We were originally scheduled to ride three trains between Annecy and Venice today. The first was to leave Annecy just after 8am and would get in to Chambery at 9.37am. There we had to change from French trains to Italian trains, and were scheduled to leave at 9.45am. I was really worried that we wouldn’t have time to get from one train to the next in the allotted 8 minutes changeover time, especially as there are six platforms at the station and to move between them you have to climb up and down steps with heavy suitcases.
So yesterday I got online and requested a quote from a private driver to take us the 50km to Chambery from Annecy, leaving earlier so that we would have ample time to catch the train to Turin. The quote was 120 euros. Remi just about fell out of his chair when I told him, and immediately volunteered himself and his dad to pick us up from our hotel and drive us to Chambery railway station. What a legend. So at 8.30am Guy and Remi pulled up in front of our accommodation, and by 9.15 we were standing at the entrance to Chambery station. We said ‘Au revoir’ to Remi. I really hope we see him again some time, perhaps down in Australia with Barbara and Naska.
Our connecting train, it turned out, was 36 minutes late! So we could have caught the first train after all. Now this placed us under a little pressure to make our next connection. We were originally supposed to have 49 minutes between trains in Turin, but now it had been cut to only 13 minutes and we faced the issue of having to move between platforms again. On the train to Turin I was on my phone searching for alternative trains we might be able to catch to Venice if we didn’t make our scheduled train on time. Thankfully, the train we were on caught up some time and got in to Turin with over 20 minutes to spare. We found the correct platform and waited almost until departure time before all the info went up on the boards confirming that we were, indeed, in the right place at the right time to catch the right train. We were standing at one end of the platform, but our allocated coach was at the other end of a very long train, so we sprinted along the plaform with our suitcases. Everyone else was aboard and we were still running. The frustrated train guard reminded us that we could have jumped on to any carriage and walked through the train to our seats. We’ll know better next time. Anyway, we were able to take our seats as scheduled, so all was good – except of course that this train continued to experience ‘technical difficulties’ which slowed it down considerably and eventually we arrived in Venice in driving rain over 20 minutes late.
The terrain changed considerably during our two train journeys. The first ride, from Chambery to Turin, was through alpine region, including the Rhone Alps in France. There were steep mountains shrouded in thick cloud alongside the track. When we crossed the border into Italy the sky cleared, revealing high snow capped mountains to one side of the train. They were our travelling companions for a considerable time. From the time we entered Italy we had beautiful red poppies growing wild along the side of the tracks, and they stayed with us almost all the way to Venice. At times we passed whole fields of them, reminiscent of the famous Monet painting that we had seen in Paris. On our final leg of the journey we passed through wine country, with vineyards planted on both sides of the rail line.
Arriving at Venice Saint Lucia station, we were approached by a man who asked if we needed a taxi, which we did. We said yes, and he picked up our cases and placed them on a trolley, covering them with a green plastic sheet. His quote for the 1.4km walk to our hotel was 25 euros, which is pretty steep, but he told me I’d be paying up to 60 euros for a water taxi. It was raining heavily, we had no idea where our hotel was, and this looked like fun, so we said yes, let’s do it. He worked very hard wheeling his trolley with our cases in the rain, into oncoming foot traffic, slowly step by step up and over bridges. We just followed him, getting wet, but quite entertained by our rather unexpected taxi service. I couldn’t help but add a little to his quoted fee, when he got us and our luggage safely to the hotel. He’d worked very hard, but never lost the smile on his face. Photos below, followed by more text.
We booked this hotel on the recommendation of Mark and Kath Horsford. It is the former embassy of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s right on the canal. You can see our room, which looks onto the canal, on the first floor in the near corner of the photo below. There are also pics of the canal and the bridge next to us. The hotel is amazing. Our room has damask fabric wall coverings, and hand painted roof beams which must be centuries old. Parts of the hotel are like a museum, housing original Renaissance artworks from the School of Tintoretto. And it’s situated in the heart of Venice, within walking distance of everything we want to see. More text follows these photos.
We haven’t had much time to look around Venice because of our late train and the long, wet walk to the hotel. We went out for a bite to eat, but it was still raining so we didn’t stay out for long. We’re hoping for sunny skies over the next two days, so we can have a good look around this fascinating part of Italy.