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 the heat and crowds. We arrived in Rome early April. Like falling off a bicycle, I resumed my love affair with the Eternal City.
After a glorious week, we left Rome's mammoth Termini railway station for two days in arty Arezzo, the hilltop queen of Tuscany.

It was short train ride to Bologna, home of the world's oldest university. The Old Town is pedestrian only, lanes and lanes of ancient stone arcades. Its former stock exchange is now a stunning 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.

European railway infrastructure is admirable. In four hours the TGV zipped us to Paris, a city I've been returning to since college, sometimes living there. This time we rented a studio near Canal St-Martin for three weeks. I would be researching two historical novels, and in-between, exploring unfamiliar quartiers.

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!

The return TGV took us through timeless rural France. Arriving back in Paris, we enjoyed cocktails at the Gare de Lyon's ravishing Train Blue, discovered two amazing military museums, and caught up with Shakespeare and Company.

I cannot be in Paris without a visit to the Musée d'Orsay. Equally, I am drawn to wander her streets, filled with another kind of art 

The Luxembourg Garden is dear to 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 village that drew many artists, including Van Gogh. I was ready to move there, too.

As our time in Paris drew to an end, I wandered favorite streets and outlying quartiers like Belleville and Montmartre, where I found the rue Lepic apartment Van Gogh shared with his brother, Théo. Any excuse, I passed through Luxembourg Garden or St-Germain, where, in my 20s, I lived on rue de Seine. One of my favorite squares is St-Sulpice.

Many times we strolled Canal St-Martin. 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.

Then The Daughter arrived from college. 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 across 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 is captivating, and I've vowed 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