Trains and boats, no planes!

Ferry to Patras through the Ionian islands: my favourite way to arrive in Greece

 “Dolphins” cried Alan. And there they were, peering up at us from beside the prow of the ferry. An instant and they were gone. No time to take a photo! Surely this is the best way to arrive in Greece: waking to see the sunrise over the Ionian islands and the Albanian coast, before cruising leisurely down to Patras.

Seeing dolphins was just one of the memorable moments on our trip to Greece via train and ferry. Hopping off the Eurostar in Paris, we celebrated our first post-covid trip abroad at the legendary Train Bleu restaurant. Then followed a high speed jaunt through the Alps, past melting patches of snow, to Milan, the high capital of fashion and design. It’s a good place to relax at a pavement café for a spot of people-watching – look out for the shoes! And then we sped on to Ancona, where we caught the ferry to Greece.

I love the railway stations, too. Many were built at the turn of the twentieth century, as a monument to progress and technology. The monumental architecture of Milan Centrale Station isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but its monumental architecture is certainly impressive. I prefer the stations of Andalucia, with their decorative tiles. Then there’s leafy Madrid Atocha, re-imagined for the twenty first century.

Taking the train may cost more than flying, but travelling slow means that the trip is all part of the holiday, as well as being climate friendly.  I’ve explored so many different places on my way to Greece: Venice, Bologna, Modena, Florence…. Not to mention the spectacular route through Switzerland on the Bernina Express.

Ornate fin de siecle restarant at the Gare de Lyon Paris
Train Bleu restaurant, Gare de Lyon. Paris. The slightly less over the top (and cheaper) lounge bar is also a good place to wait for your train. It does a good cheese or charcuterie board to share, as well as breakfast.
Milan Central Station, built in the glory days of early rail travel.
Tiles at Jerez de La Forntera Staion, built in the late 1920s. Andalucia, Spain.
Jerez de La Frontera

Tip: book as early as possible, to get the cheapest fares. For example, the Eurostar can be booked up to 330 days in advance! Don’t be put off by the sky-high UK train fares: for example, it cost us 35 euros each to travel from Paris to Milan. See the Man in Seat 61 for advice and inspiration.

Rail Europe, part of the French Railways (SNCF). is a good site for checking timetables and making bookings. They will also email you an alert when bookings for a journey open.

Atocha station, Madrid
View from ferry to Greece: ochre and red old houses stretching up the hill at Ancona
Not just a ferry port. Ancona, with its ancient streest and Roman remains.
An alternative route to Italy on the Bernina Express with its observation car. Past skiers in the Alps then down to lunch outside in the sunshine at Tirano.

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