Paris

From Paris to Berlin

Paris to Berlin Words by Amy Gerrish Huge backpacks and sleeping bags in tow, while travelling across Europe, we (myself and now-husband, Tristan) made the decision to take the night train from Paris to Berlin.

The idea was to leave one beautiful city behind, but to awake in another. A seamless transition. We wanted to arrive well-rested, and ready to be engulfed in yet more culture, more history.

The reality was not nearly as romantic as that sounds.

The reality involved six people, a very confined space and a long, long 12 hours.

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We were the first to arrive out of the six that could fit in our cabin, and we found the train just fine - we only really had to follow the steady trail of backpacks like a colourful, nylon snail’s trail across the busy Parisian station.

The train carriage itself was clean (a luxury compared to the post-rush hour metro we’d just been herded around the city on), if narrow. A small corridor ran the length of the carriage with a series of cabins sitting parallel, joined by a marginally larger communal space at the entrance. This part eventually filled with bicycles and the young, gorgeous Paris youth that were oh-so coolly smoking cigarettes out of the window.

The resounding memory I have of the cabin itself is metal. Imagine the Hogwarts Express, but with an industrial aesthetic. Brown patterned cushion fabric, metal casing around everything. Practical and functional. Not, I will add, comfortable.

Paris to Berlin

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We weren’t alone in the cabin long. Our bags were (precariously) placed on the luggage rack about our heads for roughly three minutes before Yaro came in.

Yaro was a lovely, lovely chap. He proudly told us of the English café he was going to open in his Nigerian hometown. He probed us on the specifics of a Full English Breakfast. We told him how the egg yolks should always be runny, that the bacon should be crispy, and to always serve up two sausages. We talked about where he’d been (everywhere) and where he was still hoping to go (London).

Chatting away, we almost missed the arrival of our next travelling companion. I don’t remember her name, but I remember wanting to live her life. She studied in Paris, and was able to stay with her father in a nice part of the city when she wanted to escape her student apartment. During university breaks, she would go home to Berlin and stay with her mother. She had uncontrollably curly hair, and perfectly round glasses.

How nice, I remember thinking. How nice this trip could be – comfortable, almost – if we manage to keep this cabin of four to ourselves. Yaro could keep chatting away, I could probe my new girl crush and make plans for an imaginary future where I'd live in both Berlin and Paris, flitting between the two when one felt a bit samey. It would have been great.

The train pulled away! YES. We’d managed the impossible, we thought. We sped across the French countryside, stopping here and there, but never for long, never collecting many passengers. The sun began to set, and I stood, carefully stretched my legs and stepped outside of the cabin. I opened the carriage window (a testament to how old this train was) and felt the wind from the speed of the train blow across my face. The warm glow of the sun lit the surrounding fields, the tops of the various grasses billowed as we sped past towards Germany.

Tristan came and stood beside me, gave me a squeeze, and it was in that moment that we spotted them. Wildly overgrown train tracks, rusty with age, and definitely no longer used. We watched them curve off to the south, and we moved back to our seats.

Paris to Berlin

Paris to Berlin

Paris to Berlin

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Soon it was dark. It got late, and we our thoughts turned to the practical – how were we going to sleep in here? Before that all-important question was answered, the train made yet another stop. The last two seats in our cabin were filled, and any notion of stretching out was swiftly lost. The four of us, chatty together now, welcomed the new passengers on board, to be greeted with scowls. A language barrier suddenly appeared, and it was one that we couldn’t cross. More so, it was one they didn’t seem to want to - even our trilingual companions didn't have much luck.

We sat as comfortably as we could, tried to embrace the motion of the train as a gentle rocking. Shifted, shuffled. Several hours later, it became abundantly clear that neither of us were sleeping any time soon. I took matters into my own sleep-deprived hands.

I unclipped the sleeping bag from the front of my bag (to tutting and teeth-sucking, as it involved me standing on my own seat to reach), and crawled – carefully – beneath the seats on our side of the carriage. I led, curled up on my side, and it was the first time in around six hours that I’d been remotely comfortable. I've not underestimated comfort since.

Roughly one hour later, I woke with a start. The cause? A podgy and perfectly manicured forefinger of an angry French woman. I still don't know why she felt the need to wake me. Maybe she was jealous of my mad sleeping skills - but I've come to terms with the fact I'll never know. She poked once, and then again when I'd woken but not mustered the energy to move. Her abrupt French broke the stagnant silence of the cabin, and didn't cease until I'd sat back in my seat.

Paris to Berlin

Paris to Berlin

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The remaining five hours were long, but they had their moments. When the sun rose, Tris and I left the cabin to stand for a while in the open area. Soon, more built up areas were passing by, and our thoughts turned to where we were about to arrive, the importance of it all.

I can't say I really remember the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. We left the train in a sleep-deprived daze, mainly concerned that we had our bags, shoes and maps over paying attention to where we were going. Stumbling, we found ourselves on the U-Bahn, and exited on a whim when we caught sight of the Brandenburger Tor station.

At this point, we'd set our minds plainly on getting to Tiergarten, on finding a warm patch of grass on which we could sit for a moment and catch our bearings. So we did.

Leaning on our rucksacks not much later, the warm breeze almost rocked us to sleep. We took a moment to ourselves, a moment away from the city and the hubbub and the resounding buzz that the city is rightly so proud of now. We found ourselves napping in the centre of one of Europe's most influential capitals.

