I am quite certain that anticipation in travelling, though it may not be by any means its chief pleasure, is the surest means of securing enjoyment and comfort in its realisation.
Hint to Lady Travellers.
I planned to post this this morning (in anticipation, you might say) before I embarked on my journey. But between one thing and another it didn’t happen and I am now in a position to tell you that wifi does not appear to be widely available on the French/Swiss train network.
Anyway. How do you get from Aix-en-Provence, France to Innsbruck, Austria? Well, if you’re me, you jump at the chance to take the train and have an adventure worthy of the Lady Travellers of old. There’s no direct route, but then, there was no direct flight either, and the train is much funner than flying.
So, first of all I took a train from Aix to Lyon. There wasn’t much to see except the high bridge over the Rhone just outside Avignon and the rain streaming down the windows. At Lyon, I bought a magazine and a coffee and got on a train to Geneva. Which sat in the station for twenty minutes and then crawled its way to Switzerland. This section of the trip was a bit disappointing – though it did give me cause for philosophising. Was it just the greyness of the weather? Or the fact that we passed through one shithole town after another (sorry towns between Lyon and Geneva, but it’s true)? Or the fact that the train was losing time as it went and I was increasingly worried about missing my connection?
We all secretly (or not so secretly) long for a time when travel was romantic and glamorous. I dream of plush seats, porters, proper dining cars with linen tablecloths … but the reality is much more utilitarian. Faced with this, on the train from Geneva to Zurich I thought about my own hints for today’s lady-train-travellers.
1. Get a window seat
2. Sit facing the back of the train. I know there’s some ancient belief that it’s better to face the front - something about reducing motion sickness or avoiding smoke from the train. But I find that facing the other way is much better for admiring the view – and taking photos.
3. Bring provisions. I was at the mercy of Swiss railways who, to be fair, turned up a decent salami sandwich and a bottle of wine. But even the best train food would be beaten by any halfway good picnic.
4. Have a good book. Admiring the scenery (specially with a plastic glass of wine in your hand) is very enjoyable but if the scenery fails or it gets dark, you will need something to pass the time. I like to have something that fits the theme of my journey. Today it was The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. He agrees with me about the provisions, by the way.
5. Have a comfortable bed waiting for you at the end of your trip. I read once that Elizabeth Taylor always took two identical suits when she flew. One to wear when she got on board, the other to wear when she disembarked, so she always looked immaculate for the cameras. But the fact that she had to go to such lengths proves that the idea we can finish our journey unruffled is an ILLUSION. My three-train-journey today has made me very tired. But luckily, I am spending the night in the – and how perfectly named is this? – Lady’s First Design Hotel. This deserves, and will get, a post of its own. But just let me tell you it is everything I hoped it would be AND they have provided me with slippers, chocolates and free wifi.
Tomorrow morning I take a train from Zurich to Feldkirch, on the border between Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria. And then one more train to Innsbruck.
So: five trains, four countries, two days. And then skiing, kaffee und kuchen and beer. Yay!