Articles tagged:

France

Magazine article

Saint-Gingolph

by hidden europe

Why would I eat lunch on the Swiss side when a well-cooked plate of perch from Lake Geneva costs so much less in France? We visit Saint-Gingolph, a lakeshore village divided by an international frontier.

Magazine article

The Tyre Man

by hidden europe

With the unreliability of the very first cars, motoring was a stop-go process. Bibendum, the remarkable tyre man from Michelin, was always on hand to give advice in the event of breakdown or an enforced overnight stay.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 68

by hidden europe

In this new issue of the magazine we present articles with a focus on Sweden, France, Greece, Spain and Malta. We have a number of thematic pieces too, taking inspiration in part from rail travel which is experiencing such a welcome renaissance in many parts of Europe just now.

Magazine article

Conflicts of interest: Mining and World Heritage

by Nicky Gardner

UNESCO's World Heritage List includes many citations which showcase former mining activities. The extractive industries have led to the development of some of Europe's most distinctive cultural landscapes. But the recent addition of a gold mining site in Romania to the list sparks tensions between conservation and economic interests.

Magazine article

The Athus factor

by hidden europe

Never heard of Athus? It's a small town in south-east Belgium through which you must route if you wish to travel by train from London to Poland's Baltic coast for just €120 return.

Magazine article

Fifty years of Interrail: the freedom to explore Europe

by Nicky Gardner

Allow yourself to be curious! Take time to wander. That’s the beauty of Interrail, the rail pass which gives travellers the freedom to explore Europe. March 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Interrail. We celebrate the first half-century of a scheme which has so dramatically shaped Europeans’ understanding of their home continent.

Magazine article

European ferry links: opportunities and challenges

by Nicky Gardner

Have you noticed that some ferry companies serving Britain and / or Ireland are now decidedly sniffy about carrying foot passengers? Must we really take a car with us to be permitted on some ferries? But it’s not all bad news on the ferry front since there are a number of new Baltic routes which are very pleased to take foot passengers.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 65

by hidden europe

In issue 65 of hidden europe magazine, we roam from Scotland through France and Germany to Vienna and beyond. We have whisky and cheese, thoughts on cross-border rail services, a remarkable report on the world’s first hybrid cars and disturbing news about bees in Arctic Russia.

Magazine article

Cattle country: le pays de Salers

Cantal boasts some striking volcanic landscapes and some very fetching cows. We stop off in Salers, a handsome town in the hills which has given its name to Salers cattle and Salers cheese.

Magazine article

Promoting Europe: the Connecting Europe Express

On 7 October 2021, a train from Lisbon arrived in Paris. The journey from the Portuguese capital had taken five weeks. The Connecting Europe Express was no ordinary train, but one which recalled the fine tradition of agit-prop trains which 100 years ago criss-crossed Russia to spread the Bolshevik message.

Magazine article

Names to ponder: memory and place in the city

Take a look as the names of streets as you explore foreign cities. We’ve noted streets named after Stalin in southern England and a road named after Tito in France’s Champagne region. These and similar street name evoke important issues about place and memory, reminding us how historical narratives evolve through time.

Magazine article

European heathlands

by hidden europe

Dedicated teams of scientists and conservationists are working to preserve Europe’s lowland heaths. The threats to these endangered habitats are many: creeping urbanization, the conversion of traditional heathland to cropland and the planting of conifers.

Magazine article

Salers cheese

by hidden europe

Salers de Buron is no ordinary cheese. It reflects the richness of the high pastures in France’s Cantal region. The mountain grass is interlaced with Alpine fennel, gentian, arnica, anise and liquorice.

Blog post

Watery diversions

Making time for creative journeys has been at the heart of our work with hidden europe. So in this issue of our Letter from Europe we highlight some longish ferry routes which even allow for some sightseeing. Here are some examples from this winter’s Mediterranean shipping schedules.

Blog post

On the edge of Burgundy: the Morvan hills

There is one very distinctive area in the north-west reaches of Burgundy. And that's Morvan - an upland block defined by its striking granite landscapes which communicate a sense of wilderness not encountered elsewhere in the region. We touch down in an area of France with a strong regional identity.

Magazine article

Pedal power: the caffeine fix

by Nicky Gardner

There are thousands of cafés across Europe that have made their mark in the communal psychogeography of the cycling community — places which supply a timely caffeine and calorie boost for the cyclists who have escaped the city for a day or longer. We investigate how coffee became the cyclist’s elixir.

Magazine article

Flashback 1971: travels of yesteryear

by Nicky Gardner

There was a time when you could travel from Turin or Trieste to Moscow or from Istanbul to Beirut or Baghdad without changing trains. We look back half a century and explore the rail journeys which were on offer in the summer of 1971. It was a time when many premium trains between major European cities carried only first-class seating, with fares which were well beyond anything that many travellers could afford.

Magazine article

Vintage pleasures: a taste of Alsace

by Nicky Gardner

If Alsace has a regional watchword, it is balance. It is as true of Alsace’s complex history, deftly melding French and German interests, as of the region’s remarkable wines. Join us as we explore the Alsace wine route, taking in some of the villages where winemaking has for centuries been a staple in the local economy.

Magazine article

New night trains in 2021

by hidden europe

The privacy of a cosy compartment is part of the appeal of the overnight train. The pandemic has changed attitudes and travellers are now mightily aware of the importance of space and privacy. So it is no wonder that demand for night sleeper services has rocketed. The coming months will see new overnight trains to the Netherlands, Sweden, the Croatian coast, Lake Constance and the French Riviera.

Magazine article

Alsace grape types

by hidden europe

Do you know your Sylvaner from your Muscat? Your Pinot Gris from your Pinot Blanc? Here’s a quick and easy guide to the nine main varieties of grapes used in the production of various Alsace wines. We would wager that there may be one or two varietals here of which you’ve never heard.

