5 October 2013

From Richmond to Biarritz by train

I booked my late Summer holiday with Great Rail Journeys, rather than go independently which I usually do, as I fancied their Marrakech Express tour and that looked far too complicated and foreign to book myself.

The point of a tour like this as that they sort out all the travel arrangements and also take you to the most interesting places at each destination.

This is all well and good once the tour starts but I had real problems getting to the start!

I had not checked the travelling the night before, i.e. planned weekend working, as I was had allowed plenty of time to get to St Pancras and had several routes to choose from. The first warning light came on in the morning when I looked to check the buses and the next 65 was due in 25 minutes. So I went for the 317 in 10 minutes instead, a little slower but I had allowed plenty of time.

Worried by the lack of buses I checked the route to London only to discover that there was an incident on the District Line and that a separate incident at Clapham Junction meant that there were no mainline trains. The London Overground was not going either for some reason. The best the staff at Richmond could offer me was a slow train to Barnes in thirty minutes time and then a bus replacement service to Waterloo. I certainly did not have time for that.

It looked like the only option was to hope for a bus to Hammersmith and then to catch the tube from there but even that would probably have taken too long. Then a stroke of luck, while waiting desperately for a bus, a taxi arrived to drop somebody off and I was able to commandeer it. He was not actually looking for a ride and I was asking him to go out of his zone but he agreed to my pleading and I got to Hammersmith in time to catch a tube to St Pancras and I arrived there about ten minutes before the drop-dead time I had been given.

The rest of the journey was simple.

In Paris we swapped from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse which is a brutal concrete cavern, and not in a nice way.

The train was pleasant enough though and we were travelling first class all the way.

It was a fast and a smooth journey and it was three hours before we made our first stop. As I tend to do, I got out at the station and took a couple of pictures before we moved off again.

The countryside that we flew threw looked empty compared to the UK, which is understandable given that it has about five times the space for the same number of people.

I soon bored of the countryside, I prefer towns and villages and took the opportunity to read some comics on my iPad that I had brought with me just for that purpose.

One of the nicer stations that we stopped at was Dax, wherever that is.

We arrived in Biarritz around 7pm and it was starting to get dark so once I had checked in to the hotel I crossed to road to the beach for a walk along the promenade.

At the end I found a fashionable and busy cafe, Victoria, for a small meal and a large beer. The food was excellent and the service exceptional.

The rest of Biarritz was quiet with just a few tourists out at the end of a day at the end of the season.

There were a series of lights along the beach to highlight the waves, one of the rocks sitting in the sea just offshore and a cluster of trees on a headland. These few lights apart it was pretty dark and unwelcoming and great effort had to be made to imagine why Biarritz is a famous holiday resort.

I found a little harbour but it was so ridiculously dark there that the pictures that I took show little more than grey blobs against a black background.

Even the big church nearby was unlit. Perhaps tourists are meant to keep to the main beach where the few lights were.

I thought about exploring a little more of the town but then it started to rain and that made the decision for me and I headed back to the hotel.

We were there for just one night so there was no un/packing to do and I went straight to sleep happy with a day well spent.

The troubles at the start of the day were forgotten and the holiday really had begun.

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