustrophobically         land recently. Apply the same principle to rail         listed for every continent.




                  WIN!
              A EUROPEAN TRIP FOR TWO
                                                               TO ENTER:
                                                               Tell us which 3 countries you would most like to experience                   Win this fantastic prize and experience Europe
                                                               by high-speed train and why? Visit www.smh.com.au/                            shrinking thanks to high-speed rail.
                 WORTH MORE THAN                               competitions/europeisshrinking enter your details and you

                   $15,000!                                    and a friend could zip off to Europe very soon!                               ENTER HERE:
                                                                                                                                             www.smh.com.au/competitions/europeisshrinking




          ALL TRAINS AND TICKETING INFORMATION:


          Book European rail travel now on
          www.raileurope.com.au or
                                                                 www.citrail.com.au                           www.railplus.com.au                       www.harveyworld.com.au
          visit your travel agent.

          Rail Europe distributes all
          European Rail Products
          through the following agents:                          www.travelscene.net.au                       www.flightcentre.com.au



          USEFUL WEBSITES:                                       Accor: www.accorhotels.com                                                             Italian Tourist Office: www.italiantourism.com.au
                                                                 Air Austral: www.air-austral.com                                                       Jungfrau: www.jungfrau.ch
                                                                 France Tourism Development Agency: www.franceguide.com                                 Switzerland Tourism: www.MySwitzerland.com
                                                                 French Travel Connection: www.frenchtravel.com.au                                      Swiss Travel System: www.swisstravelsystem.ch

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1HERSA1 S015
16 Europe by rail March 26-27, 2011                                                                                     smh.com.au




                                        Europe on Sale… Book now!!!
                                        Now is the time to discover Europe… Thanks to Rail Europe’s 16th Birthday
                                        specials, ride the European trains at prices never seen before and benefit
                                        from 1st Class upgrades and discounts up to 60%.

                                        Available for a limited time, these amazing deals include the most popular
                                        train tickets and passes. Check it out:

                                          Rail Passes: Swiss Pass, France Rail Pass, German Rail Pass, Eurail Select
                                          Pass and Eurail Austria Pass

                                          Train Tickets: Eurostar (London, Paris, Brussels), Thalys (Paris, Brussels,
                                           Amsterdam, Cologne), TGV Lyria (France, Switzerland), Elipsos (France,
                                           Italy, Spain, Switzerland), Artesia Night (France, Italy), TGV (France)
                                           and X2000 (Sweden).

                BOOK NOW!               Consult your Rail Europe accredited travel agent for more details.
                www.raileurope.com.au   Enjoy Europe… Travel by train!




1HERSA1 S016