Europe Via Rail – Weekend Escape
More often than not, a weekend escape from a major American city means getting behind the wheel of a car — which is why Europe’s extensive (and surprisingly inexpensive) rail network holds so much appeal for visitors from across the pond.
There’s no sitting in traffic, no screaming matches with Siri when she tells you to merge across eight lanes of traffic — just an easy, relaxing and often scenic ride to wherever you’re headed. Whether you want to taste your way through a series of wineries or just need a low-key culture fix, an escape from Europe’s major cities is a quick train trip away.
Europe Via Rail – Starting Points
Provence — Who doesn’t dream from time to time about a lazy weekend in the French countryside, with some good rustic meals and plenty of fresh air amidst the olive groves and lavender fields? All it takes is a three-hour ride from Paris to Aix-en-Provence, plus a scenic ninety-minute drive through some classic southern French landscapes. (Some drives really aren’t so bad.) At the end of the journey, you’ll find yourself at La Bastide de Moustiers, Alain Ducasse’s one-time private vacation home. The grand garden behind the hotel, the elegant décor and the picture-perfect surroundings are all as true to the Provençal fantasy as can be — and of course some incredible garden-fresh meals help, too.
Flanders — If you’ve had your fill of France, there’s always the Benelux, just a few hours by train from Paris. Housed in an former railway station on the outskirts of Bruges, Spoor62 sits along the old Pullman Express line from Paris. Today it’s a thoroughly contemporary, two-room b&b, with plenty of space to unwind and relax. Expansive gardens strung with hammocks call for long, easy days in the sun, while the well-appointed guest rooms are furnished with classic pieces by the Eames and Le Corbusier.
Edinburgh — Though just four and a half hours north of London, the Scottish capital has a pace and ambiance entirely its own. Full of medieval architecture, the city has a moody beauty about it, not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage designation. After a day exploring the many historic sites, freshen up at the G&V Royal Mile before heading out for the evening. Thanks to the hotel’s location, right on the border between the old town and the new, G&V makes a perfect base for exploring Edinburgh’s contrasting sides.
Bath — Famous for its Roman ruins, the ancient spa town of Bath is often called one of the most picturesque cities in England. From London, it’s only about a ninety-minute trip by train — close enough to visit on a day trip. But why rush back to the city when you can post up at the Royal Crescent? Housed in an iconic Georgian building, it’s a convenient base from which to stroll about town and take in the history. Despite the historic setting, the guest rooms are surprisingly contemporary, with luxurious baths of their own and vast, billowing beds.
Amalfi Coast — The whitewashed exterior of Casa Angelina could hardly be more typical of the famed southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula, where the bright blue waves wash up against dramatic rocky shores. What sets the cliff-side hotel apart is its clean, ultra-modern interior design. From Milan, it’s a direct five-hour train ride to Salerno, then an hour’s drive from the station to the hotel. If it sounds a bit arduous, just consider the surroundings — and the fresh ocean air blowing in through the window as you drive along the coast.
Grosseto, Tuscany — If you want to explore the wine country and time is of the essence, heading to Lombardy or neighboring Veneto and Piedmont are perhaps your best bets. But if you’ve already flown halfway around the world, what’s another six hours on the train? That’s how long it takes to get from Milan to Grosseto, perhaps the most spectacular section of Tuscany. And once there, the place to stay is Conti di San Bonifacio. The seven-room wine resort sits on a spectacular expanse of olive groves and vineyards. Needless to say, one can’t leave without tasting the hotel’s olive oils and wines — and you can work it all off biking around the miles of idyllic countryside beyond the property.
By: A. Ishikawar