Setting off on a journey from Carnforth Station is rather like being on a film set – the platform and Refreshment Room are very similar to how they looked on that classic 1940s movie ‘Brief Encounter’ – with an exciting journey into the unknown ahead. This time I was going on a Railbookers holiday to Switzerland and the idea of travelling across Europe by train was most intriguing.
A few hours hours later I was comfortably settled in to The Montague, a luxuriously quirky hotel in Bloomsbury. I had chosen to stay here as it is ideally suited for an early start from St Pancras Station and came highly recommended. My lovely room (a mini-suite really) was delightful, with a big, comfy bed, some very good art work, a desk where I could write and some gorgeous Penhaligon toiletries – bliss.
Up early, after a quick breakfast of fresh fruit, I got a taxi to St Pancras station; highly recommend a glass of bubbly at their Champagne Bar – great way to start a holiday in my view … The station is very well laid out and there are plenty of places to shop, get something to read, buy last minute items you forgot to pack.
Boarding the Eurostar train I got the first real sense of excitement that comes when I’m off into the unknown. The check-in had been so easy and with pre-booked seats we were able to just get settled in and relax. As well as it being my first time on Eurostar and train across France, it was my first trip to Switzerland so I spent some time reading my guide book and info provided. We were to stay in Interlaken for 2 nights with a trip on the Jungfrau train up to the highest railway station in Europe. Then we were catching the Glacier Express across the Alps to St Moritz for a couple of days of luxury at the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains. What a treat.
Just over 2.5 hours later we arrived into Paris where we went across the city to the elegantly belle époque Gare de Lyon station. It’s huge, but very well laid out; we found our platform without getting lost and in a matter of a few minutes. As we had a bit of time before departure, we splintered off to get some lunch – a fromage et ham baguette pour moi, of course. Look up towards the ceiling – there are some wonderful pastel murals on the walls depicting scenes from the south of France and other places the trains go to.
If you’ve travelled through the French countryside on that route you’ll know the scenery is not especially interesting; mainly flat with mostly barren fields and the occasional town to create interest. However, with good company and a glass or two of vin rouge the hours flew by. As we got nearer the Swiss border we saw a few more villages and even some hills. Arriving in Basel on the Swiss-French border, the air was noticeably cooler and I was sure I could hear a cuckoo somewhere in the distance …
The last leg of our journey took us from the border south to Interlaken. Snapshots of wooden gables, dark green firs with a dusting of snow, toy-town church steeples and hazy peaks far off, hazily outlined in the dusky light … Switzerland was finally coming into focus. Getting off the train at Interlaken station, high above shone a brightly-lit star – a restaurant sign on top of a mountain. As I took the short walk to the nearby Hotel Krebs I tried to imagine what Alpine view might greet me the next morning …
For a glimpse of the following day’s Jungfrau train trip and the stunning Eiger read here.
My thanks to Railbookers for arranging a great trip by rail from Carnforth to Switzerland. They have an excellent choice of Swiss holidays or you can design your own. Thanks also to all the people from the Swiss Tourist Board, hotels and attractions who created a truly memorable trip.