Note

Alsace wines: a personal selection

To accompany our Alsace feature in hidden europe 63 (published on 15 March 2021), here’s a selection of Alsace wines which we rate as being very drinkable and reasonable value for money. We have listed them here by grape type - for most wines from the Alsace region are labelled to show the grape type (for example Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Noir). Very few of the still wines from Alsace are made from blends of more than one type of grape. Our listings focus mainly on dry or off-dry wines from the region.

Blog post

Bats and happiness

It hasn’t been an easy year. Not for us - and probably not for you. But spare a thought for bats who have endured some pretty hefty reputational damage in 2020. Bats are the only flying mammals - and among the few creatures that seem to have a perennial smile on their faces.

Magazine article

Exploring Europe on foot

by hidden europe

A new series of guidebooks from Vertebrate Publishing invites readers to explore some of Europe’s great long walks. We review the debut title which focuses on western Europe and the Alps.

Blog post

The papal states

The emergence in the eighth century of the papal states in parts of Italy and beyond heralded a geopolitical oddity which survived for over 1000 years, and of which there is the faintest echo in the current status of Vatican City - the world's smallest country.

Blog post

Memorialising DH Lawrence

Vence is a delightful small town in the hills behind the French Riviera, and it was here in Vence that DH Lawrence eventually succumbed in early March 1930 to tuberculosis.But where is he buried? Join us on a journey that takes us from Provence to New Mexico - with no definite conclusion.

Blog post

Issue 61 of hidden europe magazine

The experience of staying close to home during the Coronavirus pandemic prompted us to choose two key themes for this latest issue of hidden europe magazine: journeys and isolation. We kick off with a leisurely account of a wonderful Swiss rail journey and reflect on the future of night trains in Europe. We consider the loneliness of a remote village which for many years had only a single telephone and we touch on the isolation Marc Chagall must have felt as, one hundred years ago, he left his home town of Vitebsk for ever.

Blog post

The humble onion

Breton onion sellers set out from Roscoff to sell their harvest across Europe. But the preferred market was Britain where customers were prepared to pay well over the odds for the beautiful rose-tinged onions from Finistère. The Onion Johnnies, their bicycles laden with garlands of onions, were a familiar sight in southern England and Wales in the 1950s and 1960s.

Blog post

A Four-Hour Train Journey for one Euro

Over the years we’ve tracked down many great-value international rail fares. We once wrote about the City Star tariff which offered extraordinarily cheap fares from Slovakia to Russia. But there is one cross-border fare in western Europe that even beats that. Have a guess where that might be.

Blog post

Voice of a Nation

Across hundreds of French railway stations, millions of travellers every day would in normal times encounter Simone Hérault, for hers is the disembodied voice which proclaims the imminent departure of the TGV to Aix-les-Bains or the regional train to Annecy.

Magazine article

The Spirit of the Vosges

by Nicky Gardner
Join us as we discover the Vosges hills in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of eastern France. It's a region which has always been a wellspring of fine ideas, cutting a dash in the world of culture and industry. We visit a valley once settled by the Amish, learn about an illustrious tradition of printed textiles and roam through the montane heathland above the tree line.
Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 59

by hidden europe
The shaping of history and the stories which are told about a region’s past are endlessly fascinating and that’s a running theme in this issue of hidden europe. We look at examples from Alsace and Spain and also look at how guidebooks helped, in the months after the end of the Great War in 1918, to shape emerging narratives of that conflict.
Magazine article

Unfinished business

by hidden europe
In a field near the village of Urbès in eastern France, a stretch of graceful railway viaduct stands alone in a valley. It has never been connected to any railway line. It's a poignant reminder of what might have been.
Magazine article

Mapping America

by hidden europe
How did America get its name? Amerigo Vespucci, of course. But the Florentine merchant never himself suggested that the continent be named after him. It's all down to a cartographer in the Vosges.
Magazine article

Marking Time: New Train Services for 2020

by Nicky Gardner

The hidden europe award for ingenuity in creating new European rail travel opportunities is awarded to Austria's state rail operator, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB). We look at what ÖBB will offer anew for 2020, and examine too what's new on the rails in Russia, Germany and elsewhere across Europe.

Magazine article

Changing Fortunes: Guidebooks and War

by Nicky Gardner
It's hard to imagine these days that any guidebook might ever sell 100,000 copies each month. But 100 years ago, in the second half of 1919, Michelin was managing just that. We explore how guidebooks fared in the years after the end of the First World War. As Baedeker fell into disfavour among English readers, other companies were quick to fill the gap.
Blog post

Lyria Ruffles Swiss Feathers

The Franco-Swiss rail operator Lyria runs fast trains between Paris and a number of Swiss cities. It also offers the last remaining year-round direct train from Switzerland to the south of France - which is about to be axed. We take a look at Lyria's December 2019 timetable changes and review how the company's network has changed through time.

Magazine article

Mind the Gap: Georges Perec and the Art of Constrained Writing

by Nicky Gardner
From 1960, an unusual clutch of Parisian writers - known as the Oulipo group - played ingenious games with language. We take a look at the work of Georges Perec who once wrote an entire novel without using the fifth letter of the alphabet. Later he published a novella where the letter 'e' was the only vowel used in the entire book.
Magazine article

The Taste of Yellow: Wines of the Jura

by Nicky Gardner
Could you imagine paying more than €100,000 for a bottle of wine? Not any bottle of wine, but a bottle of vin jaune (yellow wine) from the French Jura. And a wine that was made before the French Revolution. We discover a French rarity that takes decades to reach maturity.
Magazine article

The Art of Drystone Walling

by Rudolf Abraham
With the art of drystone walling recognised by UNESCO as part of Europe's cultural heritage, communities across the continent are now seeing these traditional walled boundaries in a new light. Rudolf Abraham has gone in search of drystone wall specialists from France to Slovenia and beyond.
Magazine article

Summit-level-Canals

by hidden europe
Canals which breach great drainage divides are always interesting. There's one, opened in 1992, which links the River Danube with the River Main, the latter a tributary of the Rhine. So today it's possible to travel on a ship through the very heart of Europe from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Magazine article

