I always like books that evoke the bygone age of transport with such phrases as “We entrained at Paris bound for the Levant”. So let me say that we entrained at St Pancras bound for Paris and its a reasonable start? Today was all about travelling but it all came together with no hiccups (Thank Goodness).
Leaving as we did, in the middle of th eOlympic Games, our own personal “legacy” was a ridiculously overpriced room in a grotty Travelodge near to St Pancras, but it did supply one flash of humour.
There’s still something magical about leaving London on Eurostar, watching the English countryside rush by. Then after a period of darkness there you are, cars driving on the wrong side of the road, fields twice as big, bales of silage standing in the fields wrapped in white plastic, like giant Camembert – in France.
The rain has been displaced by sunshine and suddenly it feels as if we are really on our way. The train speeds along through the vast emptiness of France; occasional glimpses of sparsely populated motorway, then more empty fields and in the distance, a church spire of the local town.
Paris Nord is the usual buzz as the UK meets France, but leaving the platform and going down to the RER you feel you have left that ‘interface’ behind and are truly in France. Its just two stops on the RER to Paris Lyon and a forbidding line of TGV engines greets us in Hall 2 as we wait for our train to be called. For the first timer it can be a bit daunting as they generally only call the train with about 20 minutes to go, which leaves you hopping from foot to foot. As more experienced travellers by train, we used the time to buy some patisserie as a treat on the long journey to Turin.
Eventually the platform appears and there is a good humoured jostle for places on the platform.
As its a long journey we elected to go for first class seats; not as as excessive as you might think on a TGV and this is supported by the many people who are also in first class. None of your Virgin ‘one person per carriage’ here!
The speed of the TGV is awesome no matter how many times one travels on it and we make good time down to Lyon where a series of stops slows our mercurial pace.
Eventually we come to a station which is so un cheval, it must be the last stop in France – and so it proves. I catch a glimpse of a road sign saying Turin, then another. There are no more big towns in France now, only Italy.
Suddenly the mountains rear up in front of us, a river alongside, its waters that peculiar mix of blue / green which suggest high mountain water, or snow melt. Here families are waiting on platforms for mums visiting grandchildren and we witness more than one emotional greeting as the train slides on.
And then, after another tunnel, the station signs have changed and we have a long run down a valley through Italian stations and into Torino.
Amidst a flurry of arrivals, up ahead, we see a surreal sight of a group of Chinese nuns heading for the exit and as we catch them up, one of them is carrying a plastic bag with what appears to be the teams Pot Noodles. Supper to go!!
A swift taxi ride to the hotel and a warm bath and an early night as we contemplate the start of another adventure.