Updated: Feb 19, 2020
I love train travel. It's calm, peaceful, long, boring, meditative. I am obviously not talking about the busy SNCF train from central Paris to the suburbs, neither the train to the South of France, full of screaming kids mid-July.
I am talking about the kind where you cross a country or a continent. Where you meet locals and drink weird alcohol in the dinning car. It's when you lose track of time and don't have a phone to distract you.
3 of my favourites journeys so far were far away from home and all completely different.
The Trans-Siberian railway
How is life on the Trans-Siberian? I could be very poetic and write about the never ending landscapes and the poems we wrote on the journey... but in reality, you have loads of time to look out the window, play backgammon and sleep.
You make on average one stop every 3 hours, from 3 to 20 minutes. Those breaks are the opportunity to leap out of the train like a ninja and forage for some food (anything that is not instant noodles or the questionable fare sold in the dining car)
We got to experience great local delicacies and bakes made by local babushkas. It made for some of the greatest picnics ever.
You can decide to go roots and share your space with drinking locals, but it was our honeymoon, so we opted for the 'luxurious' private cabin, which even had a small tv.
It was a wonderful journey, and probably the best way to get from China to Moscow.
Japanese Bullet Trains
Being French, I am used to trains running late and having to fight for a seat. Having lived in the UK, I got used to paying over the top to sit opposite someone eating a Pret a manger tuna sandwich or close to a group of girls drinking cheap bubbles at 10am on the way to the airport.
Before arriving in Japan, we booked our train pass which allowed us to travel stress free through the country (Kyoto, Nagano, Hiroshima,..). We spent over 3 weeks in Japan and travelled fast everywhere.
Trains are so clean and quiet. They leave on time. Not before, not after, but just exactly on time (by the second). There is space and it is comfortable. Truly the best train travel ever.
The Coast line in Sri Lanka
The trains are rustic, old and full of character, yet safe and very welcoming. We took the coastal route from Colombo to Galle. The route follows the Indian ocean coast (which was very badly hit during the tsunami in 2004), but the landscape is beautiful. Rivers and beaches, fish stalls and palm trees. It is a very peaceful, uneventful journey well worth it.
I adore travelling by train when it is not just about getting from A to B. The journey is as important as the destination. It might be slightly less fun now with small kids who don't have a great attention span, but I am looking forward to some exciting rail trips this year, including one in Cuba, so watch this space ...