Table 1075: ​Wrocław – Katowice – Kraków – Przemyśl

PART 1

This month we are exploring Poland and the journey from Wrocław to Przemyśl, a total distance of 513 kilometres.

We begin in Wrocław, a city in south-west Poland, not far from the borders of Czech Republic and Germany, along the Oder River. Wrocław is one of the oldest cities in Poland with a beautiful old town, a variety of architecture, beautiful parks and amazing food.

Wrocław is best known for its magnificent Market Square or Rynek, at the heart of the city. Full of elegant town houses, restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as Wrocław’s Multimedia Fountain which, comes alive with music, hundreds of lights and water jets. The Town Hall is a prominent feature on the square. This gothic building is stunning and houses the Museum of Bourgeois Art, a basement restaurant and is also used for temporary exhibitions and cultural events.

As you walk around the city you can’t miss the famous brass dwarfs. Now a symbol of the city, they adorn the streets and every one is different. See how many you can spot…

On the north bank of the Oder River is the oldest part of the city, Ostrów Tumski or ‘Cathedral Island’. Cross the Tumski bridge full of love locks and explore the cobbled streets lined with old traditional gas lamps. Check out the stunning Gothic Cathedral of St John the Baptist; from the top of the tower you can see wonderful views over the city, the Botanical Gardens and the Archdiocese Museum.

Other highlights of Wrocław include Racławicka Panorama, a painting depicting the Battle of Racławice, The Cathedral of St Mary Magdalene with its open-air ‘Witches Bridge’, Wrocław University with its Mathematical Tower, Aula Leopoldinum and Oratorium Marianum halls.

PART 2

This week we continue our journey leaving Wrocław and heading south east to Katowice a distance of 190 kilometres.

Following the Odra Valley upstream we reach the medieval town of Brzeg. Attractions include the magnificent renaissance Brzeg Castle with the Museum of Silesian Piasts found inside, the baroque architecture of The Raising of the Holy Cross Church located next to the castle and St. Nicholas Church with fabulous stained glass windows.

Next we reach Opole, one of the oldest cities in Poland, this picturesque city has a lovely market square and Piast Tower is the main landmark in the city. Gliwice is the next stop before reaching Katowice.

Katowice is a city in the Silesian Region of southern Poland on the banks of the river Rawa. It is Poland’s main industrial centre, a mix of modern and historical architecture. One of the main attractions is the Silesian Museum, many of the exhibition spaces have been adapted from the former shafts and tunnels of the Katowice Coal Mine which the Museum now occupies, including a viewing tower in the previous mine shaft hoist tower. Also not to be missed is a visit to Silesia Park, an extensive green area of 6.2 square kilometres which is also home to the Silesian Planetarium, Silesian Zoological Garden and Upper Silesian Ethnographic Park.

Katowice is 27 kilometres from Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and frequent tours run from the city. It is possible to take a train to Oświęcim which takes around 48 minutes and then there is a 1.2 kilometre walk. Admission to the grounds is free but must be booked in advance.

PART 3

Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland dating back to the 7th century.

In Kraków’s Main Square, you will find Town Hall Tower and the ‘Eros Bendato’ statue on the far side of the Cloth Hall. The Rynek underground museum explores 700 years of history with artefacts and reconstructions.

St. Mary’s Basilica is the jewel of Kraków’s Old Town. This brick Gothic church was built in the late 13th century and its two towers of differing heights form one of the city’s most iconic buildings.

Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, has a great selection of cafes and restaurants to sample some traditional polish food or, for a quick snack, perhaps try some street food. You can also explore the older part of town and visit the oldest synagogue in Kraków (also one of the oldest in Europe).

Wawel castle, overlooking the Vistula River, is one of the most noticeable landmarks in Kraków. The architecture is a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Early Baroque due to it being captured and occupied by various rulers during its long history.

PART 4

This week we explore Przemyśl, the final destination of this month’s journey through Poland. The town is situated at the foot of a hill, offering mountainous views and is located only a few kilometres from the Ukrainian border. It lies on the San River offering an important trade route to Central Europe.

Casimir Castle was built from 1340 by King Casimirus the Great, on the hill towering over the city in the place of an older settlement. It was thoroughly renovated in the 16th century in Renaissance style and in 1842 the beautiful Castle Park was added.

Przemyśl’s  modern museum presents well-curated permanent exhibitions on the city’s prehistoric and medieval times, its Jewish history and the story of Przemyśl Fortress during World War I (among other themes). Temporary exhibitions explore subjects such as the art of the Hutsul people of Ukraine and Poland, or the traumatic experience of the city during World War II.

The remnants of Austria-Hungary’s Przemyśl Fortress surround the town. These were mostly earth ramparts, although they are now overgrown and resemble natural rather than artificial bulwarks. They’re a fair distance out of town, but among the best examples are Fort I (Salis Soglio) in Sieliska, Fort VIII (Łętownia) in Kuńkowce and Fort XIII (San Rideau) in Bolestraszyce. The tourist office can provide information about the sites and transport details.

Table 550: Zürich and Luzern – Lugano – Milano

PART 1

This month we are in Switzerland travelling from Luzern to Milano. The journey takes around four hours covering a distance of 263 kilometres. The journey takes you via The Gotthard Base tunnel crossing the Alps. It is the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel at 57 kilometres.

Our journey begins in Luzern amongst the snow capped mountains on Lake Luzern. The city is well known for its stunning medieval architecture, history, culture and spectacular scenery.There is plenty to explore and one of the most famous attractions is the Chapel Bridge that stretches across the River Reuss. Dating back to the 14th century it is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe. The interior has paintings in the ceiling vaults representing Luzern’s history.

The medieval Old Town on the right bank is beautiful and offers narrow, cobbled streets with great shops and restaurants, picturesque squares, fountains, and buildings with colourful façades. Close by is the old city walls with 9 towers. Climb to the top of the towers for stunning views across the city.

Don’t miss the Swiss Museum of Transport, this unique museum offers everything from Switzerland’s first diesel locomotive, aircraft, cars and horse drawn carriages. It is also home to the Swiss Chocolate Adventure where you can learn about the history and manufacture of Swiss chocolate.

Other must see attractions include the Jesuit Church built in 1666, the Franciscan Church with one of the most ornate pulpits in Switzerland, Spreuer Bridge built in the 16th century, The Lion Monument carved into a former sandstone quarry which represents the Swiss Guard and not forgetting beautiful Lake Luzern, Switzerland’s fourth largest lake.

