Traveling by train in Europe can be an enjoyable way to move around. Because we booked our train tickets last month, our tickets for a five hour journey from Lyon to Milan on the TGV (high speed French rail) in first class only cost $50.
People watching on a train is interesting. In front of us were two very articulate young men, one from Canada and one from Washington DC. They did not know each other, but carried on long informative discussions about the Great War, US politics, and travel. “I just love Rick Steves,” said the Canadian. “He is just so relaxed and has written about every country in Europe.”
A college student across from us fell asleep. When the Italian border patrol came aboard, he awoke with a start when they tapped him on the shoulder and stood in front of him dangling his backpack. Security is tight here. In the Lyon train station, we saw eight armed soldiers carrying scary looking weapons. They walked in formation at a snail’s pace looking left and right as they moved.
Out the window we passed through mountain villages with roaring fresh water streams. Two dogs bounded down into the water as we passed by, There’s something so interesting about emerging from a tunnel from France to Italy. The houses are different, more of a rust color with tiled roofs. Even the landscape is different. It’s rockier and drier, but outside Torino, we saw mountains in the distance covered with snow.
As we journeyed on, the conversation in front of us turned to culinary arts. “My friend and I were at a Vietnamese restaurant and I wanted something spicy. The waitress asked me if I wanted it mild, medium, or hot. My friend told me, you don’t understand, the hot is going to be suicidal. So I ordered medium because mild is for cowards. When I tasted it my lips went numb. I’m not kidding, I could not feel my lips,” said the Canadian.
After arriving in Milano Centrale train station we took a local train to Varenna on Lake Como. Rick Steves describes Varenna as a back door type village because it’s not overrun with tourists.
From Varenna we took a short ferry ride here to Bellagio. Our hotel, Hotel Metropole, is very old world style, but with all the conveniences of the modern world such as air conditioning. Our room is on the second floor with stunning views overlooking the lake.
Tonight as we sat outside watching the lights flicker on the opposite shore it felt as if summer holidays in Europe are in full swing. Suddenly the sky lit up across the lake with fireworks. What a warm welcome to Lake Como!