Honeymooning, doing it the slow way
Anyone who knows me know that although I love the latest gadgets and tech at heart I can rather old fashioned. Earlier this year, but not as long ago as it should have been I was getting a little worried about booking our honeymoon. It was only a few months till the wedding itself and we hadn’t decided on a destination. My huge phobia of flying was rather curtailing where we could go as both of us were worried about how bad I would be on the days before the flight, who wants to be stressed out about flying on their wedding day? It got so late we even considered not taking a honeymoon (not something I’d recommend doing having just returned from ours).
After a lot of thought we came up with northern Italy. It’s not too far away, the weather would still be nice, low to mid twenties and, crucially, we could get there without leaving the ground.
So where to stay? Venice? Perhaps a little too cliched for a honeymoon and beside a two week city break? The Italian lakes sounded a great idea, reclining by the lake for a couple of weeks, very George Clooney. But the weather for the Lakes in October isn’t quite what you want for a honeymoon. so that left western Italy and the Ligurian coast. The weather is still pretty good, most days are in the low twenties and there are plenty of places to stay.
After looking at lots of places to visit and stay we plumped for a three night/ four day city break followed by ten nights/ eleven days in Rapallo. A gorgeous town on the Italian Riviera. The whole thing would be bookended by an overnight stay in Turin to break the journey. London to Paris by Eurostar, Paris to Turin by TGV takes the better part of a day, when you factor in a lunch or dinner stop in Paris.
The Romantic way to travel
Photo: Charles Hutchins
Way back before flying was a thing people would criss-cross the continent travelling at a slower pace and in style. Whilst air travel is super convenient, there’s something lacking in it. You get in a tin can at one end and jump out at the other without ever seeing what’s between. In the golden age of travel you would board a train in London and journey off to the continent relaxing in a high backed chair with ample leg room. You would enjoy breakfast in the buffet car and watch London merge into Kent countryside before shooting off across the channel and thunder through northern France.
Today you can still do much the same, ducking under the channel rather than over it. So we decided that taking the Eurostar could be, would be a wonderfully romantic and old fashioned start to our honeymoon. In many ways taking the Eurostar to Paris then the TGV on to Turin, Italy, really set the feel for our trip. It was slow and refined, 5 star hotels with waiters in bow ties and white jackets, coffee on the terrace and cocktails in the lounge bar. Our backdrops were classically beautiful restaurants and hotels in Genoa and overlooking the beautiful Ligurian Sea. Sitting back on the TGV or enjoying the sumptuous breakfasts I felt like I had stepped back in time to an Agatha Christie novel, half expecting Hercule Poirot to enter the room.
Trains, trains and more… trains
Our old fashioned honeymoon started with a very early morning. I had booked us on an early train from London to Paris via Eurostar arriving at Gare du Nord. After a very early tube we arrived in St Pancras and checked in with enough time to get some breakfast.
The Eurostar trip was, as usual very, smooth and relaxing. Even in standard class the chairs are spacious, with bags of leg room. The two hours whizzed by and soon enough we were in the heart of Paris. After a quick change on the RER we arrived at Gare du Lyon.
Photo: Giovanni Dall
Travelling from London to Italy means a morning Eurostar service and an afternoon TGV. There are three trains per day between Paris and Turin, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. Being realistic it would be quite difficult getting to Gare du Lyon in time for one of the morning trains and as it was the start of our honeymoon proper, I didn’t want to rush my new wife and I (I can’t help smiling every time I say or write wife!). I decided on the recommendation of Mark Smith at Seat61.com to travel a bit earlier in the morninig to fit in lunch. The afternoon train gave us four hours in Paris, more than enough time to start the honeymoon as we mean to go on, with a little old fashioned style.
We stopped for a wonderfully romantic and very luxuriant lunch at Le Train Bleu, you can read my review here. Suffice to say it is more than worth the stop.
After lunch it was on to our second train of the day. The SNCF runs three TGV services a day from Paris to Turin, our overnight stop on the way to Genoa. As I didn’t want to get us up earlier than the ungodly hour we already had to get up for, plus I really wanted to stop for in Paris, my favourite city, for lunch.
The TGV is much, much better than your average train journey in the UK. I haven’t take too many long distance journeys in the UK but putting it up against the commuter trains we use quite often it is a different class.
We only had standard class tickets but the carriage had more than enough luggage space for everyone to be bringing a decent amount of luggage. The interior is quite similar to the Eurostar and the buffet car seems to be pretty much the same too. It was nice to be on a train where there is a guard, a buffet trolley and a buffet car. Very civilised. You get a good amount of legroom as well, which is good if you’re stuck on it for a good five-and-a-half-hour slog. We settled in for the long haul, watching Paris turning into the French countryside and then the alps before the light faded as we entered Italy via the Fréjus rail tunnel.
After a long journey we arrived in a dark Porta Susa Station in Turin. We had a short (Taxi) journey to our hotel (Hotel Urbani, three star) close to Porta Nuova station, where we’d take the next day’s short (two hour) train to Genoa.
As I knew we wouldn’t have too much time in Turin between arriving in the evening and leaving the next morning, thus not spending too much time at the hotel I went for a three-star hotel in Turin, I figured a five star hotel might just be a bit of a waste. Hotel Urbani was a pleasant place to stay, well furnished and right in the heart of the city. And very close to the station for the next morning.
So, the first night of our honeymoon and we were totally knackered. How can being on a train all day be so tiring? We had thought that we could go out and about in Turin, explore and have a propper night out. Instead we saw a lovely looking restaurant across from our hotel and decided to eat there. One of the best deciscions of the trip. The food was so good we ended up eating there on the last night of our honeymoon (where we stayed in Turin again).
The next day (day two of the honeymoon) we took a leisurely journey down to Genoa and checked into our hotel.
Choosing hotels for your honeymoon
It’s our honeymoon so when I was looking at where we could stay and booking our hotels, I wanted to make sure we stayed at somewhere swanky, somewhere classical, the kind of hotel where Hercule Poirot would stay. I booked us into the Hotel Continental Genoa, a four-star hotel for our three nights in Genoa. Happily were upgraded, not sure if it was because I said it was our honeymoon when I booked, and ended up in their sister hotel (almost next door) the five-star Grand Hotel Savoia.
The Grand Hotel Savoia is definitely the kind of hotel I could see as the setting for a 1920’s murder mystery, filled with high society ladies and gentlemen.
After a leisurely four days in Genoa it was on to the beautiful Italian Riviera resort of Rapallo which sits on the Ligurian Sea. Our hotel here was another five-star affair, just as grand as in Genoa (I could really get used to this kind of life!). The dining room and bar were resplendent and the bedroom, with balcony and a view out over the harbour were just about perfect.
All in all taking the slow road, or rail from London to Paris and on to Turin, Genoa and Rapallo was a wonderful way to take a honeymoon and in the end I was very quite happy that my fear of flying made us take a different kind of honeymoon, as I hope my new wife was too!
Follow the rest of my honeymoon trip here.