Plain Sailing

by hidden europe
With new routes from Toulon to Menorca and Sicily, there's much ado in the Mediterranean ferry scene this summer. Further north, there are new year-round services between Germany and a Danish island in the Baltic and good news for foot passengers taking the boat from France to Ireland.
Magazine article

The Swiss Jura by Train

by Nicky Gardner
For first impressions of the Swiss Jura, hop on the red train which plies the narrow-gauge rail route from Glovelier to La Chaux-de-Fonds. Green landscapes aplenty, but tucked away in these hills are communities which were influential in the development of European anarchism.
Magazine article

Corridor Trains

by Nicky Gardner

Corridor trains (Korridorzüge in German) have a privileged status in international law which makes provision for the trains of one country to transit another country's territory without onerous bureaucracy and border checks. With the fading of borders in Europe, the corridor train is no longer as important as once it was. We look at some examples of corridor trains past and present.

Magazine article

The Tender Touch of an Angel

by Patricia Stoughton
Tucked away in the country lanes of Brittany (in the north-west corner of France) are a number of shrines and sculptures which feature an angel tenderly holding back Christ's hair on the crucifix. Patricia Stoughton goes in search of a peculiarly Breton touch in religious art.
Blog post

Paris in the springtime

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. He was born in the town of Trier in the Moselle Valley, a place which these days seems so sedate as to be entirely devoid of revolutionary potential. But Marx had sensitive political antennae and, as a young journalist, he wrote about the terrible conditions endured by vineyard workers in the Moselle region.

Magazine article

Vintage Views: Railways and Wine Tourism

by Nicky Gardner
What better way to survey some of the world's great vineyards than from the comfort of a train cruising slowly through a region celebrated for its fine wines? Ideally with a glass of wine to hand! We explore opportunities for rail-wine tourism in Spain, Hungary, France, Portugal and further afield.
Magazine article

The Spinetta Report

by hidden europe
In the future it may not be so easy to take the slow train from Sospel to Tende. Or from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes. Jean-Cyril Spinetta's February 2018 report to President Macron is not good news for regional rail routes in France. It may be overdoing it to call Spinetta the French Beeching - but the fallout from the report is worth watching.
Blog post

Winter games on a soft border

Winter skating on the River Doubs, which marks the frontier between France and Switzerland, is a common seasonal pastime in the Jura region. As Switzerland and France are both party to the Schengen Agreement, this is a classic "soft" border, one which people can freely move across without let or hindrance.

Magazine article

Rail Travel News

by hidden europe
Two new high speed rail routes in France, extra trains through the Alps and new services to Ukraine are the headline stories in the summer 2017 rail timetables. We review what's new and what's gone.
Blog post

Paris sideshows in June 1867

There was much ado in Paris 150 years ago this month. The 'Exposition universelle de 1867' had opened at the Champs de Mars in April and had secured very positive press reviews both in France and more widely across Europe. It also drew a big crowd of visitors to the French capital.

Magazine article

Taking the Tram

by hidden europe
With the success of the Schengen region, local transport links are being extended over international borders. In the coming months, new international tram routes from France to both Germany and Switzerland are due to open.
Blog post

Saarland, January 1957

We walk down the lane between two villages. Each takes its name from the River Gailbach. The higher community is Obergailbach. It's a wee slip of a place. Just a couple of kilometres down the valley lies Niedergailbach which is rather larger. This is a part of Europe where international borders have faded.

Magazine article

Hollandries: Dredging and Draining

by hidden europe
Europe's most accomplished dredgers and drainers are the Dutch. Settlers from the Netherlands have industriously drained wetlands and coastal meadows across the continent from Bordeaux to the Baltic. We look at some of the continent's Hollandries.
Blog post

Summer excursions by train

New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the continent.

Blog post

Welcome to hidden europe 48

Today's Letter from Europe reviews the contents of hidden europe 48. Publication of this new issue of the travel magazine is 15 March 2016. Copies are already available for purchase.

Magazine article

Finistère: land of a thousand chapels

by Patricia Stoughton

In the north-west corner of Brittany, an area known as Finistère, dozens of ancient chapels attest to the erstwhile importance of faith in the region. Celtic myth and Catholic belief underpin life and community in this remote part of France. Patricia Stoughton introduces us to the astounding richness and variety of chapels on or close to the coasts of Finistère.

Magazine article

Mystical France

by hidden europe

Scottish publisher Findhorn has always had an eye on the offbeat and alternative. Many travellers place great stock on their Camino pilgrimage guides. Now Findhorn has launched a new guide to France. We dip into the pages of Mystical France.

Blog post

A glass of pastis

It's hard to say no to pastis. Especially on the island of Bendor, off the south coast of France, where pastis is the preferred drink at almost any time of day. If you are really bold, you can get away with ordering a glass of the local Bandol rosé, but a call for pastis always curries favour.

Blog post

Encounter at Hendaye

75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the only face-to-face meeting of the two leaders.

Blog post

Life and death in Bar-le-Duc

Stanislaw Leszczynski, or King Stanislaw, lost the throne of Poland (twice as it happens), but was compensated by being awarded territory in eastern France. Thus it was that in 1735 the town of Bar-le-Duc found itself welcoming a Polish king who for 30 years was suzerain of the Duchy of Bar - a little state which rather jealously guarded its independence.

Magazine article

North from Paris: with Eurostar and Émile Zola

by Nicky Gardner

Tolstoy, Dickens and Zola all wrote about railways - but in very different ways. Zola's La Bête humaine is one of the great railway novels of European literature. The perfect read, we thought, prior to joining train driver Andy Pratt in the cab of a Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

Magazine article

A station in the shadows

by hidden europe

The Gare Saint-Lazare attracted the artists. Yet Paris Gare du Nord has a grittier atmosphere. This busiest of Paris' railway termini is ultimately a station in the shadows. And therein lies its enduring appeal.

