Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield nears the end of of a recent visit to France while writing the script for the next Round the World Dinner
EVENING WITH LOCALS
In the pretty French riverside town of Vienne, I walk the cobblestone laneways in the warm evening, pass the Roman theatre and end up eating outside with locals at Le Simone’s cafe. The best of France. A simple, authentic experience.
THINGS PEOPLE ASK
I’ve been in a favourite part of southern France, travelling on the Rhone between Arles, Avignon and Lyon on the Viking Heimdal river cruise ship. And I’ve been with 39 people on our Travel Club Tour, in partnership with Viking. Cruise director Jerome Sueur lists the five most unusual questions asked during his 15 years on river and cruise ships:
“Do the stairs go up or down?”
“Does this ship make its own electricity?” (He’s tempted to answer that it doesn’t — there’s a long extension cable back to the town of departure.)
“Is the water in the toilet river water or fresh water?” (Does it matter?)
“Do we need to leave the ship to go on shore excursions?”
“Does the crew sleep on board?” (He’s tempted to reply that they don’t — they commute each day.)
HOLIDAYS IN FRANCE
Summer in France means, of course, that the French are on holiday, too, heading down the N7 highway from north to south . . . the “National 7” . . . a memory-filled route that has defined summer for generations of French people.
“We have five weeks holiday a year in France. It is difficult being French. We need the extra rest.” — guide Ghislain Bons last week in Tournon.
AIR & RAIL
. . . as I write this, I’m sitting at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, waiting to fly home. I caught the TGV high-speed train from Lyon direct to Terminal 2. Nice. Even nicer is that the train is run by SNCF, which has a partnership with Emirates.
The train is listed on my E-ticket, with my flights. At Lyon station, there’s a “Train and Air” office, which issues a train ticket with the carriage and seat number. (Look for information on the screens and make sure you’re standing in the right spot when the train pulls up.) The partnerships cover routes between the TGV station at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and 19 train stations, including Avignon, Bordeaux, Champagne and Marseilles.
ITALY BY TRAIN
New initiatives between Trenitalia and the Italian National Tourist Board have made inter-city train travel easier for visitors in Italy. Intercity trains have added more than 75 new stops including the Ligurian Riviera, Sicily and the Adriatic Coast. The trains have a 24-seat carriage for groups, more spacious bathrooms, extra charging ports and 600 bicycle spaces a day.
Were I to draw up a list of my least favourite airports in the world, Charles de Gaulle would be there. But not today. I walk through from the train, join a short, fast-moving queue at check-in and then progress to automatic passport control. It all takes just a few minutes, really. When I get to the main security check, there’s a huge, snaking queue, but even that passes smoothly and surprisingly quickly. I walk to the end of the row of gates by C81, to the familiar “rest area” photographed here, and it’s empty. I plug my laptop into the power, join the free wi-fi and here’s this column. CDG has just moved off my “least wanted list”.
A380 COMING BACK
From December 1, Emirates reintroduces the A380 for flights between Perth and Dubai. That gives close to 500 seats available on each flight — much needed, with high demand and full flights.
It will replace the daily Boeing 777-300ER. EK421 departs Perth at 10.20pm, arriving in Dubai at 5.25am the following day, and the return flight, EK420 from Dubai, departs at 2.45am, arriving in Perth at 5.20pm. Emirates ia celebrating 20 years of flying to Perth.
IN THE WILD
While I’ve been in France, the country has been transfixed by the beluga whale, which strayed into the river Seine. It was euthanised after its failing condition deteriorated.
A French woman has been hospitalised and a polar bear shot dead after the bear attacked her on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago Svalbard. She was one of 25 people staying at a tented camp in Nordfjorden.
A dolphin has been biting swimmers off a Japanese beach. Japanese officials believe the same dolphin is responsible for at least six attacks this summer at Koshino Beach, near the western city of Fukui.
A hot booking favourite for Imagine Holidays at the moment is the Northern Lights Discovery Cruise & Scandinavia Stays package. There are still places for this 16-night holiday from November 16, 2022. It is from $5999 per person, twin share. That includes all flights and taxes, a two-night stay in Oslo, one night in Bergen and two nights in Copenhagen. All hotels are four-star and breakfast is included. Then there is the 11-night cruise of Norway and the Arctic on board a Hurtigruten ship, with all meals. There is an English-speaking tour leader. imagineholidays.com.au and 1800 958 405
Dates have just been released for 2023, with 15 departures throughout the year, from January to December 2023, from $6299 to $7499 per person, twin share, depending on dates.
A new app called Tide Alert has just been released for Australia in the Apple App store. It has been in development by Sivaprasad for many years and predicts high and low tides for months in advance.
ROUND THE WORLD
An apology to the person sitting in 68J on the flight home this week. I was next to them, tapping on my laptop keys. But I got to grips with the script for our Round the World Dinner on October 13 — and there’s nothing better than “writing on the road”. Being in transit heightens the senses and the sense of humour. I have written all five performance pieces for our evening — Steve Richter will now compose the music to play live for each, and chef Costa Simatos is matching the food. We’re back home at The University Club of Western Australia — and it’s always good to come back home.
The evening is $150 per person for all drinks, food, stories and music, and $120 for Gold members of West Travel Club (it’s $49 to become Gold, and you can book two tickets). westtravelclub.com.au/events
It is presented in partnership with Imagine Holidays.
. . . and another apology. Not only do the “Vavalovians” who came with me to Antarctica quite a while back still have an annual reunion, but the “Penguins” who came on our Travel Club Tour to the great, white continent in 2019 do, too. I just missed it while I was in France. Excusez moi. S’il vous plait. I love the friendships that usually form on our trips.