3 – Europe via Rail – The Sacre Coeur And A Day Train To Turin

Day 2 was an early start woken by the busy rush hour traffic on the streets below. The French seem to get way too much gratification through using their car horns in stationary traffic. We had to be checked out by ten anyway so that’s just me on my quiet rural high horse having a moan. On recommendation by our aforementioned Canadian friend from dinner, we washed and packed and swaggered on up to the Sacre Coeur (we were going to shower and pack anyway we didn’t need him to recommend that…).

It wouldn’t be a British travellers blog without mentioning the weather. Shorts and t-shirts did us fine and as it was early morning there was a pleasant breeze to keep us cool. We arrived pre-massive tourist pack-out so at least we had room to move and time to stop to take photos without fear of an American tourists’ backpack giving us a left hook. Now let me explain what I mentioned in the previous post about the street conmen. In Paris you have ominous blokes who prowling the tourist heavy parts of streets and gardens. Liam fell victim under the Eiffel Tower.Processed with VSCO with e2 preset What  they do is beckon you over asking to show you a ‘trick’. You go over all happy in your tourist bubble, they grab your hand a start spinning string around it super fast. Before you’ve had the time to process the situation, the guy turns to you gripping his end of the ‘bracelet’ and won’t let you go until you have coughed up €5. It’s a rotten trick, with hundreds of these conmen across the streets looking for innocent travellers to exploit. Just up the steps out of shot on the right of this picture was a wall of around six blokes who, as we ascended, all had their go at pulling us into their trap. They would literally grab our arms as we walked past so you have to shove your hands in your pockets and decline with confidence.

Scammers successfully averted without wallet casualty, we climbed the steps up to the  summit of the magnificent church, taking ten to admire the cityscape of Paris.

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Ian getting some extra elevation for the Paris skyline gram, feat. some randomers hand I forgot to crop out…

It makes you think all grand about the hours you could spend exploring every nook and cranny of the city discovering all its secret gems that you will miss in such a short stay. Well…to be honest we probably saw a good half of it during our navigational cock-up on the first day. Paris was one of my favourite cities architecturally too. The boxy terraced buildings with balconies and sashed windows alongside concrete structures with elaborate carved configurations. We had a gander inside the ol’ church. Proper monastic. Lots of pews, an alter and  some old Jesus art. As churches go it was a good one. Would pray again.

We had a wee sit down on the steps for a bit then descended to find some breakfast. Ham and Cheese crepes with an Orangina of course it being France and cheap enough for our budget. We munched on the way back to the hostel as we had a day train to catch to Turin.

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Seeing a good fountain

We had time to kill at the Gare du Lyon so we chilled with some reading, DS playing music listening downtime. The station periodically sprayed a water mist under the platform from above which felt SO GOOD and should be installed everywhere where it gets hot for any period of time. We boarded pretty much bob on the expected time of 2:40pm with a table to ourselves equipped with power sockets for the long journey to a lay-over in Turin before a night train to Rome. An Italian man with his bike hadn’t reserved a seat so was standing in the doorway and struck up conversation with us. When he asked I mentioned I lived in Cornwall, and he must of misheard me because he then asked if I had learnt Italian, to which I honestly replied no, which was met with the joking remark “Ahhh you lazy boy!”. I think information got lost in translation there! A friendly man nonetheless.

The sun beat down on very picturesque scenery on our journey. Southern France is very hilly/mountainy with quaint little towns dotted on and around the foot of huge cliffs. The coach stirred when at a random town a group of pistol wielding police joined the train preceding to shift around baggage and request the odd passport. Luckily there was no dramas. We managed to pass the time alright. I taught Ian a few tricks about the DSLR while we all racked our brains playing Who Want To Be A Millionaire on DS, with the occasional input from an English family opposite us.

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A poor pout Poulton
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A cheeky Patch
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A pensive Tommo
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A posing Groves

 

If your going travelling Pigs is a great simple compact game you can stow away in your bag to break out at a spare moment. It quickly gets competitive as everyone figures out their own tactics!

Toward what we thought would be the latter part of the journey, the English family dad next to us piped up in our conversation about our travelling arrangements with a theory that this train was in fact not bound for Turin, but instead Milan. Cue the three lads to begin bricking it and contemplating horror stories of being stranded in Milan miles away from where we were meant to be having only just set out on our trip. For whatever reason it didn’t effect me and I remained calm maintaining that we were on the right train. Even if we did end up in Milan what use was worrying and getting worked up about it? We couldn’t turn the tain around, the control was out of our hands. Worse comes to worse we would have no other choice but to figure a way to rectify ourselves and get to Rome (I was reading a very philosophical book at the time which explains this high and mighty outlook I had on our situation).

Turns out – of course – it was the right train and we staggered off onto a deserted station. Me and Tommo disputed that we’d never been in humidity like we felt then. It was about half hour past dusk, the air was thick like it was tangible. Imagine being followed around by someone holding a duvet tight around you whilst it is also 25 degrees. Bravely we ventured onto the streets for sustenance. One jumbo slice of margarita later and we were boarding our first night train.

Josh Poulton’s Guide To Night Trains

  1. Always take a lock to secure your bag to the luggage rack just as a precaution – we experienced no problems but better to be safe than sorry
  2. Always remember to take water on the train – it gets well hot sitting there sweating with five other people (gross)
  3. Leave your passport and interrail ticket somewhere easily accessible for midnight ticket checks – do not be that guy fumbling and faffing around when you got an inspector blinding you and your grumpy tired travelling companions with 10,000 lumens of torch light.
  4. As empty as the train looks when you get on DO NOT LEAVE YOUR RESERVED CABIN – unless you need the loo of course.

In regards to point 4, that was the tragic mistake me and Liam made. Without any foresight that the train might have other stops throughout the night, me and Liam sprawled ourselves out in an adjacent cabin for extra space to ourselves. We reclined ourselves across a six seat double bed situation in our sleeping bags and pyjamas thinking we’d nailed bedtime travel style. No. About half hour in a very confused group of Italians knocked on the door with their reservations and we had to make the walk of shame back to our actual cabin where we started. It was a learning curve!

And thus concludes day 2’s events! As always any questions or comments drop them down below. Day 3 in Rome to follow soon.

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