Blog post

The Seven Sleepers

In some parts of Europe, 27 June is marked as the day of the Seven Sleepers. In Germany, the weather on Siebenschläfer is seen as indicative of what sort of summer we can expect. Stable weather on 27 June bodes well for the weeks ahead. But wild weather on that day indicates that rain rather than sun is in store for July and August. But folk wisdom across Europe varies from country to country, culture to culture.

Blog post

From London to the Med without changing trains

If you visit St Pancras tomorrow morning, cast your eye over the departure boards. For at 07.19 tomorrow morning something remarkable will happen. The first ever scheduled passenger train will leave London for the shores of the Mediterranean: the direct Eurostar service to Marseille.

Blog post

The centre of the universe

It was 50 years ago that Salvador Dalí completed his celebrated La Gare de Perpignan. It is a huge oil painting which now hangs in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It celebrates Perpignan as the very centre of the universe.

Blog post

A season of shadows

It is the season for shadows. No other week in the ecclesiastical calendar comes with such a hefty dose of liturgical theatre as that which concludes with Easter. It is a week which has its highs and lows, its exuberant periods of light balanced by dark interludes.

Blog post

Europe by rail: spring news

It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this spring.

Blog post

A grand tour of Europe

A new issue of hidden europe is published tomorrow. Not just any issue of hidden europe, but one which marks our tenth birthday. Yes, it was way back in March 2005 that we published the first-ever issue of the magazine. For ten years, we have been quietly exploring our home continent, reporting on cultures and communities that seem to us worthy of note.

Magazine article

Brittany’s Easter Island

by Patricia Stoughton

Patricia Stoughton leads us through the soft landscapes of Brittany to discover a local initiative that showcases local saints. La Vallée des Saints (Traonienn ar Sant in Breton) is a bold statement about the enduring importance of regional culture and identity.

Magazine article

Into the Blue

by Iain Bamforth

For Swiss scientist and mountaineer HB de Saussure, the sky held "in its grandeur and its dazzling purity, an element of death and infinite sadness." Guest writer Iain Bamforth invites us to jump into the blue. Wrap up warm, and bring your cyanometer along.

Magazine article

Offshore Provence

by Nicky Gardner

Sailing east from Marseille along the coast of Provence to the Italian border, there are some two dozen islands, many of which are overlooked by visitors to the region. Climb aboard the hidden europe private yacht (if only!) as we set sail for the Côte d'Azur.

Magazine article

A touch of Russia

by Nicky Gardner

Europe has so many very comfortable train services, but it's really hard to trump the top-of-the-range Russian trains used on routes from Moscow to many cities in central and western Europe. For inner-EU journeys, these trains are often great value. Hop on board for Russian style.

Magazine article

Wastelands: Europe’s empty runways

by Nicky Gardner

Aviation is a growing industry. European airports saw over 5% growth last year. But that statistic masks the fact that ever more European airports are closing down. Quite what does one do with a disused airport?

Blog post

From MoMA to Luxembourg

Clervaux has to endure being forever confused with the French town of Clairvaux. No surprise, perhaps, as the town in Luxembourg has a monastery just like its near-namesake in France. Yet the big draw in Clervaux is photography. And while Clairvaux marks the 900th anniversary of the foundation of its monastery, Clervaux also has an anniversary to celebrate in 2015.

Blog post

Recalling Marianne

France has changed since our last Letter from Europe. The attacks in Paris which started on 7 January were assaults on an entire nation. For in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, the principles of liberty are more closely etched on the national consciousness.

Blog post

New rail services across Europe

Four weeks from today much of Europe will awaken to new train timetables. Each year in December, new schedules come into effect across the continent. The big day this year is Sunday 14 December. We take look at a dozen positive developments worth noting.

Magazine article

A fine affair: Russians on the Riviera

by Nicky Gardner

Russia's love affair with the French Riviera (and the adjacent Ligurian coastal littoral to the east) has been one of Europe's defining cultural interactions of the last 200 years. We take at look at how Russian visitors have helped shape Riviera life.

Magazine article

Russian Orthodox churches on the Riviera

by hidden europe

Visitors to the Riviera are often surprised to find the striking Orthodox churches along the coast. From the red headlands of the Esterel Massif to Sanremo in Liguria, there is a hint of the east in the ecclesiastical landscape - a legacy of the history of Russian visitors to the region.

Magazine article

All points east

by Nicky Gardner

The new rail schedules for 2014 kick in across Europe in mid-December. Big changes are afoot as Russia rethinks its strategy for passenger services from Moscow to principal cities in the European Union. There are changes to night train services, a new international link from Austria and much more.

Blog post

One journey, one Europe, one book

We sped from London to Brussels at lunchtime on Friday, swapping a pleasant English summer day for sultry Belgium — pausing along the way at Calais. There is always a little frisson of excitement on those rare Eurostars which stop at Calais. English travellers bound for Brussels peer out of the windows and are evidently surprised to find that Calais still exists. This is the tale of that journey. But it is also the story of one book that communicated a powerful vision of a networked, integrated Europe.

Blog post

Remembering Miss Jemima

Cast back 150 years, and Bastille Day came and went without the average Parisian taking much notice. It was not till 1880 that 14 July acquired the status of a national holiday. Thus when Miss Jemima Morrell wandered the streets of Paris on 14 July 1863, it was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday. Jemima and her party of fellow travellers from England dutifully followed the Parisian itinerary that had been prepared for them by Mr Thomas Cook.

Blog post

100 years of buses

If British buses had a golden age, it was in the years just prior to the First World War. Motorised buses were changing British streetscapes. New routes were being launched every week, and suddenly a ride on a bus was an option even for those of more modest means.

Blog post

136 minutes of theatre

The journey on Eurostar from London to Paris is pure theatre - a journey of many moods and changing landscapes. Within a minute or two of departure, London is eclipsed by darkness. Watch for tantalising shadows at Stratford, then a burst of sunshine as our train, picking up speed now, storms out of the London tunnels onto the Thames marshes.

