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31 | Milano Italy to Brest France

13 June (Thursday)


14-hour train journey from Milano to the French coast at Brest. Pity to travel through Europe so fast, but I have visited Europe many times. Rolling Italian farmland ascends into the Italian Alps and then the French Alps, and descends into the French countryside. Changed trains in Paris – arriving at Gare de Lyon and departing at Montparnasse station. This magnificent journey is coming to an end...

Pity to rush across most of Europe in a single day. I love this region - its history and multiple cultures - but don't feel compelled to do a tour of Europe on this journey. If I had had more time - and I do not - I would spend it in Central Asia, the Balkans, and the Caucasus region.

View from my Train Window


Not much happened during my 14-hour train ride from Milano to Brest except that the countryside is so brilliantly beautiful.

Rolling Italian farmland drifted into the Italian Alps that flowed into the French Alps that rolled into French farmland - see pictures.

There was a break in the middle, as I arrived at Paris Gare de Lyon at 13.19 and departed from Paris Montparnasse at 14.52. That gave me 1 hour and 33 minutes to complete a 30-minute subway ride between these two major railway stations. Had to change from line 8 to line 3 - or something like that - along the way. All this was too easy.

I've Been to Paris Before...

But I did recall - with consternation - that I was pickpocketed on a Paris subway, the night prior to my departure home, 10 years ago. Lost everything: Australian and US passports, credit cards, $1,000 in travellers checks and my airplane ticket (before E-tickets). Cost me nothing but embarrassment and inconvenience, as my University’s insurance paid for all losses, which was actually very small. Sure, someone in France charged $5,000 on my credit card - including two traceable telephone call - these guys (and it was a pair) were not so smart. I had to pay that $5,000 bill but was reimbursed in full by my credit card company the following month.

The only identification not stolen was my Australian driver's license, which saved me as the Paris police wrote a safe-passage letter - after calling Australia to confirm my identity. The French did not want me hanging around - this must happen a thousand times a day in Paris. French, Singapore and Australian Immigration officials honoured that letter, as did Singapore Airlines by flying me home. My first E-ticket … apparently.

Anyway, an experience never forgotten and it was front-and-centre in my mind as I travelled the Paris subway system once more. Fortunately, this journey has presented no crime, no accidents, no ill health – only adventure in a very large dose.

Had time to have a tuna baguette and a raspberry tart at Paul's - a French institution - at Montparnasse before my very last train.

Last Train toward the Atlantic

How many trains on this journey?

I will count when I find the time. Actually, I'd like to calculate the entire transport cost (trains, buses, taxis and one car rental) from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans.

The only really complication while shooting across Europe occurred an hour out of Brest. The train stopped at a station and did not move. Suddenly there are lots of announcements in French - no English translation, of course - and a bit of a buzz in the car. At first, I pay no attention but we don't move and some people are leaving - apparently for taxis - including my seat partner.

Finally, I learn that there is some kind of security complication with a bag. It was in another car. Perhaps someone got off and left it behind. I don't know, but a couple of days later at the Brest Airport they announce in English that unattended bags will be immediately destroyed. So now I wonder if the local bomb squad was called to dispose of a bag full of personal item, as I heard no explosion.

Arrived safely in Brest, an hour late, and took a tour of the city by walking a couple km to my hotel. First impression: Charming, cold-windy city.

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