Planning a Rail Journey: Where to Go? When? And for How Long?
I’m starting to work on another extended rail tour in Europe. For me, this part of the process is almost as good as actually being there.
Most of the time, my personal preference is to avoid the really big cities and opt instead for smaller towns. Some years back, for instance, my wife and I took the Eurostar from London to Paris, then connected just 90 minutes later with a train that took us to Chartres.
There are only about 45,000 people in Chartres, but the cathedral there is absolutely magnificent. Staggering in size, it’s perfectly preserved and appears today almost exactly the way it looked when it was built some 900 years ago. So Chartres is definitely worth a return visit.
This time, I think d like to spend a few days somewhere in the wine country of Burgundy — Chalon-sur-Saône perhaps. In the morning, I’ll enjoy a pastry and coffee at a little outdoor café on the town square. Then, after a nice lunch, it would be fun to visit two or three of the local wineries.
From here I think I’ll head down to the Pyrenees and check out a narrow-gauge rail line running for some 60 miles through the mountains and parallel to the Spanish border.
It’s called Le Petit Train Jaune (the Little Yellow Train) and I’m told it’s a very scenic ride. It sure seems to be, but it will be fun to find out.
Of course, I also want to experience one or two of the long-haul overnight trains, with sleeping cars and sit-down-style restaurant cars. But to where? East to Budapest, perhaps, or south to Barcelona. Or I could head north into Sweden. I have an idea or two, but will wait and consult with someone at Railbookers, a London firm specializing in rail travel. These are the rail travel pros who took care of booking all the trains and hotels and transfers for my train trip across Europe and Asia in 2010.
This is such fun!