Blog post

The Russian Season in Paris

No-one goes to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées (on the right bank) looking for revolution. But cast back one hundred years this month and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was the venue for some radical departures from choreographic convention. It is an extraordinary building, one that in its style presciently anticipates what later came to be known as art deco.

Blog post

A season of grace

It is Good Friday again, a day that jolts much of Europe out of its regular routine. It is a day for pilgrimages - some avowedly secular, others more religious in character. Large crowds from the Saarland region of Germany will flock over the border to the French town of Bouzonville which today hosts its celebrated Good Friday market. So popular is this event that an otherwise abandoned cross-border rail route is reopened for just one day each year to allow special trains from Germany to Bouzonville and back.

Blog post

First plans for a Channel Tunnel rail service

Forty years ago this spring, civil servants in London and European rail planners were sketching out the first tentative ideas for just such a train service. The prevailing pieties in Britain about all things European were very different in those days. The UK had opted into the European project at the start of 1973, and the following October the Westminster Parliament approved a White Paper that gave the green light to the Channel Tunnel.

Magazine article

Parisian prayers: a litany of liturgies

by Duncan JD Smith

Paris is a city that has always embraced migrants, with each new wave of arrivals bringing their own faith. Walk the streets of the French capital and you'll find faith comes in many flavours, from varying shades of Orthodox Christianity to Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Duncan JD Smith, author of the guide Only in Paris (published March 2013), takes us on a pilgrimage through Parisian prayer traditions.

Blog post

The Aix Factor

The departure boards at London's St Pancras station are regaining their eclectic character of yesteryear. Cast back half a century and St Pancras had its share of trains to fire the imagination. Perhaps the most distinguished morning departure from St Pancras in those days was the 11.20 Midland Pullman to Nottingham. This train consisted only of first-class Pullman cars, affording cushioned comfort for passengers taking a leisurely luncheon as the train cruised north to Nottingham.

Magazine article

Worth the detour: La Tour de Saint-Amand-les-Eaux

by Patricia Stoughton

Had Bishop Amand not breathed his last in the Scarpe Valley in Flanders, this little French town would probably never have developed as an important ecclesiastical centre. Little remains of the original abbey in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, bar for one spectacular tower. Patricia Stoughton tells the story of La Tour de Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.

Magazine article

England and Europe

by hidden europe

Given our interests, you might have thought that we'd have pounced on The Smell of the Continent the moment it was published in 2009. The book is a witty and well-researched account of how the English discovered continental Europe in a decades following the Napoleonic Wars.

Magazine article

Time check

by hidden europe

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and Germany respectively.

Note

Bookmark: A Sentimental Journey

The travel narratives of yesteryear line our shelves, and it was really no more than chance that last week we looked again at Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey. Some might venture that in shelving it in the travel section of our modest library we have erred. It is more a work of sentimental fiction than a travelogue sensu stricto. 244 years after its initial publication, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy is still a fine read.

Magazine article

Mining heritage

by hidden europe

A new crop of European heritage has just been added to UNESCO's celebrated list of notable heritage. The newcomers to the World Heritage List include remarkable industrial villages in Flanders and Wallonie, a German opera house and a clutch of colourful Swedish farmhouses.

Blog post

Across the Channel

The stretch of coast north from Boulogne (in the direction of Calais) is a good place to reflect on England. We took a local bus along the coastal road last month, and it made for a fine ride on a perfectly clear, crisp winter day. Beach communities like Wimereux and Wissant were once popular holiday spots, much favoured by English visitors.

Magazine article

England’s favourite: the port of Boulogne

by Nicky Gardner

The port city of Boulogne has always attracted visitors from across the Channel. Tobias Smolett came and so did Charles Dickens who called the town his "favourite French watering hole", declaring it to be "every bit as good as Naples". Today, the town's ferry terminal is abandoned, but Boulogne remains a popular spot for visitors from Britain and offers a few exotic surprises.

Magazine article

La Maison de la Beurière

by hidden europe

Today, the steeply sloping streets behind Boulogne's Quai Gambetta no longer have the character of a closely-knit fishing community. hidden europe visits a little museum that recalls the former life of this distinctive part of the French port city.

Blog post

Diverted via Paris

Remember the ash cloud in 2010? It had a silver lining in making stranded travellers think creatively about the journeys they wanted or needed to make. And similarly with the seasonal doses of wintry weather that play havoc with rail schedules across the continent. When we left London mid-morning yesterday, we thought we were pretty sure to arrive in Berlin by late evening. Little did we imagine that our roundabout journey would lead us to Paris.

Blog post

Of glaciers and glacierets

The news this week, widely reported in Europe's media, that French glaciers are on the retreat prompts us to reflect on glaciers around mainland Europe. It is of course no surprise that Europe's permanent areas of snow and ice are threatened by our warming climate. These changes are most strikingly evident in the Alps, but perceptive observers of mountain environments notice them more widely.

Magazine article

Botany in Paradise

by Iain Bamforth

Iain Bamforth, a first-time contributor to hidden europe, wanders through the fruit markets of his home town of Strasbourg and reflects on apples and apricots, persimmons and pomegranates. Join us on a botanical tourof Paradise.

Note

Plymouth to Portsmouth by boat

Devotees of unusual ferry routes will find a few gems tucked away in Brittany Ferries’ winter schedules. From next week until the end of March 2012, there will be a seasonal Plymouth to St Malo service. The service kicks off next Monday with a morning sailing at 11.30 from St Malo. The passage time is eight hours.

Magazine article

From Waterlitz to Austerloo

by hidden europe

Did you know you can take the train to Brathlavstan or fly to MaastrAachen? The portmanteau title of Daniela-Carmen Crasnaru’s 1998 poetry anthology Austerloo prompts us to reflect on portmanteau terms in European geography.