It was brilliant.

And, when we did wake, we really were somewhere new, somewhere that despite stumbling across an hour to two before, we were only really seeing for the first time now. Out the map came. Our journey at its end, but the adventure beginning anew.

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Paris to Berlin

Paris to Berlin

Getting Social

When you’ve got a touch of wanderlust you also tend to have a penchant for photography. And while you may adore your trusty Canon (I’ve nicknamed mine Persephone), it can be quite liberating to venture out with nothing but an iphone and semi-sendible shoes. It can be equally fun to post the spoils on Instagram, which is exactly what we’ve done. If you like the samples we have featured below why not try your hand at following us (by clicking here), there shall be suitable amounts of gratitude. If you’re into social media following we’re also Twitter fiends, just so you know. @LodestarsTravel

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Paris

Paris A kaleidoscopic city of dreamy nostalgia, culinary wonders and effortless brilliance, Paris is both enchanting and inspiring. You can walk across it in a matter of hours, fall for its charms in minutes and feel the need to return. Constantly.

Afterall, Paris is for lovers… of art.

No matter how many times you visit the Musée d’Orsay – home to one of the world’s largest, and most moving collection of Impressionist art – the venue will continue to astound. Stunningly curated and found within a reclaimed grand train station, here images inspire, thoughts run free and time stands still.

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There’s plenty to fall for on the food front too.

While in Paris you must experience the delectable culinary creations of one of the city’s master chefs. Guy Savoy’s three-star namesake restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, is where flavor rules supreme. His signature dish, artichoke soup with black truffles and brioche, is a favourite of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Here the gallery-esque interiors are sure to delight and you get a little lost in thought trying to decipher the expertly selected modern art adorning the walls. And then there’s the food. There’s something about Savoy’s unique take on French cooking – rich and flavoursome, each dish seems to develop as you devour it, taking you on what can only be described as a culinary journey, one that forces you to halt all conversation in order to fully savour. Many of the remarkable dishes that make up the lunchtime degustation menu look like miniature works of art. Case in point, the carrot and lobster bisque hidden beneath a lace-like web of beetroot and flowers. With all the dishes constructed at your table, Guy Savoy makes theatre from food (and deserves a round of applause).

Similarly magnificent and rather drenched in history is Le Grand Véfour. Tucked away in an elegant corner of the Palais-Royal gardens, and once the coveted haunt of Victor Hugo, Sartre and Napoleon, this was the place to be seen during the Belle Époque and a site of political, artistic and culinary intrigue for over 200 years. The original interiors remain, with seats marked with the names of those who once called them their favourites (I had Maria Callas’, across the way from the spot once filled with Balzac).

Here the flavours are more delicate than one would expect – and this is a good thing. Perfectly balanced, the dishes both comfort and beguile with many, like the foie gras ravioli, quite literally melting in your mouth.

Paris

And then there is Angelina. Founded in 1903 by Austrian confectioner Antoine Rumpelmayer and named in honour of his daughter in law, Angelina has been the favourite meeting place of Parisian gourmets for over a century. The Belle Époque interior is the epitome of charm and refinement while their world famous hot chocolate (L’Africain – impossible to drink without a generous dollop of cream) and Mont Blanc (a intricate pastry made from a secret recipe) have attracted Coco Chanel, Proust and contemporary explores keen to experience the Paris of yesteryear. Found right next door to Galignani, the oldest English bookstore on the continent (and thus almost as iconic as Shakespeare and Company), breakfast at Angelina is the idea way to begin your Parisian day – just as a cocktail at Hotel de Crillon would be the ideal way to end it.

If you’re after a less formal, thoroughly French experience then Chez Janou, a mere amble from Place des Vosges, is for you. Always packed with clued-up, wine sipping locals, this time-forgotten venue serves up traditional provincial fare. Its real selling point is the chocolate mouse, which arrives at your table in a huge bowl, from which you serve yourself. Self-control, and booking ahead, is a must.

Paris

Paris at night is the realm of the stroller, the ambler, the dreamer and the lover. A city of light and beauty, as the sun descends monuments begin to glow and the Eiffel Tower puts on one of the most stunning European light displays. The streets, packed during the day, are almost empty, inhibitions evaporate and Paris becomes your own.

On Friday evenings the Louvre remains open until 9:45, giving you the chance to actually get close to the wonders of the grand museum, become lost in Napoleon’s beautifully preserved apartments and, if you’re really lucky, have a moment alone with the Mona Lisa.

However, if it’s crowds and nightlife you seek then Montmartre is the place for you. Once Paris’s thriving artist colony – a hive of impressionist, cubist and experimental activity – the biggest draw card here (at night – Sacré-Cœur still reigns supreme during the day) is the Moulin Rouge. Immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec and the French Cancan, this remains a world of feathers, rhinestones, sequins and extravagance. In its 124-year history its hallowed stage has been graced by the liked of Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Contemporary audience, who continue to dress for the occasion, can experience the magic with Féerie, which is a playful delight that features five pythons, 800 pairs of shoes hand-made by Maison Clairvoy and 1000 costumes from Maison Fevrier.

Exhausted, inspired and well fed, you’ll leave Paris completely besotted.

For the full article check out A Luxury Travel Blog.

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