PART 2

This week we continue our journey leaving Luzern and head to Arth-Goldau. Sit on the right of the train for stunning views over Lake Zug and the mountain peaks on the far shore.

Arth-Goldau, situated between Lake Zug and Lake Luzern, lies in the heart of a cherry tree region and is an important railway junction along the Gotthard line. The rack railway leading up to the “Queen of the Mountains”, Mount Rigi, offers superb panoramic views across the Alps.

Over 200 years ago Goldau was destroyed by a massive landslide after heavy rainfall. Take a themed walk along the ‘Landslide Trail’ or visit the Landslide Museum in the village for an insight into this natural disaster.

Also close by is the Goldau Nature Park and Zoo with 100 native and European animals including deer and moufflon sheep in a large free-range area, and wolves, lynxes, wild boar and wild cats in large enclosures.

Don’t forget to take a boat cruise on Lake Zug, the perfect way to relax and take in the scenery.

Continuing south from Arth-Goldau you pass Lake Luzern on the right and head towards the start of Gotthard Base tunnel at Erstfeld, emerging around 20 minutes later at Biasca.

PART 3

This week we are exploring the medieval town, Bellinzona the capital of canton Ticino at the foot of the Alps by the Ticino River. Bellinzona is famous for its three UNESCO World Heritage castles, it also has several 15th Century churches to explore and plenty of charm.

The historic old town has beautiful, colourful buildings and alleys and a lovely atmosphere. In the main square you will find the church of Saint Pietro e Stefano, a magnificent baroque church with an ornate interior, a beautiful pulpit decorated with marble and various ancient paintings. Saturday is market day in the old town, so take a stroll and explore the bustling market selling local produce, artisan food, freshly made sweet and savory treats and traditional handicrafts.

From the old town you can walk to the castles or take the shuttle, passing vineyards, streams and forests with beautiful panoramic views of Bellinzona valley and the surrounding snow capped mountains.

The three castles include Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro. Castelgrande is the main castle and sits on a rocky plateau above the town. Enjoy a walk around the vast grounds. Climb up the two towers for spectacular views and visit the museum for an insight into the history. Montebello Castle is the most picturesque of the three castles and houses an interesting archeological Museum. Sasso Corbaro is the highest castle on the hill and offers the best views of the area.

PART 4

This week we are finishing our journey in the city of Lugano. From Bellinzona we head south through the 15.4 kilometre Ceneri Base Tunnel. This newly opened tunnel between Bellinzona and Lugano is the last section of the new railway link through the Alps and takes around 20 minutes to pass through.

We reach Lugano on the northern side of Lake Lugano, surrounded by mountains. This picturesque city blends Italian, Swiss and Mediterranean influences.

The old town has a lovely atmosphere, is traffic free, and filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. The 16th century San Lorenzo Cathedral is beautiful with its giant tower and stunning views over the old town, lake and mountains.

For the best views of Lugano head to Monte Brè to the north or Monte San Salvatore to the south. You can reach both mountains by the funicular railways. At the top you can enjoy the spectacular panoramic views. From Monte Brè there are various walks and hikes including a walk down to the old village of Brè. From Monte San Salvatore you can walk to the villages of Carona, Morcote, Melide and Figino.

Lake Lugano is a definite highlight. Take a stroll along the beautiful waterfront or enjoy one of the many boat trips on offer, the perfect way to relax and see the mountains and picturesque villages. There are also lots of parks to explore around the lake including Parco Civico with ambling paths, flower gardens and manicured lawns.

Table 970: Salzburg – Villach – Klagenfurt

PART 1

A new year and a new destination, this month we are in Austria travelling from Salzburg to Klagenfurt along the Tauern Railway. A typical journey takes around three hours covering a distance of 220 kilometres. This is one of Europe’s most stunning scenic railway journeys, crossing the Alps via the 8.3 kilometre long Tauern Railway Tunnel. The tunnel’s northern portal is located at Böckstein, in the valley of Bad Gastein, with the southern extremity near Mallnitz, in Carinthia.

Our journey begins in Salzburg, Austria’s fourth largest city, located close to the border with Germany. This charming city combines unique Alpine landscapes with a rich mix of architecture. Famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting of ‘The Sound of Music’, you won’t run out of things to do.

A good starting point is the historic old town or Altstadt. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has some of Salzburg’s most popular attractions including Mozart’s birthplace, the Salzburg Museum, the stunning Salzburg Cathedral and St. Peter’s Monastery. Take time to roam the narrow streets offering boutique shops, quaint cafes and restaurants and marvel at the fabulous architecture.

One of the city’s most striking landmarks is Hohensalzburg Fortress, Europe’s largest fully preserved castle. Take the funicular up the hill and enjoy superb views of the city and its surroundings. Then head inside the castle to explore its various museums including the Fortress Museum, the Marionette Museum and the Rainer Regiment Museum.

Not to be missed is a visit to Mirabell gardens, one of the settings in the world famous musical, The Sound of Music. Pegasus fountain is featured in the song ‘Do-Re-Mi’, The garden features an array of beautiful flowers the colours of which change every year according to tradition.

PART 2

This week we continue our journey in Austria, heading south along the Tauern Railway from Salzburg to Villach. The main railway station in Salzburg is a 20 minute walk from the Altstadt (Old Town). The best views from the train are generally on the right-hand side (facing the direction of travel) although on the approach to Bad Gastein, views are better on the left.

Approximately 40 minutes after leaving Salzburg we reach Bischofshofen, the junction for the Enns Valley Railway. It is the rail-head for a number of resorts in the Hochkönig mountain region, such as Maria Alm, Dienten, Mühlbach and Hochkeil.
A few kilometres north of Bischofshofen is the town of Werfen, best known for the Castle Hohenwerfen and the largest ice cave in the world. Werfen is served by most regional trains between Salzburg and Bischofshofen.

Continuing south we soon reach Schwarzach-St.Veit, another important railway junction, where the line towards Innsbruck diverges from our route. As the station name suggests, it serves the two small market towns of Schwarzach and Sankt Veit. Schernberg Castle is a popular attraction and there are also numerous hiking trails in the area. A museum dedicated to the Tauern Railway is situated close to the station which is open from May to October.

