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Oh Beans: Paris to Venice, via Milan!

As the train sauntered over the bridge, the water beneath us, and Venice majestically in front of us, every new glimpse of the beautiful city as we approached it, brought something new. The water was shimmering with the little glow that was in the sky. Before we knew it, our first day of travelling was drawing to a close as we stepped off the train and on to the platform.

It was raining, but we didn’t care. Hello Venice! 

Last week, we caught the Eurostar to Paris and had fallen asleep, excited with the prospect of waking up at 5am for our onward journey to Venice. I decided it would be all too long and boring if I tried to get our train journey to Venice and our 3 night stay all in one post, so this is just a little one, with some of the most memorable bits of our journey to Venice, from Paris.

After a couple of discussions about it, Peter and I decided that 5am would be the best time for us to wake up to catch our 6.20am train, from Gare de Lyon. It would leave us with enough fallback time, just in case we overslept our alarm. It was perhaps, a little too early. We’d made sure that we had packed all our bags the night before, so all that was left to do was to roll out of bed, get washed and dressed, and then to check out of our first stay. Which is exactly what we did, after all of our three alarms had sounded. It took a little longer to check out as a family turned up looking for a room, just as we had explained to the man on reception that we wanted to leave… but it all ended up fine, and still with time to spare. We walked out of the hotel at 5:30am.

So with 40minutes until our train and our tickets all organised in my handbag, we sleepily walked to the train station, stopping to take a few photos and to take in the excitement of it all. It took us less than 5minutes to reach the station, mainly due to how quiet the roads were allowing the little green man to flash for us fairly quickly.

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After debating with myself as to whether there would be enough time, I headed to the easiest looking café at the station, to get my first tea in for the morning. An English Breakfast tea, which aside from the fact it was way too small, it was still delicious.

The station was quiet, with people wrapped up as warm as possible, nodding off on the metal seats opposite the trains. A few groups of people were nervously trying to figure out the departure boards – something that thankfully, Peter and I had done the evening before! As soon as we had clocked the boards, we fairly quickly worked out what platform our train would be leaving from, and spotted the very one that would be taking us all the way to Milan. Exciting!

For this leg of the journey, we bought our single train tickets 3months in advance of our travel date from Loco2. We travelled in standard class, leaving at 6.20 and arrived into Milan at 13.47. This train cost for the both of us, £55 (£27.50 each). BARGIN! That wouldn’t get me anywhere near London, from Oxford!

I’ll never forget the moment when our train was called for boarding, I was literally so excited. More excited than what I was like as a little girl on Christmas day – and that’s saying something! We trundled down to our carriage door, boarded and found our reserved seats; just after an Italian lady who was bid farewell to her French friends. Although the TGV to Milan (which was a single storey, rather than a double decker) was a little dated, it didn’t lack comfort. The seats allowed you to recline without disrupting the comfort of other passengers, which meant that you didn’t feel put off from making yourself comfy! And, just incase our French or Italian wasn’t too great (which it’s not), English was also spoken – quite helpful when listening to what they have on offer on the buffet car!

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Although Peter (and most of the other people on the carriage) managed to fall asleep for the first hour or so of our 7hr stint on the TGV, I couldn’t. I just didn’t want to miss a thing. I eagerly awaited the sunrise, to be able to see what our train was steaming through and to really get a feel for our journey. I knew that it would be a beautiful trip once we got further south into France, but I hadn’t quiet expected to see snowcapped mountains, rolling fields and beautiful rivers.

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It was amazing at how quickly the train sped through the countryside, dashing in and out of tunnels, villages and stations. We had both been nervous that we’d be a little bored, downloading podcast after podcast to make sure we had plenty to amuse ourselves, but as it turns out, just staring out of the window for the first two or three hours was completely enough! Having not done as much preparation or background reading as we had wanted to on the cities that we’d be visiting, we used our train journeys to read our little Lonely Planet books or to listen to a few Italian podcasts. E-tour guide of the trip had to be Rick Steves, with his brilliant collection of informative and fun podcasts (this one in particular was great as an introduction to Venice).

In no time at all, we arrived in ITALY! …Specifically, Milano Porta Garibaldi, where we had an hour to make our Venice connection from Milano Centrale, a 20minute walk away. Peter had thankfully printed out a very handy map of our route across Milan, which made it nice and easy (I left him to the directions!). I’m not sure of what I thought about Milan, but I guess we didn’t really see much of it, just one area… which appeared to be business and redevelopment central! I’ve made a note to myself to read up on it.

Milano Centrale is an extremely grand station. As is the case for a number of grand looking Italian buildings, it isn’t as old as one would think and in fact was opened in 1931 (following the closure of it’s predecessor). On entering the station, we walked into a huge foyer, with a celling twice as high as necessary and stairways leading us to the main concourse. Between this area were a few cafés and seeing as it had been a fair few hours since my last tea (on the TGV), I decided to make a pitstop. It turned out to be green jasmine tea, which made a nice change. Peter completely surprised me and opted for a ginormous slice of chocolate cake!

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We had about a 40minute wait here, watching the hustle and bustle around us, with people eagerly watching out for their platform number to appear, hoping that their ‘Hall’ number didn’t change. We found ourselves queuing opposite the security barrier of ‘Gate B’, mostly stood with locals who were either making the journey back home or back to the city where they worked. Through a little bit of reading on the subject, I’m getting to realise that Italians generally have two ‘homes’ – their family home where they grew up in and hate to leave, and their ‘in the week’ home, where it’s more often than not a large city which they either work or go to university in.

After a bit of shuffling this way and that, our train arrived, about 10 minutes late (but that’s nothing compared to UK trains!). It was quite a bundle getting through the security gate and on to the platform, but once we had located our seats (through the help of a very lovely Italian lady…who spoke no English but who had a great smile) a calm settled over the train.

We booked this part of the journey from Captaintrain around 3months in advance and bought two second class single tickets from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia for £27.41 (£13.70 each!!!). This train was run by Trenitalia and was a Frecciabianca.

Peter and I settled in for the next 3hours, watching the landscape change in front of us with the train snaking through industrial areas, patched together with vineyards, fields and beautiful mountains. This time, instead of siting together on a row of two, we were seated facing each other on a table for four, with the helpful Italian lady sat next to Peter and a younger American lady, who sounded like she had lived in Italy for a while, sat next to me.

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It wasn’t long until Peter got out the chocolate cake that he’d been holding on to since we boarded… desperately sniffing in the waft of luscious chocolate icing mixed with the freshness of the strawberry jam wedged in the middle. I think the whole carriage could smell the cake, but we didn’t care… it didn’t last all that long!

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We whizzed through various beautiful stations, Verona being one, working our way across to Padua, which is where our excitement hit new levels. We fought back episodes of tiredness with the thought of seeing Venice on the horizon. And then we hit Venice Mestra, literally only 10 or so minutes out side of our final destination!

In some ways, it had felt like a lifetime, and in others, our first major leg of our two-week trip had felt like it had flown by as quickly as an episode of Homeland. As we neared the approach into our final stop, Venezia Santa Lucia, the carriage was pretty much empty so I decided I wanted a forward facing seat and swapped sides. We were both toing and froing as to who had the best window…in the end, I think I did!

As the train sauntered over the bridge, the water beneath us, and Venice majestically in front of us, every new glimpse of the beautiful city as we approached it, brought something new. The water was shimmering with the little glow that was in the sky. Before we knew it, our first day of travelling was drawing to a close as we stepped off the train and on to the platform.

It was raining, but we didn’t care. Hello Venice!

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