A cheap flight to Pisa would probably have been the quickest way to start off my recent trip to the Cinque Terre on Italy’s lovely Ligurian coast, but as it was a birthday trip I wanted to do something a bit special and opted for travelling overland by train, which has always been my favourite form of transport. I don’t dislike flying – but I do dislike airlines and airports these days and they’re best avoided in my book! Anyway, the prospect of breakfast in London, lunch in Paris and dinner in Turin has far more appeal…
The downside of this approach was the overnight stay in London which meant the worst and most expensive hotels of the trip, by far. But, undeterred I cleared the pesky Eurostar check-in process and had time for a quick St Pancras breakfast before boarding an early train bound non-stop for Paris. The early departure allowed me a four hour window in Paris giving plenty of contingency for delays and travel to Gare de Lyon and still leaving time for a nice spot of lunch before the afternoon TGV to Turin.
In the event, I arrived on time and the transfer to Gare de Lyon by RER took just 30 minutes from platform to platform which was good, as I’d been advised to allow at least 45 minutes for the transfer. I wouldn’t recommend scheduling in any less time than that though, and why bother when you can have a leisurely lunch in Paris? Of course, I now had plenty of time (with no check-in as such for the TGV I could board as late as two minutes before departure) so I strolled across the street and had a coffee outside an inviting cafe while deciding what to do.
I decided I had enough time to walk to Place des Vosges in the Marais and have lunch at one of my favourite places, Ma Bourgogne. I had worked in Paris for a year about ten years previously and used to wander around Place des Vosges and explore the shops in the surrounding streets at the weekend, so it was nice to be back. I took a table under the arches overlooking the square and ordered a goats cheese salad and a bottle of Badoit and watched the world go by.
After lunch there was time to stroll around the square – packed with sunbathers in the midday heat and people enjoying a picnic lunch in the cool shade under the trees. I still had plenty of time to catch the train so had a look at Place de la Bastille with its magnificent July Column and rather than take the most direct route back to the station, I took a detour along the Canal St Martin and Boulevard de la Bastille, returning to Gare de Lyon with sufficient time in hand to pick up a coffee before boarding the train for the long trip to Turin. I arrived in time for a late dinner, and wonderful Italian ice-cream in Piazza Castello – but more on that in my next travel postcard…
I booked my tickets through Rail Europe with helpful tips from The Man in Seat Sixty-One where you can read about the various options for travelling from the UK to Italy.
For more images see my Paris set on flickr.