Warning – gratuitous use of George and Train photos included.
Imagine my disappointment, as Martine broke the news to me that I was now going to have to do the trip from England back to Italy as I was already in England visiting Mum and Dad (who was still in hospital). But being the brave get up and go type, I took the news well and readied myself for the grand journey. First stop was to collect George from Amanda’s (the easy part until I saw the amount of goodies he had acquired over the past month requiring the purchase of a new suitcase) and then it was a 04:40 start from Reading (thank you Amanda & Tony for getting us to the train at that ridiculous hour) for our first train of the journey As an aside how can a 04:40 train be counted as Peak Time for travel???
George was now wide awake, all fired up for the journey and asking loads of questions about the various trains we would be travelling on for which it must be said I did not know many of the answers (having been drafted in last minute – my excuse anyway). Leg 1 finished at Paddington followed by a swift Tube transfer to St Pancras to join a rather long queue for the Euro Star. But once again George was not to be put off and was insistent that we remained in the queue (in case we missed our train) even though the queue was for an earlier train. I on the other hand was working on the theory that by the time we got to the ticket desk our train would be being called (good enough theory for an ex Government employee).
Our Eurostar trip passed uneventfully and we even managed 2 pages of homework before arriving in Paris for our grande day out. The Eiffel tower was our first port of call and having not pre-booked tickets to go up (a story in itself) we set off to walk up to the second level where we hoped to get lift tickets to the top.
Some 360 steps later we arrived at the first level with George having talked all the way up about how big/small it was compared to other great buildings in the world, where does he get this information from? and then onwards and upwards for another 359 steps. George had by now stopped talking, but was still motoring along quite happily although he was thinking about food at this stage. Unfortunately our plan to go to the very top was thwarted at the second level as the ticket office was closed, so it was then time to descend the 719 steps to find some lunch. With the rationing sorted we then embarked (pun intended) on a river cruise to see some of the sights and to head towards the Natural History Museum (why? to see the dinosaurs of course!!!) which unfortunately wasclosed for the day so we ended up walking through the park where we did find this amazing wildlife sanctuary: By now it was time to head back to the station to catch the next train of the journey the Thello sleeper from Paris to Milan.
Now for a train that is going so far with so many people on board, I would have expected it to be on the platform for quite a while in order that everyone could find their respective couchettes. Oh no, it arrived 15 minutes prior to departure resulting in one large stampede as the gates opened to allow passengers to board. We eventually found our couchette which was quite cosy with four other travelers and set about trying to fit in all the luggage (you may remember I mentioned George’s luggage earlier) whilst George immediately clambered onto the top bunk where he was to remain for the remainder of the journey informing all our travel companions that he would be in charge of the lights as they were near his head (luckily they were quite content with this arrangement). After a not too uncomfortable night we arrived in Milan where there was a 30min stop to allow passengers to get off!! a change of platforms and onto the Freccia Rossofor the final leg to Ancona and home.
All in all a fun trip that is well worth doing and if you plan it right without the day in Paris means you can leave St Pancras at about 4pm and be in Ancona at 11am the next day.
P.S. I did warn you about the pictures and yes I know the title was a little misleading i.e no roads but hey-ho.