I went for a fix of retail therapy today.
I finally came to the conclusion it’s the lack of it that is currently causing these withdrawal symptoms. Hence, being another Friday market day in Ventimiglia, it’s time to go for treatment With the hubby on the other side of the English channel on business and car parked at the airport (yours truly’s car is temporarily indisposed – calendar is fully-booked to afford a trip to the garage ), the only way to get to my shopping paradise is to take the half-hour journey by train.
the train as seen from the village’s main roadThe train station is a good ten-minute walk from home and to get there, I have to walk through the village square where, at that moment, is holding our very own little Friday market. I say “little” because it comprises only about three long tables:
– one, displaying organic vegetables and fruits in season. The sellers, an Italian couple, hop from village to village with their homegrown produce, on market days. Ours is held every Friday.
– the other, laden with few catch of trouts and few grams of prawns
– and another table filled with marinated olives, an important produce of the valley.There are also few pots of flowering plants in one corner, a permanent sight in all village markets, the French being obsessed with their flowers!The market is busy that morning, surrounded by dear old neighbours who see hubby and i, in view of our being eternally away, as permanent tourists in our own home!
We give each other the usual bisous-bisous and the typical “how-long-are-you-going-to-stay-this-time” interrogations and “drop-by-our-house” open invitations. I love my neighbours, no mistake about that, but I had to duck away quickly lest i miss my train and will have to wait for another couple of hours for the next one…
My worse fear happened! While scurrying up the long climb (some 20 degree angle all the way!!) to the station, my dear dear train came speeding right before my eyes!! Oh no!!!
I missed my train!
On checking the station’s timetable, the next one to Ventimiglia is not due for another two hours but there is one to come in 2 minutes, but… ooopppss!!!! going to the opposite direction!
That opposite direction ends in Tende, the last French town on the Roya Valley off the Italian border. To give you a geographical idea of the place, Tende is 20 minutes from our village, add another 20 minutes and you arrive at the famous Italian skiing resort of Limone, still travel two hours further and you reach Torino (Turin).
I had to think quick! ….shall i go… shall i go not…. heck! I could do with a scenic ride!
It turned out, it was a splendid decision!
What was usually a normal train plying the Nice – Tende circuit has now gone touristic, without extra cost, giving commentaries in both French and English of the beautiful scenery unfolding before every passenger’s eyes! (i’m telling you, even if you are just going for an errand, by taking this train and listening to the guide’s narration, your imagination will be transported back in time, as far back as the Roman ages!)
Every summer, from 1st june to end of september, the French train circuit from Nice to Tende and vice-versa is transformed into a touristic train route taking the passengers into a spectacular journey of one of the most beautiful railway landscapes in Europe! This railway line , reaching a height of 1000 meters comprises of tunnels and viaducts rising above the canyons overlooking the fast-flowing Roya river, the Roya-Bevera valleys, dotted by medieval hilltop villages, castle ruins, baroque churches, olive trees and a gentle spread of alpine, mediterranean and near tropical vegetation.
the baroque-style bell tower of the 17th century Church of the Visitation, Fontan
the old town of Tende the viaduct of Tende
The train finally reached Tende. as usual, it was a free ride! Yes, this fabulous trip didn’t cost me a centime. there was no controller to prevent that from happening!
Even if I wanted to, nobody sells tickets in our village train station. We have a station building but it’s just that, a building! It stands as an empty building all year round except in July when it gets transformed into a holiday camp for SNCF (French national train network) employees’ children.
Why there is no ticket counter?
Because it costs more to set it up than it actually earns.
Out of the 200 inhabitants of our village, only two take the train and in both cases, only twice a year. The first trip is in November when they go to their second homes in Nice to spend a warmer winter, and the second trip, in May, when they return to the village to escape the throngs of tourists that crowd Nice in the summer. Therefore, selling only 4 tickets a year is a joke for SNCF! (of course, this is only a joke, you nitwit!! )
Even with the presence of a campsite that gets fully booked in the summer, still it doesn’t improve the figures. Holidaymakers drive down here in their motorized caravans or cars so who needs trains.
How then do I buy a ticket?
The only way to buy a ticket is from the controller who inspects and sells tickets at the same time, but then, his prolonged absence makes me suspect that he could be one of the two people who goes to Nice in the winter and back to the village in the summer!
More information on the Train des Merveilles at www.regionpaca.fr