The next main stop along the route is the popular resort and spa town of Bad Gastein. Located in a picturesque setting, it is a charming town with lots to offer including first-class skiing and hiking, together with its famous hot springs. The Bad Gastein waterfall is another popular attraction in the town.

PART 3

Shortly after leaving Bad Gastein, our train travels through the magnificent Tauern railway tunnel which is 8.4 kilometres in length and, at its highest point, is 1,226 metres above sea level. As the train descends down from the Tauern Tunnel to Villach, stunning views can be seen on the right.

The town of Villach lies on the Drava River in the state of Carinthia near the Italian and Slovenian borders, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. This quaint, historic town offers cobbled streets and pastel rainbow coloured buildings, typical among small Austrian towns. In the heart of Villach’s old town district is the main square and Trinity Column, along with shops, galleries and plenty of cafes and restaurants.

Highlights include the Church of St Jacob, with its beautiful interior, red pillars and rococo style altar. Landskron Castle offers superb views of the town, and is also home to the Adler Arena where you can watch breath-taking shows of birds of prey from April to October. The Museum der Stadt Villach is one of Austria’s oldest and largest museums where you can learn about the history, art and culture of Villach.

Also worth visiting are the nearby natural hot springs at Warmbad Villach and the beautiful Lake Faak, one of Carinthia’s smallest lakes.

PART 4

This week we continue our scenic journey departing Villach for Klagenfurt. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and takes you pass, on the right hand side, beautiful Lake Wörthersee, one of Europe’s largest and warmest Alpine lakes.

Klagenfurt is the capital of the state of Carinthia, surrounded by superb landscapes and mountain scenery. The architecture is typical Austrian style with plenty of local history and a variety of things to see.

Head to the Neuer Platz, the main square where you will find the Lindwurm Fountain, the winged dragons which is the symbol of the town and also a statue of the only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire, Empress Maria Therese. The surrounding area also has a range of shops, restaurants and a tree-lined seating area.

Other highlights include Minimundus, a miniature park where you will find around 150 models of famous structures from around the world, including the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty. Also worth viewing are the Parish Church of St. Egid and its bell tower with views over the city and one of the oldest buildings in Klagenfurt in neo-baroque style and the Landhaus, built in the 16th century with two dome-shaped towers which dominate the surrounding skyline. Inside you will find fine examples of Carinthian art and architecture.

Don’t forget to enjoy the area around Lake Wörthersee on the west side of Klagenfurt, where you can relax or take a boat trip to the surrounding towns.

Table 794: Tampere – Vaasa, Oulu, Kolari and Rovaniemi

PART 1

This month we will be exploring Finland, starting in the city of Tampere and travelling to Vaasa on the west coast and then continuing north to Oulu, Kolari and Rovaniemi.

Tampere is the second largest urban area in Finland, situated between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. Tampere railway station was built in 1936 with approximately 80 departures a day. The journey time from Finland’s capital,Helsinki, is around 1 hour 30 minutes making it an ideal day trip.

It is renowned for being the sauna capital of the world with over 30 public saunas to choose from to make your stay relaxing after taking in the Finnish culture. Tampere Cathedral, located on the east side of the city, was designed by Lars Sonck and built between 1902 and 1907. It is particularly famous for its frescoes painted by Hugo Simberg.

One of the main tourist attractions is Särkänniemi amusement park. The park features an aquarium, a planetarium, a children’s zoo, an art museum and an observation tower Näsinneula (Näsi Needle).

Our journey next week to Vaasa sees us travelling 233 kilometres on the Finnish national railway (VR-Yhtymä Oy), taking around 2 hours 10 minutes and with frequent services running throughout the day.

PART 2

This week we will be continuing our journey in Finland. Last week we looked at Tampere and now we have travelled to Vaasa on the west coast.

Home to the only Finnish UNESCO natural heritage site, the unique Kvarken Archipelago in Vaasa and Sweden’s High Coast are a joint World Heritage Site on UNESCO’s list. Traces of the Ice Age and continuous land uplift feature the both sides.You can reach most of the sights with a car or a boat. Other options to explore the archipelago are to cycle, to kayak, to hike or to hop on a world heritage cruise. At the gateway to this World Heritage site stands Finland’s longest bridge, the Replot bridge and you can see the stunning scenery and Replot Harbour with its red boat houses.

The city of Vaasa is renowned for its art and history. The Old Vaasa town, also popularly known as Vanhan Vaasa in the ancient part of the city, was destroyed by fire in 1852 and the town is entirely in ruins. An interesting place to see one of the few remaining buildings is St Mary’s Stone Church, the 17th Century Church where the city evolved from.

Some of the many museums and galleries worth visiting include Brages friluftsmuseum, a unique open-air museum featuring a 19th century farmhouse. The museum displays various materials from the period of 1890 and even features a coastal area with a fishing cabin, smoke sauna, and whirlpool. The exhibits display the fact of how fishing once used to be an important earning method to sustain a livelihood.

For art lovers, Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art named after art collector Consul Simo Kuntsi (1913–1984), and the art collection of the foundation established by him is considered one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in Finland.

Vaasa Church was constructed  in 1869 in an English Neo-Gothic style and attracts many visitors, with a capacity of 900 people and a vault downstairs. The surroundings of the Church are stunning and feature a hanging dew tree on a dove.

PART 3

Our next stop on our journey to Oulu is Seinäjoki in South Ostrobothnia, a growing city known for its architecture, cultural events and sporting activities. Highlights include the buildings of the Aalto Centre, designed by Alvar Aalto, such as Lakeuden Risti Church, the town hall, the library and the City Theatre. Additionally there are museums where you can explore bygone aspects of life in Ostrobothnia and also a variety of shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Our next stop is the historic city of Kokkola in the Central Ostrobothnia region. Check out the Neristan district in the centre of Kokkola, known as “The Old Wooden Town”. The wooden houses are idyllic and over 200 years old.

Continuing on our journey we pass the small town of Ylivieska before reaching Oulu in central Finland. Oulu is Finland’s fourth largest city spread across several islands which are connected by a series of bridges. It combines culture, modern technology and nature. There are numerous museums in the city, including Tietomaa Science Centre, an interactive museum with over 150 exhibits and a digital 3D cinema screen and The Northern Ostrobothnia Museum focuses on the city’s cultural history.

Rotuaari is Oulu’s buzzing shopping area with shopping malls, boutique shops, and a thriving restaurant and café scene. Situated on the waterfront is Kauppatori, a lively Market Square with typical Finnish wooden houses, restaurants, bars and craft shops.