Blog post

Train services of yesteryear

There is much talk today about how we live in a new age of the train, and that many journeys around Europe are now much more sensibly undertaken by rail rather than air. Only too true, but such rhetoric does imply that rail travel in Europe was utterly dreadful for an earlier generation of travellers. We have been taking a look at European rail travel 40 years ago.

Blog post

Russian life on the Riviera

Come on, grab your camera and join us as we explore one or two spots along the coast this Easter morning. It is a stunning spring day, the blue waters of the Mediterranean seem an even deeper blue than yesterday, and the air is so clear that we'll be able to see right along the coast to Cap Ferrat and beyond. "Christos voskres." Yes, that's a phrase we shall certainly hear a lot today, especially as the Orthodox and Western celebrations of Easter coincide this year.

Note

Fontana Rosa (Menton)

It is more than forty years since the Ibáñez family gave Fontana Rosa to the town of Menton. Ibáñez was born in Valencia, and many of his novels are set in the Valencia region. He spent the final six years of his life in Menton, the most Italianate of the French Riviera towns, and during those last years his creative energy took a different turn. He dabbled in travel writing.

Magazine article

Close encounters: Brittany

by Patricia Stoughton

The church enclosures of Finistère are spectacular pieces of architecture, marking progress from the material world (the village beyond the church) to a more spiritual realm. Patricia Stoughton has been exploring the far end of Brittany to unravel the symbolism and stories of the enclos paroissiaux (parish closes).

Magazine article

Border assets: travels on the frontier

by Nicky Gardner

Borders have become something of a rarity in modern Europe. We can now travel by car from northern Norway to the Mediterranean without ever once having to show a passport. Political frontiers have faded, yet cultural frontiers remain. We reflect on the role of borders in Europe today and note how erstwhile lines of division are now recast as assets for the future.

Blog post

Issue 200: the Jardin Villemin

A few days ago, we sped from London to Paris on Eurostar, a journey of some five hundred kilometres, in little over two hours. It is very fast, and always leaves us feeling just a little bit breathless. So on arrival in Paris we went as always to the Jardin Villemin.

Magazine article

The mystery of the mikveh

by Nicky Gardner

The mikveh (or ritual bathing pool) is a key part of Jewish culture, an intimate part of Orthodox Jewish life that is hidden from the public gaze. We take a look at mediaeval and modern mikveh'ot across Europe.

Magazine article

Cruise ferry update

by hidden europe

Catamarans compete for space with whales and dolphins in the crowded sea lanes off the south coast of Spain. Space is tight in some European waters as more travellers embrace ferry travel and an efficient and relaxing way of getting around.

Note

Fair fares: by train across Europe

A few days ago I travelled by train from the Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde to Ewell in England, just south of London. In total I paid 55 euros for the entire 15-hour train journey of 1393 km. Looking at the different fare components, I see that I travelled across Germany for less than one cent per kilometre.

Blog post

Border markers

We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border wilderness that divides Poland from Belarus. It marks one of Europe's great divides: the Curzon Line.

Blog post

Lost maritime links

Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, not a lot of travellers from England will be visiting Boulogne this winter, for today sees the withdrawal of the sole remaining ferry link between England and Boulogne.

Note

A matter of class: changes at Eurostar

There are a few changes on Eurostar this week with the introduction of a new Standard Premier class on services linking London with Brussels and Paris. Standard Premier replaces Leisure Select as the middle tier of the three class service on Eurostar's capital city services.

Blog post

The politics of heritage

Albi, Downe, Bikini Atoll and the Putorana Plateau are all in competition with each other next week as UNESCO gears up to announce a new round of World Heritage Sites. Securing a place on the World Heritage List can lead to a big boost in tourism revenue, but not everywhere that is on the list automatically becomes hugely popular.

Magazine article

The road to Latte

by Nicky Gardner

Border regions in Europe are always fascinating. Travel east from the French town of Menton and in no time you reach the Italian frontier. The first place of any size on the Italian side of the border is Latte di Ventimglia. We follow the road to Latte, looking at how the Italian village has been framed in the Menton imagination. In a time of cholera, Latte housed a large border internment camp. Now it is a favoured spot for discount shopping.

Magazine article

Southbound: Europe's car trains

by Nicky Gardner

In the early days of train travel, landed gentry and the well-to-do made arrangements with local rail companies to convey their horses and carriages on board the trains. Europe's car trains are the modern day incarnation of the same arrangement, a chance to take the car along when heading off on a long train journey. We take a look at some of Europe's car trains, including Europe's premier car train network operated by DB Autozug.

Magazine article

Sillitoe in Menton

by hidden europe

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of Sillitoe's writing, namely his travel prose.

Blog post

From Austerlitz to Solferino

A name seen or heard out of context can be a powerful provocation. Travelling through the hinterland of Munich a while back, our train paused at Dachau. At one level this was just one more railway station serving commuters in a rather overcrowded part of Bavaria. But the single word Dachau, innocuously proclaimed with an onboard announcement on our train, unleashed such a flurry of thoughts and emotions.

Blog post

Ligurian passion

The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this part of Italy, is still very evident today.

Blog post

Glimpses from the train

Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view dominated by the huge basilica at Esztergom.

Note

Ryanair's magic kingdom

Vatry is a nice enough spot, a village with its own aiport in the middle of nowhere. Yet Ryanair obviously judges that Vatry might be just the place where Paris-bound Scandinavians might like to land.

Blog post

The Baedeker legacy

"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers that also included such redoubtable names as John Murray and Thomas Cook.

Note

A cloud with a silver lining

The news that about seven million air travellers across Europe have had their travel plans disrupted over the last five days has captured the headlines. But let us get this in perspective. Well over one hundred million journeys are made every day on Europe's rail network.

Note

Sleeping through France

We had a visitor from Russia a while back who expressed surprise that rail passengers in western Europe make long daytime hops by train without having a place to take an afternoon nap. True indeed, but that seems set to change with the French railway operator SNCF now proposing to use night train stock on some daytime services in France.

