Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leaving Paris by train

I expect to be en route to Portugal when you read this, taking many pictures and storing up adventures to tell you about when I return. While I may find a computer and Internet to post occasionally, I'm concentrating on just being there and enjoying Paterfamilias' company. But I've taken advantage of Blogger's delayed publishing feature to leave some posts so that you don't forget me while I'm gone. Comments are welcome as always, and I’ll see them if/when I check my e-mail. I might not be able to answer them from Europe, but I’ll do my best to respond when I get back.

The photo above is borrowed from this Portuguese blog

Writing this before we leave, I'm a bit concerned because we haven't reserved our train travel to Portugal. I kept putting it off until we could sit down together in front of the computer screen and compare options, but when we finally got to it this weekend, we found that since there is not yet any e-ticketing, and paper tickets must be mailed, I've left it too late.

But sometime on May 29th, we'll check out of our little home in Paris, Hotel Residence les Gobelins, saying good-bye once again to Jennifer and Philippe. This time, we won't have to be heading out shortly after dawn to walk to the train station, hoping the train gets us to the airport in time. Instead, we'll be able to have a leisurely lunch and then head to the Gare Montparnasse and catch the train for Irun (Spain) where we'll change for an overnight train to Lisbon. Cross your fingers for us that there will be a sleeper available. Oh, I do wish I'd been more organized. In case you're interested, I was organized enough to collect several different links about taking the train from Paris to Lisbon. Some of these begin in London, but you can ignore that part if you wish (altho' I've always wanted to do the Chunnel and perhaps you have as well). This blog post about an Englishman's experiences on the exact trains we'll be taking is especially enjoyable (and informational -- we may pack something to eat, and bring our own handwipes!). As well, as you might remember, I've recently read Pascal Mercier's A Night Train to Lisbon so I have built up some imagery to compare our trip to, but unfortunately, I haven't yet managed to see the movie, Sud Express, named after the train we'll be taking from the Spanish border.

The Sud Express, which now runs from Irun (where we'll change from the TGV) began running in 1887 when it linked Paris to Lisbon. I'm looking forward to eating in the dining car of this historic train (yes, I do realize the train itself hasn't been running since 1887) and having a drink or two in the bar before we go to sleep (again, please, with the finger-crossing) and I think it will be wonderful to eat breakfast the next morning while watching the train move through the Portuguese countryside toward Lisbon. The last (and only other) time we slept in a train, we had three small children with us, and we were arriving in Edmonton to see my Grandmother after travelling through the Rockies at night (I know! whose tourism-averse idea was that!). An important trip, but not nearly as enjoyable, for us at least (I'll have to ask the kids what they remember).


  1. Oh how I long to travel anywhere by train.

  2. When I first went to live in Germany in the early 80s, I always travelled by train. But my, those were long trips! I remember when I went for my job interview - I left my hometown, Dundee, at 11am and arrived in the Black Forest the next day at 4pm! The trip included an overnight crossing to Belgium on the ferry and invariably I'd be stuck on a railway platform somewhere at 2am waiting for a connection. When I turned 26 I was no longer eligible for the Eurorail pass, so I had to pay the big bucks for air travel. After that I much preferred being in an airport than on a railway platform. Nowadays I think I would enjoy a long train trip, but only with the option of a sleeper compartment for overnights! I hope that you managed to score one! Patricia

  3. Thomas: There's a great run from Vanc'r down to Portland (altho' sometimes you have to bus to Seattle, then change to the train) -- did you used to take the train to ottawa or Toronto when you lived in Montreal? (have I got that bio. detail right?)
    Patricia: We did get the sleeper compartment for the two of us, and it made all the difference. Sounds as if you're an experienced rail traveler.


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