North of the city centre you will find beautiful parks including Hupisaaret Park full of streams, bridges and a great variety of trees and plants.

PART 4

Our Finnish odyssey continues from Oulu to Kolari. First stop along the way is the small town of Kemi, situated 90 minutes south of the Arctic Circle. Kemi is home to the world’s largest snow castle, sculpted from saltwater ice and snow and with year-round tours available. Other attractions include a unique tour of the Icebreaker Sampo, and the Gemstone Gallery with replicas of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, a lavish diamond necklace of Marie Antoinette and thousands of precious stones and gems.

Continuing on we reach Kolari, the most northerly railway station in Finland. Kolari is located in the province of Lapland and famous for ranches, skiing, national parks and water skiing. Finland’s most popular ski resort of Ylläs is located in Kolari with the ski season running from October to May. One of the most famous attractions in the area is the Northern Lights, a spectacular natural phenomenon which is a common sight in the night sky above Ylläs from January to March.

Other popular attractions nearby include Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, an ideal place to view the arctic landscape and explore the many hiking trails on offer. All Huskies Oy offer Husky Safaris, giving you the opportunity to drive a two person sleigh and spend time with the dogs.

PART 5

On the final leg of our journey in Finland we reach Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland. This modern city is best known worldwide for being the home town of Santa Claus and the gateway to the Arctic Circle.

Rovaniemi offers many unique attractions in both summer and winter and is a convenient base for nearby activities. The city centre is quaint and compact with shops, restaurants, cafes and, in the lead up to the festive period, traditional Christmas markets. The city centre is also within walking distance of many attractions including the main square, named after the local band Lordie, who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Finland in 2006. The Arktikum Museum and Science Centre explores the region’s history and culture, including the science behind the Northern Lights. Another notable attraction is the Korundi House of Culture, home of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland and the Rovaniemi Art Museum.

You can’t stay in Rovaniemi without visiting Santa Claus Village which is open all year round. The highlight will be meeting Santa Claus himself! The village is located on the Arctic Circle line which is clearly signposted in the main plaza.

Other highlights include hiking the popular ‘two bridges walk’ (which combines the old railway bridge and the Lumberjack’s Candle bridge), ice floating in survival suits, ice fishing, reindeer and husky rides, and not forgetting the Northern Lights, typically visible for about 150 nights of the year starting in August through to April. If you visit in the summer, from June to early September, you can experience the Midnight Sun.

Table 641: Villa San Giovanni – Messina – Siracusa and Palermo

PART 1

This month we are exploring Sicily in southern Italy, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. Our journey starts at Villa San Giovanni, a bustling port with bars and restaurants and the main connection between Italy and Sicily.

The ferry between Villa San Giovanni and Messina takes approximately 40 minutes and it is one of Europe’s last train ferries where the train is conveyed on the ship. For ferry details see Table 2695 Stretto di Messina, or Table 640 to see the Roma – Sicily through services.

As we arrive in the historical city of Messina, the third largest city on the island you can’t miss the octagonal column with a statue of the beautiful Madonna della Lettera guarding the entrance to the city and port.Close to the port, head to the Piazza del Duomo. In this beautiful square you will find the impressive Messina Cathedral with its mosaic flooring, statues either side of the nave and painted wooden ceiling. Next to the cathedral stands the Bell Tower, with the largest astronomical clock in the world, full of animated mechanical statues that put on a magical show at noon. Also in the square you will find the stunning Fountain of Orion, an ornate water fountain with detailed sculptures, shops, restaurants and cafes.

Messina Regional Museum provides a fascinating look at the history of the area from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. The museum has an archaeological section, a sculpture collection and also a painting gallery.

For incredible views of Messina, the Strait of Messina, and mainland Italy head to the Temple Christ the King located on the Viale Principe Umberto.

PART 2

This week we head south to Siracusa with our 182 kilometre journey from Messina Centrale taking approximately 2 hours 30 minutes. Trains on this route are operated by Trenitalia. Sit on the left-hand side (facing the direction of travel) for the best sea views whilst Mount Etna is best viewed from the right hand side.

Our journey takes us past Catania, Sicily’s second largest city, situated on the Ionian Sea at the foot of Mount Etna (Europe’s highest volcano). This picturesque city offers lively culture, centuries of history, fine architecture and bustling markets. Attractions include the Cathedral of Saint Agatha, Piazza del Duomo, Castello Ursino, Elephant Fountain and the Catania Museo Civico.

We finally reach Siracusa, a beautiful coastal city known for its remarkable historical heritage and its charming old town situated on Ortigia Island. The Umbertino bridge connects Ortigia Island to the city (which is mostly pedestrianised). At the entrance of Ortigia Island you will find the magnificent Temple of Apollo and to the left is the traditional Ortigia Market, held every morning. Continue through the maze of streets and you reach the beautiful baroque Piazza del Duomo, the island’s main square with the stunning Cathedral of Siracusa, Archbishop’s Palace, Santa Lucia Church as well as shops and restaurants. Other highlights include the Piazza Archimede where the Diana Fountain is located, Castello Maniace with fantastic views and the striking San Giovanni Catacombs.

PART 3

This week we are travelling west from Messina, along the scenic coastline taking in Milazzo with its impressive hilltop castle, the church of Sant’Antonio di Padua and the medieval old town. Milazzo is also the main port for the Aeolian Islands.

Our next stop is the charming historical small town of Cefalù, with its beautiful sandy beaches that stretch alongside the town, a fine 12th-century twin tower Norman Cathedral and some superb restaurants.

Continuing on our journey we pass the small village of Termini Imerese before reaching Palermo, Sicily’s capital. Palermo offers a traditional Italian atmosphere, many historic buildings listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites and bustling street markets.

Highlights include the 12th-century Palermo Cathedral, spectacular both inside and out and home to impressive royal tombs. Head to the roof to get fantastic panoramic views of Palermo. Teatro Massimo is Italy’s biggest Opera House and the third largest in Europe and the beautiful Palazzo dei Normanni, Europe’s oldest Royal Palace home to the Palatine Chapel.

Don’t forget to visit the famous street markets including the Vucciria, Ballaro, and Borgo Vecchio markets for food and an array of goods.

To get away from it all head to Mondello beach with beautiful golden sand and turquoise waters set in a spectacular landscape.

