10.11.15

Venice by train: Part 5. Venice to Brighton, via Milan, the Bernina Express and Zurich

Day 5: Wednesday 28 October 2015
After breakfast, Sam walked me to the Rialto Mercato vaporetto stop and yes, my 48-hour bus pass worked this morning too! Managed to squeeze on to the water bus and got off at Ferrovia, the iron road. Then it was back to Milan Centrale. I took the metro to Moscova and followed the directions to La Favia, which I found mainly by accident.

Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo
The maid said I could get a No. 2 tram to Duomo so I bought two tickets from the newspaper seller and headed south, trying to remember some landmarks. The cathedral was easy to spot so I jumped off and had a wander through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where women were taking selfies in front of Prada, to La Scala and the statue of Leonardo, then the other side of the square. I caught a tram back and had a beer in the Biffi bar where old men were playing cards and shouting at each other, then back to LaFavia Four Rooms. I was in a sort of apartment on the roof, lots of windows and very well appointed, but no TV! The place had an oriental feel about it - the owners had travelled.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
That evening I set off for eats, walking through the rain as far as Eataly, near Garibaldi station, but nowhere felt right so I bought a mini pizza and some focaccia at a supermarket and warmed them up back at the B&B in the microwave. And my hip flask kept me company.


Dead loco at Tirano
Dead loco at Tirano
Day 6: Thursday 29 October 2015
Breakfast was served on the narrow balcony, pre-ordered the night before - scrambled eggs again! Then I set off along Via Volta to Moscova and the Metro to Centrale. The seats were unreserved so I chose a window seat on the right hand side, overlooking the Orient Express. Bad choice! To get the best views of Lake Como, you need to sit on the left side. Nevertheless, the ride to Tirano was pretty scenic.

Inside the Bernina Express
Inside the Bernina Express
 At Tirano, I checked out the two dead steam locos parked there (we also passed one at Vicenza but I didn't manage a photo) and on the recommendation of the Man in Seat 61 had a beer (media) and wrap (vegetarian: tomato, mozzarella and tuna!) at Margi Bar (the receipt says Margy Bar) overlooking the two stations. There was not much activity and no sign of a train, so at about a quarter to three I wandered over to the ticket office, to be told the first part of the Bernina Express journey - to Poschiavo - would be by replacement bus! Soon we were waved through the border with Switzerland and eventually we got on the train. I was opposite an English couple from Norwich. Although the windows were panoramic, there were still reflections, so it was difficult to take decent photos.

Bernina Express
Ospizio Bernina snow
The highest point was Ospizio Bernina (2253m), and there was snow on the platform! Although Switzerland is scenic, and we were up high, it's not a wilderness… there were roads and traffic everywhere. We saw snowy peaks, icy reservoirs and glaciers, but about 5pm, half way through our journey, it started to get dark . The tantalising running commentary kept on telling us we were going over high viaducts and gorges but all was pitch black outside.

Bernina Express
View from the Bernina Express
At Chur, the train to Zürich was waiting across the platform and we skirted the lake in the dark. At Zürich I headed towards the river and through the tram station. When I stopped to consult my map a young lady said "Hi, hello!" and I immediately went into embarrassment mode saying "I'm OK, thank you," and dashing across the tracks. Of course it could have been just a friendly native and I regret being so rude, but… I spotted the Hotel de Theatre over the bridge and made for it. In the reception and rooms it had a Audrey Hepburn theme going and the receptionist was very helpful, providing me with a map to the pedestrianised areas of the old town. After dumping my stuff in the tiny single expensive room, I set out for a nightcap.

Chopfab Irish stout
After a walk nearly to the lake, a look in at the packed Cabaret Voltaire, and drawing out 50 Swiss francs from a cash machine, I settled for a dunkel (Chopfab Irish stout) at the Andorra Bar. Back at the hotel, my room had British TV, all channels, so I caught some of Detectorists before bed!

Day 7: Friday 30 October
Another early start, so was up and heading for the station. I bought a bottle of water at the Co-op and a cappuccino and tomato and mozzarella sandwich at the station. The journey to Paris, via Dijon, was uneventful, but I got diddled by the ticket machine not giving change (of a €2 coin) and on the RER between stations, the train stopped at Châtelet–Les Halles. The announcer said something in French and everyone got off, so I followed. On the platform, the announcer said something else and they all got back on again, so did I. Then a train arrived across the platform and everyone rushed over to catch it. I did too, and thankfully it got me to Gare du Nord, where some enormous queues for the Eurostar were waiting… Apparently, cable theft at Lille meant a diversion and delays. Unfortunately I was in a joke seat again so couldn't enjoy the unusual sights. It arrived at St Pancras just over an hour late, so I will get compo. And I was home by the early evening.

Seat with restricted view!
More photos on Flickr.
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