Note

Music for the nation

Quite how we came to spend yesterday afternoon listening to a score or more national anthems from across Europe is a long tale - and one that need not detain us here. But it made us realise just how uninspiring is the music that accompanies many such anthems.

Note

The Euroferries saga

In the middle of last month we reported in our regular e-brief about Euroferries, the would-be cross Channel shipping operator that has yet to make a single crossing on its much publicised Ramsgate to Boulogne route. Now the saga continues.

Blog post

A trio of cat stories

Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras and in the English Channel the Euroferries saga continues.

Note

New 2010 train timetables

Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing link' in the country's main high speed axis is plugged.

Note

Plans for simpler train ticketing in Europe derailed

Back in the summer of 2007, a number of European rail operators founded Railteam, a promising new alliance that proudly announced that it would transform international rail ticketing in Europe - offering through fares at the press of a button between stations across Europe. Late last week, Railteam backtracked from this grand plan.

Blog post

The new age of the train

The French TGV train is nothing new, but the afternoon service from Strasbourg to Paris last Thursday happened to feature the very engines that two years ago broke the world rail speed record. Back in April 2007, the specially modified train reached a remarkable 574 kilometres per hour west of the Meuse river viaduct. We swept along the same stretch of line at a much more sedate 315 kilometres per hour.

Magazine article

Cross-border traffic: missing links

by hidden europe
Investments in cross-border roads in remote and rural areas of the European Union are much to be welcomed. But where are the bus services that should be plying those routes to connect communities across borders?
Magazine article

Luxembourg: Schengen realities

by Nicky Gardner

Schengen gave its name to two important European accords that paved the way for passport-free travel across much of Europe. Yet the Luxembourg village that gave its name to those treaties remains curiously unknown.

Blog post

Return to Wissembourg

The River Lauter bubbles happily through the town, nature is taking possession again of ancient ramparts where once the French kept watch for invaders and now this border town is a favoured destination for day trippers from Germany. But for me Wissembourg was the very embodiment of Gallic life, a fine introduction to a country that seemed deliciously foreign.

Magazine article

Taking the high road

by Nicky Gardner

France's Cime de la Bonette road is often feted as "la plus haute route d'Europe". But is this really true? We drive some of Europe's highest roads and track down the real record holders

Blog post

Joseph Roth - literary connections

When the Austrian-Jewish author Joseph Roth was born in Brody in 1894, the town was a Jewish shtetl in Galicia on the eastern edge of the K & K empire - a place beyond which Viennese influence gave way to more tsarist sentiments. Joseph Roth wrote much about people and places on the margins of society.

Magazine article

Not quite...goodbye, Lenin!

by Nicky Gardner

The former Russian leader may have slumped in the popularity stakes in recent years, but that doesn't mean that all the tributes to Lenin have disappeared. We explore a few Lenin museums.

Magazine article

Grave encounters

by Nicky Gardner

The symbolism of a grave often eclipses the transient mortal whose remains are interred therein. We visit some of Europe's more interesting graveyards.

Magazine article

Turbulent waters

by Nicky Gardner

Freight boats that take passengers, new routes and change aplenty as hidden europe reviews what's new in Europe's shipping schedules for 2007.

Magazine article

Marne-la-Vallée: pure fantasy

by Nicky Gardner

There is more to Marne-la-Vallée than Eurodisney. This Paris suburb boasts some remarkable architecture. Forget the rides at Eurodisney! Instead discovery fantasy of another kind in Les Espaces d'Abraxas.

Magazine article

Enough to make you eat your words

by Nicky Gardner

Ever been completely fazed by a foreign menu? Are there shepherds in shepherd's pie in England? And do they really eat toads in Yorkshire? We look at how the food on our plate says a lot about national identity.

Magazine article

Temples of pleasure

by Nicky Gardner

Many modern shopping centres are parodies of the elegant glazed arcades that were, in many nineteenth-century European cities, focal points for shopping and relaxation. From Brussels to Milan, Cardiff to Genoa the arcaded gallery became a byword for style. Many of the best still survive.

Magazine article

Slow travel: Europe by train

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that it is not compulsory to take the fast train? Comb the timetables, and you still find the lazy slowcoach of a train that dawdles from one country station to the next. We celebrate the delights of the slow train.

Magazine article

Jewish legacies in southeast France

by Peter Wortsman

The vestiges of Jewish life and culture are waiting to be discovered in southeast France. From hill towns in the Dauphiné to old synagogues in Cavaillon and Carpentras, there are remnants of Les Juifs du Pape (the Pope's Jews).

Magazine article

Not just face value: European charity stamps

by Nicky Gardner

Micro-donations to charity have been a feature of European postage stamps for over a century. Letter-writers have supported athletes, orphans and unemployed intellectuals - as well as clothing naked Swedish soldiers - by buying charity stamps.

Magazine article

Expo architecture

by Nicky Gardner

Expo is back in the news with Milan having just been selected to host the 2015 World Fair. At their best, Expos have served as a boost to imaginative urban regeneration. We look at the Expo legacy in various European cities.

Magazine article

The heart of nations

by hidden europe

"We may no longer be officially the centre of England" says a lady in Meriden in the English Midlands. "But we are undoubtedly at the heart of the country." Join us as we ponder on the heart of nations.

Magazine article

Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly Isles, Isole Tremiti in the Adriatic and the Gulf of Finland.

Magazine article

In praise of limestone

by Nicky Gardner

A new edition of Helen Martin's book on the Lot region of southwest France is much to be welcomed. Textured prose that nicely evokes a sense of the region's limestone landscapes. Get a flavour of this new edition.

Magazine article

Eurostar: connecting the continent

by Nicky Gardner

Had you realised that you can leave London by train this afternoon, and with just a single change of train in Paris, be in Berlin, Barcelona, Venice or Munich by tomorrow morning? Crossing the English Channel today is a whole lot easier than it was when Jean Blanchard made the journey by balloon in 1785.