Table 361: Les Arcs – St Raphaël – Cannes – Nice – Monaco – Ventimiglia

PART 1

This month we explore the beautiful South of France along the famous coastline on the French Riviera, Côte d’Azur. The journey takes us past stunning headlands, waterside towns, bays, fine beaches and millionaire villas.

Train operators include TER (Transport Express Regional) local train services which require no advanced bookings, TGV and a daily Thello Eurocity service which both require booking in advance.

We begin in Les Arcs, a small town in the Argens Valley. This picturesque medieval town offers plenty of history and architecture and is probably best known as a wine producing town, rich in vineyards offering wine tasting .

The medieval quarter known as Le Parage, dominates the city centre with pretty cobbled streets, traditional stone houses, chapels and castle ruins. The 13th century Saracen Tower dominates the skyline with beautiful views of Les Arcs and surrounding countryside and a 17th century Clock tower topped with an ornate, wrought-iron campanile. Also worth a visit is the Church of Saint-John the Baptist with its beautiful panel Polyptych dating from 1501.

Just outside the city, around four kilometres away, is Chateau de Sainte Roseline, where you will find the Sainte-Roseline Winery and Chapel. The winery offers high quality wines with tours and wine tasting. The beautiful ornate Chapel contains a unique crystal shrine of St Roseline and a fantastic Marc Chagall mosaic.

PART 2

Leaving Les Arcs behind the journey follows the Argens Valley to the coast calling at Frejus, a city rich in history and art. Attractions include the roman amphitheatre, a magnificent cathedral, colourful houses and some beautiful sandy beaches. A few kilometres south-east and we arrive at St Raphaël.

St Raphaël is one of the oldest seaside resorts on the French Riviera stretching over 36 kilometres of coast with some beautiful beaches and plenty of charm. The picturesque harbour with its colourful fishing boats, and beaches offers various leisure and water activities.

Take time to stroll along the narrow cobbled streets of the old town and enjoy the daily flower and vegetable markets. At the heart of the town is one of the oldest buildings dating from the 12th century, the Church of Saint-Raphaël. Climb the watchtower for beautiful panoramic views across the bay. Also in the centre is the imposing 19th Century Notre Dame de la Victoire church with its characteristic gilt dome.

If you enjoy museums drop in at the local Archaeology Museum dedicated to archaeological excavations from the area.

PART 3

This week we are continuing our journey as we head to Cannes along the scenic Estérel mountain coastline.

Cannes is one of the most popular destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The city offers gorgeous hotels, casinos, designer shops and superb restaurants and easily lives up to its glamourous reputation.At the heart of Cannes is the old quarter, Le Suquet with its cobbled lanes, beautiful architecture, local shops and restaurants and a harbour with traditional fishing boats. A short walk up the hill and you will find the Musée de la Castre, home to a wide collection of local antiquities, and if you climb the clock tower you will be rewarded with breath taking views of the city and the sparkling sea below.

Enjoy a walk around the bay area along Promenade de la Croisette which follows the bay around. On one side you will find luxury yachts, cruise ships, beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees and on the other side you can window shop in the designer boutiques and enjoy the atmosphere of the rich and famous.

Don’t forget to check out the Palais des Festivals, where the famous annual Cannes Film Festival is held. Take a guided tour or catch a movie in one of the amazing theatres.

PART 4

We closely follow the coastline for much of the way from Cannes to Nice passing the beautiful sandy beaches of Juan-les-Pins before arriving at Antibes, with its historic Old Town and abundance of luxury yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina. The next major stop is Cagnes sur Mer which boasts a chic shopping centre (named Polygone Riviera) and a 3½ kilometre stretch of beach.

On arrival at Nice-Ville railway station, which is located in the north of the city, you can either take a tram to the Old Town or walk there in around 20 minutes. The 16th century Old Town with its narrow streets is largely pedestrianised with restaurants, bars, cafes and markets. On the edge of the Old Town you will find Castle Hill, the highest point in Nice with ruins of the Château de Nice and superb panoramic views of the city below, whilst further east is the modern city centre with plenty more shops, restaurants and cafes.

Other highlights include the Musée National Marc Chagall, located in Cimiez. It boasts the largest public collection of Chagall works including paintings, mosaics, pottery and stunning stained glass windows. The exquisite Baroque style Nice Cathedral is not to be missed, with its spectacular architecture and stunning interior.

Take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais which winds alongside the white pebble beach, one of the longest and most famous of the French Riviera. Lined with palm trees, fantastic restaurants and bars, it is the perfect location for a spot of people watching.

PART 5

The train from Nice to Monaco takes on average 20 minutes during the week, it can take longer on weekends and holidays. As you arrive into Monaco you are greeted by a white marble staton, just the start of this luxurious and glamorous destination.

Perhaps the most famous district is Monte Carlo with its breathtaking seaside views from the gorgeous terrace of Place du Casino. The inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale, it is also the location of the Hôtel de Paris and Café de Paris where you can stay and dine in 5 star luxury.

Monaco has one of the most renowned museums, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Home to more than 6000 species, the Aquariums are divided into the Tropical zone where you will find coral reef and the species which inhabit it aswell as piranhas and sharks; and Mediterranean Sea where you will see jellyfish, octopus and more than 200 species of inverterbrate.

A visit to Monaco wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the car collection of the Prince of Monaco. A collection of almost a hundred cars from all ages both vintage and modern, you can expect to see the top manufacturers as well as some Formula 1 race cars which have of course raced on the famous Monaco Grand Prix circuit.

PART 6

Leaving behind the luxury of Monaco we continue along the coastline towards the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. First stop is the picturesque medieval village Cap Martin-Roquebrune. Perched up high, it features narrow sloping streets, colourful buildings and breathtaking views of the coastline from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin castle.

A few kilometres further on we reach Menton, a seaside resort on the edge of the Côte d’Azur and the last major stop before crossing into Italy. Menton has lots of charm with a lovely medieval old town, winding streets and beautiful buildings, including the Basilique Saint-Michel with its 18th century bell tower. Thanks to the local microclimate, Menton is home to a unique brand of lemons and an annual festival, known locally as La Fête du Citron, is held in the charming town centre gardens, Jardins Biovès, during the winter months.

