Geneva in 4 days ꟷ part 2

During the first part of our visit to Geneva, we had spent most of our time on the eastern and southern shores of the lake, so we crossed the bridge for the day. We’d been to the United Nations in New York and now we wanted to see its equivalent at the Palais des Nations (photo on the left) where 25,000 delegates meet each year. We didn’t have time for a guided tour indoors because within the Palais park grounds we wanted to see the Ariana Museum that houses thousands of examples of glassware and ceramics from the Middle Ages through the 20th century and to have a school lunch.

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Geneva in 4 days ꟷ part 1

We’ve now lived in Carcassonne for over 6 years and during that time we’ve had lots of family and friends from outside of France visit us here. When we have the opportunity to see some of those same folks again, we like meeting up with them elsewhere in Europe that gives all of us the chance to see something new. That was the case with our English friends, Gaynor and Pete, who were attending a reunion in France near the border with Switzerland. Since they had to fly into Geneva and we could easily get there by train, that made a logical meeting point for the four of us. 

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The train in Spain

This train in Spain stays mainly on the plain of España Verde (Green Spain) and “My Fair Lady”, Eliza Doolittle, would have felt right at home. The film, set in 1912 London could have easily taken place aboard the El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo that has four original Pullman cars, from the 1920s (dining car pictured here on the left) plus numerous newer cars “that exude the feeling of a bygone, elegant era, and of a more relaxed way to travel” as the brochure says. We’ve just returned from a week on the train that took us from Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastian with daily stops to tour historic towns, take in beautiful landscapes, visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and relax in a thermal spa that’s been operating for hundreds of years.

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Santiago de Compostela in 1 day

For centuries pilgrims have been walking the “Way of St. James” route across Europe to arrive at the cathedral where it is said the remains of the saint are buried. From what I read, this city near the Atlantic coastline of northern Spain to which we took a 4-hour train ride from Madrid, was in the Middle Ages a pilgrimage site as important as Jerusalem and Rome. The purpose of our visit, however, was for different reasons: it was the starting point of a week-long train tour of the España Verde region of the country (next week’s blog post) and because the historic center of town has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

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Madrid in 2 days

Whenever we have the option of taking just one train to our destination, that’s typically what we do because of the convenience and comfort. For example, settling into your reserved seat in Marseille just in time for a glass of champagne followed by dinner and then stepping off across the street from your London hotel before Big Ben sounds the 10 PM hour can’t be beat. Today’s train had that same Mediterranean origin point but this time we picked it up along the way in Narbonne as it headed south for Madrid where we arrived even before some restaurants had cleared away their lunch dishes. We had two days to explore this capital of Spain and its largest city so we had a very full itinerary. With several hours of daylight left in this “bonus time” on the first day of our stay, we set out to explore the neighborhood right outside the hotel including the renaissance square, Plaza Mayor from the 1600s and just one of the 3 chocolaterias that were within a couple of blocks of each other, yum!

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Uzès in 1 day

According to the tourist office brochure, as you approach the town of Uzès your first impression will be of “the three towers of power: ducal (Bermonde tower), royal (King’s tower) and religious (Bishop’s tower)”. Since there’s no train, we were taking the 45-minute regional bus from Nîmes and although that dropped us off at the edge of town, we were still only an 8-minute walk from the furthest point on our map. That gave us plenty of time to see all of the sites, have lunch with one of our blog readers, and even discover a fourth tower, the only one like it in France. This officially-designated “City of Art and History” (Ville d’Art et d’Histoire) was indeed impressive from a distance and up close. 

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Béziers in 2 days

We had our second Pfizer vaccination two weeks ago so with a promised effectiveness of 94.6% against Covid-19 we felt comfortable in getting back to our favorite pastime: travel. After all we moved to Carcassonne to have easy rail access to the rest of France and into the neighboring countries. While we wait for border crossing restrictions to be eased it made sense to stay within the “Hexagone” as this 6-sided land is often called. With several direct trains a day and a journey time of only 44 minutes, a visit to Béziers seemed reasonable. Classed as one of the oldest cities in the country, from at least 675 BC, it was time to head to within 12 km (7.5 miles) of the Mediterranean Sea to discover what 2700 years of history has to offer.

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