Enough has been said about the charms of travel by trains and many a traveller has waxed eloquently about the delights of journey through Europe by trains. Of course the imaginative mind immediately conjures up images of chance encounters, thrilling adventures and the like, well portrayed in several books and films. Mountain trains add an all new dimension to the experience of a traveller, one that seeks solitude and probably little adventure than to immerse oneself in the journey than the destination. In one such journey over destination preference, I planned on taking the little known “Train des Merveilles” from Nice to a mountain village called Tende in France.
Aptly named, the train of marvels, the train traverses through the Italian alps on the France-Italy border, passing through charming medieval villages and plenty of vineyards of the Roya valley. One can get off at any of the villages perched on the mountains on the way to Tende, the final destination on the train journey, depending one’s interest and luxury of time. The train takes about a couple of hours to reach Tende as it casually chugs along the numerous tunnels and gains on the steep gradient.
Getting off the train, I was greeted by the fresh Alpine air that filled my lungs in the tiny mountain village. This medieval village is an absolute stunner. The charm of these villages is in just wandering around and letting go. I walked into every possible nook and cranny of this village taking in the lovely scenes of the village until I wanted to rest my tired legs on a bench overlooking the alps after close to three hours. I had brought a picnic with me so it was just perfect to overlook the beautiful mountains in the backdrop of stone walled houses. The simplicity of it all – a train ride, a walk along the village and a sandwich filled me with an indescribable joy.
Oh hello, a cute little cat (actually in this part of France, it is not at all unusual to find plenty of these furry balls) grazed my leg as I was looking into the yonder. It broke my reverie and I wanted to squish the guy in my arms. It was an impromptu feeling to just follow him and the cat led me to an old church in the village. What a lovely discovery! In an almost Murakami fashion, I peeped into the church and the cat had disappeared when I looked around. I guess it was a zen experience for me to just see the church. After a bit more of wandering around, I headed back to the station. It was quite windy at the station. Fortunately, I had brought a light sweater with me. There was not a soul in sight at the station. It felt strangely comforting! The train started right on time and I returned to Nice. A perfect day trip – Lots of walking around, a zen adventure with a cat and a very relaxed sojourn.