It is now just a short train ride to Ventimiglia, located just across the Italian border at the mouth of the Roia River. This medieval town offers history, charming outdoor markets and pebble beaches. Explore its narrow cobbled streets, colourful rustic buildings and houses, including the 11th century Romanesque Cathedral of Ventimiglia. Don’t miss the famous bustling open-air market which takes place every Friday on the boardwalk by the Ligurian Sea coastline. The market offers fresh local produce, including flowers, wine and clothing. There is also a daily covered food market situated near the railway station.

Table 1610: Brașov – Miercurea Ciuc – Târgu Mureș / Cluj Napoca / Baia Mare

PART 1

This month we are exploring Romania one of the most up and coming tourist destinations in Europe, set in a landscape of mountains, forests, fertile plains and rivers. Our journey takes us from Brașov to Baia Mare.

Located in central Romania in the Carpathian Mountains we begin in Brașov. This photogenic city is quaint and colourful with pastel-coloured streets and houses and offers an abundance of things to do and see.A good starting point is to head for Tâmpa Mountain and the massive Hollywood-style sign spelling Brașov in white letters. You can either walk/hike which takes about an hour or take the Tâmpa Cable Car to the top where you will be treated to superb views of Brașov.

You can’t visit Brașov without visiting the Gothic-style Black Church (Biserica Neagra) overlooking Council Square. This magnificent building got its name after a huge fire in 1689 blackened the walls of the church. Not far away you will find Rope Street (Strada Sforii) one of the narrowest streets in Europe at approximately four feet wide. This street was initially used as an access route for local firefighters.

Another must is Bran Castle or commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” situated in nearby Bran. Built in the 13th century you can view this beautiful historic castle on your own or take a guided tour. You will get a flavour and the history of Bram’s Dracula, and wander around the many floors and secret passages. The surrounding ground are also worth checking out.

Other highlights include Catherine’s Gate, a fairy-tale tower built in 1559 as the principle entrance into the walled medieval city and St. Nicholas Church situated in the Schei district with its wonderful architecture. And don’t forget to explore Brașov’s historic cobblestone streets with cafes, shops and surrounding architecture.

PART 2

As we leave Brașov towards Miercurea Ciuc the journey traces the Olt River and takes us on a scenic route past Sfântu Gheorghe between the Baraolt and Bodoc Mountain ranges and onto Miercurea Ciuc in Székely Land in eastern Transylvania.

Miercurea Ciuc attractions include Mikó Castle with a museum devoted to Székely heritage, Csiki Sör Brewery where you can learn the secrets of Miercurea Ciuc’s beloved local beer, and The Broken Tower (Turnul Spart) built in the middle ages.

As we continue onto Târgu Mureș, on the Mureș river, Romania’s 16th largest city has a mix of both Romanian and Hungarian cultures. The city’s central Square of the Roses (Piata Trandafirilor) is a good point to explore many of the beautiful buildings, cafes and restaurants.

Top attractions include the unique Palace of Culture (Palatul Culturii), with stunning stained glass windows and ornate interior. It is home to local museums, the Târgu Mureș Philharmonic, the county library, the art nouveau Prefecture Building with its 192 foot high spire, once a watchtower over the town and the Ethnographic Museum with collections of traditional costumes, crafts, wood, ceramics, and contemporary items. The Medieval Fortress offers a taste of the local history and culture set in a relaxing park area with restaurants and bars. Inside the walls is The Fortress Church, the oldest surviving church in Târgu Mureș

PART 3

Cluj-Napoca is the second largest city in Romania, after Bucureşti. Located in the Someșul Mic river valley, this vibrant city has lots to offer everyone including culture, wonderful history and a great atmosphere.

There are three main squares in the city centre – Mihai Viteazul, Avram Iancu, and the largest Unirii Square, all full of historic buildings, shops and restaurants. Around Unirii Square you will find St. Michael’s Church, the second largest church in Transylvania with its beautiful gothic architecture. The church tower is 80 metres high and offers amazing views over the city. Also in the square you will find Banffy Palace in baroque style and home to the Cluj National Art Museum with exhibits from Romanian artists and is one of the most important museums in the country.

One of the must-see attractions, is the Botanical Garden, with examples of gardens from different parts of the world, including a Rose garden, a Japanese garden and Roman gardens with over 10,000 plant varieties.

Other attractions include the Ethnographic Park and Museum, an open-air museum with rural Romanian scenes. Fortress Hill offers amazing views of the city and the surrounding landscape or spend an enjoyable evening at the National Theatre or the Cluj National Opera.

PART 4

On the final leg of our Romanian journey we reach Baia Mare situated in the Săsar River valley, surrounded by mountains and rolling hills. Baia Mare has a history for mining gold, silver and other metals.

Head to the main town sqaure (Piaţa Libertăţii) with its 16th and 17th century buildings with bars and cafes. Towering above the square is the 40-metre high Gothic-style watchtower, Stephen’s Tower. It offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and nearby villages.

Enjoy a visit to the Baia Mare Planetarium with an artificial sky including the Sun, planets, moons, thousands of stars and artistic representation of constellations through digital media. Other activities include dome demonstrations, exhibitions, astronomical observations, and film screenings.

Another popular attraction is the Mineralogy Museum that displays beautiful minerals extracted from the region. There are two floors to explore along with a movie presentation.

Nearby excursions include the Turda Salt Mines one of the oldest salt mines in the world and the unique wooden churches of Maramures in Șurdești and Plopiș.

Table 1200: Budapest – Dombóvár – Pécs

PART 1

A new month and a new route, Table 1200 in Hungary. We start in Budapest, the railway hub of the Hungarian railway network. There are three main international railway stations, Eastern (Keleti), Western (Nyugati) and Southern (Déli), with connections between Budapest and other European capital cities. Hungarian Railways (MÁV) is the national railway operator and it operates most trains in Hungary. Domestic Hungarian train tickets are easily and cheaply bought at the station, or online at www.mavcsoport.hu.

Divided by the River Danube, Budapest is connected by various beautiful bridges with the Széchenyi Chain Bridge being the most famous. It spans the Danube between Buda (West side) and Pest (East side) and was the first fixed link between the two sides.

Other attractions not to be missed include Buda Castle, home to the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum, with great views of Budapest. The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most iconic neo-gothic buildings in Europe and home to the Hungarian Crown Jewels. Marvel at the great dome hall, the richly decorated grand staircase and the Hungarian Holy Crown. Another visual wonder is St Stephen’s Basilica, with stunning architecture inside and out. For foodies visit The Central Market Hall, the largest indoor market in Budapest. This ornate building has three stories offering traditional Hungarian clothing, wines, spirits and local food delicacies.