Magazine article

Blessed bread

by hidden europe

The rituals of religion take a strange turn in the Savoie village of Bramans in the French Alps. We report on the significance of the pain bénit (blessed bread) festival that is held in Bramans on 15 August each year.

Magazine article

Angouleme - murs peints

by Rudolf Abraham

The city of Angoulême in the Charente valley is home to one of France's most distinctive art form: the bande dessinée or comic strip. Guest contributor Rudolf Abraham introduces us to this extraordinary city.

Blog post

Channel crossings

Calais' modern port is a model of efficiency. We travelled with P&O Ferries across the Dover Strait, enjoying the considerable comforts on board the Pride of Burgundy. Channel crossing by boat can be a great pleasure.

Blog post

New links across Schengen borders

The burden of having to show a passport at a border was never an onerous one (assuming you had an EU passport of course), but it still presented a psychological barrier. Now cross-border excursions for shopping or sightseeing are becoming ever more common. And Europe's new-found enthusiasm for border hopping is mirrored in a growing range of cross-border transport links.

Blog post

Roma gather in the Camargue

Summer has come early to northern Greece this year, and several warm sunny days with still air have left a hazy pall of pollution over Thessaloní­ki. But the hinterland of the city still packs a few surprises. Just north of the ring road is the small town of Langadhás, which this week comes alive for the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helen.

Blog post

Western Europe by train

Mid-morning saw hidden europe on the train that trundled west from Breckland across to the Fens. When the late eighteenth-century author William Gilpin travelled through Norfolk and Suffolk, he described Breckland as "an absolute desert" - this sandy heathland was doubtless the very antithesis of the idealised picturesque landscapes of which Gilpin was so fond.

Blog post

Pyrenean borders

In the heart of the Pyrenees, just to the east of Andorra, lies a great depression in the mountains that is a sunny oasis of fertile soils in an otherwise rather wild region. It is known as Cerdanya on the Spanish side and Cerdagne on the French side of the frontier. Not a lot of folk head for Cerdanya as a primary destination, but many pass through en route to ski slopes, mountain resorts and of course Andorra.

Blog post

Railway schedules: a look ahead

It is years since the blue and white sleeping cars of Russian Railways (RZD) have been seen in the Netherlands, Switzerland or Bavaria but all three look set to feature on a daily basis in the RZD schedules for 2008. A major revamping of east-west night train services will create a raft of new journey options.

Blog post

Hints of the desert

The land around the Cabo de Gata really does include many classic elements of desert terrain: a nice volcanic mesa, little alluvial fans and of course sand dunes. It is a landscape that has stood in for both the American West and the Middle East on the silver screen. Not just spaghetti westerns, but also many scenes in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. In the September 2007 issue of hidden europe magazine we shall take a look at the ways in which film directors create their own geographies.

Blog post

Paris and the Orient Express

At five o'clock tomorrow afternoon, the concourse at Paris Gare de L'Est will surely be as crowded as ever it is on a busy Friday. Passengers will rush through the magnificent railway station booking hall, scarcely noticing the amazing painting that hangs here: a view of the Gare de L'Est as soldiers were leaving for war in 1914. The 5.17 pm train will probably leave on time; it usually does.

Blog post

Port Grimaud (France)

To drive the main coastal road west from the French-Italian border along France's Riviera coast is an essay in chic exclusivity: Antibes, Cannes, Ste-Maxime and so on. Not quite hidden europe territory. Most travellers speed through Port Grimaud at the head of the Golfe de St Tropez without even noticing it. Just one more of those spots with a fleet of yachts and too many people with too much money.

Blog post

Lost communities: France, Russia and more

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The modern world's voracious appetite for water has spelt the death knell for many communities. On Russia's Volga River, the great Rybinsk dam project in the 1940s led to the flooding of a huge area, engulfing over a hundred villages and the entire city of Mologa.

Blog post

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (France)

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is a little part of Europe outside Europe, territorial outposts of France that speak French and use the euro as their standard currency; they are vestiges of a once rich French presence in North America. With a population of some six thousand, mainly on the largest island (Saint-Pierre), the islands have long since abandoned their over-reliance on fishing to create a more diverse economy that fosters agriculture and tourism.

Blog post

European lazarets

In more recent centuries, the island of Comino, off the coast of Malta, served as an isolation hospital. The great archipelago off Finland's southwest coast includes the tiny island of Seili, which for over three centuries was a hospital, initially serving as a leper colony and later for those suffering from mental incapacity.

Blog post

La Brigue / Briga (French-Italian Border) - hidden europe 7

With all eyes on Turin and the Piedmont Alps this week, hidden europe escaped the glitz of the Winter Olympics and went off in search of some curiosities on the French-Italian border. It is a three hour journey down to the Mediterranean coast on the morning train that departs bang on time from Turin's monumental Porta Nuova station.

Blog post

The 'other' Channel Islands (France) - the Barents Sea

As always at this time of year, the calm of winter isolation has settled on the Iles Chausey. Most of the population have shuttered up their houses and left Chausey for the mainland. Only the real chausias remain, less than a dozen in number. The ferry from Granville on the coast of Normandy that brings in so many summer visitors has dropped back to its winter schedule with just two crossings a week.

Blog post

Liechtenstein cows - Schengen (Luxembourg) - hidden europe 5 contents

For Liechtenstein's cows, 2005 has not been the easiest of years. The bovine population of the Alpine principality used to be the most laid back cows in Europe. Since a government crackdown earlier this year, the cows are no longer regularly fed hemp, an animal husbandry practice that ensured that the cannabis satiated creatures were the happiest cows on the planet.

Blog post

Saltholm, Denmark - Corsica - Moldova Wine Festival

The upcoming days see a couple of quirky festivals in Corsica, each marking the Catholic feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September. At Lavasina, in Corsica's north-east corner, locals gather on the beach for midnight Mass in honour of the gifted Madonna who allegedly regularly intervenes in village affairs for the general good of the community.