Sunday, September 11, 2016

Revisiting Europe By Train #2

View from Musée d'Orsay, Paris

It would be our second time traveling Europe By Train, this time in spring to avoid some of the heat and crowds. We arrived in Rome early April. Like falling off a bicycle, I resumed my love affair with the Eternal City.

Map Room, Vatican Museum
Trastevere, Rome
Piazza Navona, Rome
After a week, we left Rome's mammoth Termini railway station for Arezzo, the hilltop queen of Tuscany.

After a short train ride, we arrived in Bologna, home of the world's oldest university. The city center, Old Town, is pedestrian only, lanes and lanes of ancient stone arcades. Its former stock exchange is now a magnificent and modern library.

Next we traveled over the Alps to visit one of my oldest friends in Zurich. Our train journey was spectacular. We loved having the local perspective of Zurich and the surrounding villages.

We took the TGV fast train to Paris, arriving in about four hours. Paris is a city I've been returning to since college, sometimes living there. This time we rented an apartment for three weeks. I would be researching two historical novels, and in-between, exploring quartiers I hadn't yet discovered.

A few days later, we took the TGV to Arles, where Van Gogh was inspired by the light and colors. We visited many of the sites he painted, such as Starry Night Over The Rhone. I fell hard for Arles, and will be back!

Our return TGV took us through small towns and farmland, rural France. In Paris, we visited our beloved Musée d'Orsay, as well two historical military museums for research. The rest of the time, I hit the streets. 

The Luxembourg Garden holds a special place in my heart. I have walked it in every season, and was lucky this year to visit in spring.

One Sunday we took the train to Auvers-sur-Oise, a light-filled, riverside village that drew many artists, including Van Gogh. I was ready to move there myself.

As our time drew to an end, I wandered through parks, cemeteries, and outlying arrondissements like Belleville and Montmartre, where I found the apartment Van Gogh shared with his brother, Théo.

I often passed through the Luxembourg Garden or the nearby streets of St-Germain. Here is one of my favorite squares, Saint-Sulpice. 

Another place we returned to often was the Canal St-Martin, right in our own neighborhood. As D(eparture)-Day approached, my heart pangs grew. Although I had thought this time I was done with Paris, I realized that Paris was not done with me.

Eurostar is a sweet way to travel. We left the Gare du Nord mid-afternoon, arriving less than three hours later at St. Pancras, in the heart of London. The next day my friend Karin Salavaggio took me to her favorite pub along the Thames.

In between museums, we walked. And ate. The British Museum blew me away. But there is nothing like the quirky Victoria & Albert Museum.

Our train-ferry to Dublin took us through England, Wales, and the Irish Sea. In Dublin, we had our own neighborhood pub, The Hairy Lemon, and chatted with James Joyce.

Our last stop was Edinburgh Old Town. We visited the Writers' Museum and of course the castle. The city itself is captivating, and I have vowed to return, next time to see more of Scotland. You can hold me to it!

Even at the end of six weeks of travels, I was ready for more. 

Next stop: Winter 2017: Sri Lanka and southern India