PART 2

As we continue our journey we reach Kelenföld railway station, Budapest’s fourth busiest railway station, situated south-west of the city centre. Next stop is Sárbogárd, an intersection where electrified routes merge with non-electrified railways.

As we reach Dombóvár, you will find museums and historic buildings along with shopping, restaurants and spas. The Dombóvár Region Historical Museum displays the history of the town and its surroundings. If you wanted to explore further check out Table 1240 taking in Kaposvár on the upper valley of the Kapos River. You will find castle ruins, a quaint main square where you can buy unique souvenirs and there is also Csiky Gergely Theatre, Hungary’s first theatre which opened in 1911, with elegant design, beautiful architecture and surrounding gardens. Or you could head east on Table 1242 taking in Baja; the Holy Trinity Square has a Mediterranean feel and is located close to the riverside. Also check out the Turr Istvan Museum and learn about the city’s natural history, as well as the people who have lived on the banks of the river in the area.

PART 3

From Dombóvár we continue south along the scenic route via Godisa and Szentlörinc, to Pécs, the fifth largest city in Hungary, on the slopes of Mecsek Mountains and close to the borders with Croatia and Serbia.

At the heart of Pécs is Király Street, offering a superb atmosphere, fantastic architecture, with stylish shops and cafes and close to Pécs are many attractions including the National Theatre of Pécs. The stunning Art Nouveau Palatinus Hotel is well worth a look and the oldest café in Hungary (Caflish) for delicious cakes and coffee.

You can’t miss the majestic Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul Basilica with four spectacular towers over central Szent István Square. Beneath the towers lie the crypt and chapels along with frescoes and paintings by famous Hungarian artists.

For the best panoramic views of Pécs and the Baranyai hills to the south head to Pécs TV Tower, the tallest building in Hungary at 197 metres high. A high-speed lift transports you to a restaurant, a dinosaur exhibition and the observation deck.

Also worth a visit is the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter which offers a unique look at the heritage of the famous Zsolnay ceramics and porcelain manufacture in Pécs. You can also visit the Planetarium, the Lab–Interactive House of Playful Sciences or take a walk through the park and enjoy the beautiful architecture.

PART 4

On our final leg of southern Hungary we are looking at routes around Pécs shown in Tables 1237 and 1345. We start with (Table 1237) which covers Pécs, Nagykanizsa and Zalaegerszeg. From Pécs main railway station we head south-west passing Szentlörinc and Szigetvár. We arrive at Barcs, on the Drava River and the Croatian border. The town is surrounded by the beautiful Danube-Drava National Park. Next stops are Gyékényes and Nagykanizsa, both important crossing points into Croatia and Slovenia. Our final stop, is Zalaegerszeg on the banks of the Zala River close to the Slovenian and Austrian borders. The Göcseji Open-Air Museum on the banks of the Zala River is a popular tourist attraction. It recreates home life in the region, with reconstructed timber houses, various items of furniture, stables and a water mill. Also worth a look is the Earth Tower Clock-Foldonjaro Toronyora in front of the Sándor Hevesi Theatre in the city centre.

One can head south-east (Table 1345) over the Croatia border to Osijek, the fourth largest city in Croatia. Osijek has three centres, Donji in the east, central is the old town centre, Tvrđa and west, the city centre in Gornji Grad. Osijek is known for its great cuisine taking influence from Hungary and Serbia. Osijek’s co-cathedral, The Church of St Peter and St Paul is also worth checking out. It is the tallest building in Croatia outside of Zagreg with fantastic neo-Gothic architecture. There are three bridges across the Drava River with the pedestrian bridge the most recognisable landmark in Osijek. At night this beautiful suspension bridge is lit up in an ever changing spectrum of lights. As we reach Doboj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the banks of Bosna river, you will find Doboj fortress with great views from the hilltop. Also nearby is Mount Ozren with rich pastures, thermal water springs, clear mountain creeks and streams in pine and oak forests.

Table 914: Koblenz – Mainz

PART 1

This month we are following the scenic Rhine Valley from Koblenz to Mainz, Germany’s most famous and beautiful railway journey. To explore the many beautiful towns along the way take the regional trains stopping at all stations.

Our starting point is Koblenz one of the oldest cities in Germany, situated on the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Koblenz has something for everyone, from fairytale castles, vineyards, the winding cobbled streets of the old town and excellent cuisine.

A good place to start your visit is to take a ride on the Koblenz cable car. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, it is the most scenic way to reach the iconic Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Located 112 metres above the Rhine, the Ehrenbreitstein fortress is the second largest intact fortress in Europe with spectacular views over the Rhine Valley. Inside the fortress you will find the Landesmuseum Koblenz, highlighting its history.

The monument for unified Germany at Deutsches Eck (German Corner) is the main landmark in Koblenz. Take a walk up the various levels inside the impressive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II for the most impressive picturesque views of the area.

For classic German cuisine and wines from the Rhine-Moselle region head to Weinhaus Hubertus, one of the oldest half-timbered buildings in Koblenz.

Experience a boat trip along the Rhine from Koblenz to the one of the many wine villages and castles. The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt (Table 914a), better known as KD, runs cruises and scheduled services up and down the river between Köln and Mainz.

PART 2

This week we continue south along the right hand bank of the River Rhine to the town of St Goarshausen. Famous for its mythical Loreley Valley and the 132 metre high slate rock. At the cliff top lies the Loreley Visitors Centre with stunning views of the Statue of Loreley below. The statue, erected in 1983, is a memorial to a young maiden whose songs enchanted seamen causing countless shipwrecks. Above St Goarshausen you will find two stunning castles: Katz Castle (not open to visitors) and Maus Castle with fabulous views over the town and Rheinfels Castle across the river.

Continuing on we reach Kaub and its famous toll Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, in the middle of the Rhine River on Pfalz island, only accessible by boat to and from the castle, a truly unique experience.

Passing Lorch with its Monastery, Kloster Lorch, we reach the charming town of Rüdesheim, best known for its Riesling wines. In the old town you will find the famous Drosselgasse, an alley lined with historic buildings, restaurants and gift shops with a fantastic atmosphere. Be sure to visit Brömserburg Castle, home to the Rheingau Wine Museum and learn about the wine production in the region and development from ancient times to the present day. Don’t forget to take a ride on the two-person cable car to the Niederwald Monument, with stunning panoramic views over the vineyards and the Rhine river.

