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There’s no better way to see the countryside and dramatic landscapes of Europe than a rail journey. That’s why we opted to take a train to get to Vienna, Austria for our 5th Amadeus Rail Forum. Rather than take the 2 hour flight from Nice we went for the 17 hour train journey from Antibes to really get into the swing of things.
We (me and my two colleagues Eve-Marie and Katrin) decided to split the planning duties and take a sales channel each, then record what we found while planning the trip. We gave ourselves some selection criteria: treat it like a first time traveller and only chose day trips so we can take in the countryside as it rolls by.
Now many of you will think that the journey starts when you board, but I beg to differ, it’s from the time you start planning the trip. So, I try to book via the SNCF website from Grasse (my local station) all the way to Vienna – it provides me with one option but it’s a night train. It doesn’t give me anything earlier and also warns me that for international trains there is no guarantee of a seat? Not very reassuring to say the least.
As a first time traveler, I don’t know the names of the railway companies in Italy so I’ve done a google search which returns an interesting site www.seat61.com that helps me search for tickets. It points me to the Trenitalia website and because I need seat assignment.
So, I go ahead and make my selection; it offers me a day trip which is what I want, and the itinerary is Ventimiglia, Milan, Venice, Vienna and it's a 16 hour journey, not that bad really and I can imagine that the scenery will be worth the trip.
I go through the booking process and end up with 3 tickets seated together. As I can only book from Ventimiglia, I still have to go back to SNCF to book the train that gets me to Italy, but instead decide to buy at the station on the day of departure.
In terms of timing this took me 45 minutes, that’s quite a long time.
My colleagues used a self-booking tool, a station, a travel agent and checked out some online retailers, and to see how they got on watch the video of the planning and the trip below.
Incredibly each channel offered a different route, some with no way to book, some travelling over 24 hours via Paris and some stopping on the German border!
So in the end we opted for the France, Italy, Austria route.
Well we had set ourselves up with a day journey by rail across France, Italy and Austria to Vienna . Roughly 17 hours in total but there were three of us, so time would go quickly…wouldn’t it?
We were due to attend the rail forum in 2 days and there was one concern that could jeopardize us getting there in time for setup and rehearsals. We had a 15 minutes connection in Milan, but we had faith in the system so we crossed our fingers and went for it.
We bought our France to Italy ticket at the station and left Antibes at 06.26 on our way to Ventimiglia (our first change of the day) the rising sun greeted us over the sea and the views across the Mediterranean were breathtaking.
Off we set on our next train, an InterCity on its way to Milan. I already had the rail e-ticket for this leg of the journey, so we settled down in our compartment while the train carried us into Genoa where it headed back up into the countryside.
Remember the 15 minutes connection time?
Well this was now being eaten up along the way and on arrival we had only 5 minutes to find the platform and our next connection a Frecciabianca (white arrow). We jumped off the train looking for the platform number and from the large timetable screen saw that it was number 10. My colleague Katrin took control and like a human bowling ball carved a way through the masses on her way to platform 18, myself and Eve-Marie thankfully followed in her wake.
We made the connection with a minute to spare only for the train to hang on for more stragglers, but who cares, we were on our way to Venice and the steward served us a snack and a glass of Italian white wine – time to relax.
We were able to continue our preparation for the rail forum using the table as our work desk, this trip was proving to be very productive and the hours flew by, or should I say, rolled by.
Our next change from Venice to Vienna would be our longest leg, 7 hours from start to finish on a EuroCity, but thankfully our compartment was extremely comfortable.
At Vienna we had to print our ticket for the cross-border leg. This meant typing in full name and PNR# for the rail ticket kiosk to provide us with an ATB type ticket for the rest of the journey.
The views were now pretty spectacular, the Carnic Alps started to grow before us and we winded our way through the beautiful scenery and on our way to Vienna. We arrived on time at 23:40 with some great memories and also much work done to prepare ourselves for the forum.