PART 3

We have now reached the city of Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hesse, and best known for its hot springs, beautiful architecture and countless vineyards.

In the centre of Wiesbaden you will find the Kurhaus, Wiesbaden’s main spa house. Built in 1907, in neo-classical style, this beautiful ornate building with its ballrooms and concert hall, is used as a convention centre. It also houses a casino with roulette, poker and blackjack, and a fine restaurant. Take a walk around the grounds too, with the ‘Bowling Green’, fountains and beautiful trees.

You can’t go to Wiesbaden without visiting Kochbrunnen, the most famous hot spring in the city. The fountain flows at around 360 litres per minute and the water temperature is around 66°c. The waters flow crystal clear, but turns yellowish after sitting in the basin for 24 hours.

To the north of the city you will find the Nerobergbahn, a funicular railway which links the city with Neroberg hill. Dating from 1888, it is the oldest water ballast railway in Germany. The ride takes around 3½ minutes and a distance of 440 metres. From the top you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Before you leave check out one of the largest cuckoo clock in the world on the shop front of Gebr. Stern GmbH. It strikes every half hour between 08:00 and 20:00.

PART 4

On the left bank of the River Rhine we reach Mainz, Germany’s wine capital. Head to the Kupferberg Museum, one of Mainz’s oldest wineries. Explore the deepest wine cellars in the world with seven storeys, and sample their superb sparkling wines.

In the charming old town (Altstadt) you will find an array of half-timber houses and market squares. In the centre you will see the distinctive octagonal tower tops of Mainz Cathedral. Built from deep red sandstone, this Roman Catholic cathedral is around 1,000 years old. Also be sure to visit the Church of St. Stephan, with its beautiful blue stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Just a short walk away, in the centre of Schillerplatz, you will find the Fastnachtsbrunnen, a striking 9 metre tall fountain. Decorated with over 200 bronze figures depicting the start of carnival season in Mainz which takes place every year on November 11.

If you love books head to the oldest museum of printing in the world, the Gutenberg Museum. It tells the story of how Johannes Gutenberg, from Mainz, invented the printing press. The museum has a reconstruction of the original Gutenberg printing workshop and runs daily demonstrations. It also has two original Gutenberg first printed Bibles on display.

Table 292: Nantes – La Rochelle – Bordeaux

PART 1

In our first table of the month for 2020 we travel through Western France from Nantes to Bordeaux a total travel journey time of around 4 hours and 10 minutes and a distance of 275 kilometres.

Located on the Loire river, Nantes is renowned for its splendid scenery and is the sixth largest city in France. A lively and innovative city with historical heritage.

At the heart of the town lies the magnificent Château des Ducs de Bretagne, home to the fascinating History Museum of Nantes displaying over 850 historic objects in a modern layout. The château’s grassy moat gardens and rampart walk are free to meander and offer great viewpoints of the fortress.

Another highlight is Les Machines de l’Ile, the machines of the isle of Nantes. The Grand Éléphant is 12 metres tall and takes 52 passengers for a ride on its back. Also discover the Carrousel des Mondes Marins and the Arbre aux Hérons with ramps and stairways in the form of a tree.

Take time out and walk through the streets and discover the Old City of Nantes with regular markets held most Sunday mornings.

PART 2

Please note: Due to engineering works between La Roche sur Yon and La Rochelle trains are replaced by buses until May 29 2021.

Continuing our journey south and covering a distance of 180 kilometres we travel from Nantes to La Rochelle-Ville station situated near the Old Port. Rail services include TGV, Intercities, TER Poitou-Charentes and TER Pays de la Loire, operated by SNCF.

La Rochelle is a historic port town off the Atlantic coast in the department of Charente-Maritime. The perfect city for a weekend break and a great base to explore the area. Rich in culture and architecture, with lots to see and do.

Just outside the station you will find the Aquarium, one of France’s top tourist attractions. Explore its abundance of marine life including sharks, turtles, jelly fish and varied fauna. Also around the Old Port you will find the famous Towers of La Rochelle, The Saint Nicolas Tower, The Chain Tower and The Lantern Tower. Climb the towers to get fabulous views over the city, port and sea. Take a walk along the narrow streets of the old town, packed with interesting mansions, Renaissance residences, and old timber-framed houses, along with numerous shops, cafés and restaurants.

After a busy day exploring, take a break and relax on the beaches of La Rochelle in Les Minimes.

PART 3

Please note: Due to engineering works between La Roche sur Yon and La Rochelle trains are replaced by buses until May 29 2021.

This week we are exploring beautiful Bordeaux.

Travelling from La Rochelle sit on the right of the train for views of the coastline. The journey follows the river Charente and on the approach to Bordeaux you cross the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. Bordeaux-Saint-Jean station is centrally located in Bordeaux with easy access to high-speed TGV trains from Paris and Lille and services to Biarritz and Hendaye, the final station in France before the line crosses into Spain.

Bordeaux is a vibrant city, home to some of the world’s most famous wines, with fantastic restaurants, charming architecture and culture.
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Most of the principal attractions are located in, or close to, the old city area, these include the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André with breathtaking views over Old Bordeaux. The Miroir d’Eau (water mirror), a spectacular pool in which the buildings of the grand Place de la Bourse are reflected. Not forgetting one of the most iconic buildings in Bordeaux, La Cité du Vin, a cultural centre dedicated to the heritage of wine.

PART 4

This week we are looking at just a few options for possible day trips along the route.

From Nantes head north to Le Croisic (Table 288) a charming seaside resort with its picturesque fishing port, its church of flamboyant Gothic style, as well as beautiful old houses.

Les Sables-d’Olonne (Table 293) is a pretty seaside town with lively promenades, long golden sandy beaches and a large marina. It is also host to the Vendée Globe yacht race (November 8, 2020).

Take a detour to Ile de Ré an island off the west coast connected to La Rochelle via a three kilometre bridge, it offers beautiful sandy beaches, vineyards and idilic villages.

Other options include the city of Poitiers, steeped in history, with a mix of galleries, restaurants and cafes (Table 300). In Bergerac (Table 318) you will find a medieval old town with chateaux, museums and lovely streets to explore with boutique style shops. Angoulême (Table 301), famous for the National Comic Strip and Image Centre, is a must for comic strip fans.