From the Orient Express to the Trans-Siberian, European train trips have inspired countless storytellers and adventurers. Travelling by train means being able to see the land unfold before you. It allows the commute to be part of the full experience, rather than a means to an end. Fortunately, there are many train lines that still operate across Europe, and even the modern traveller can take part in this age-old tradition.
In conjunction with Hotel Indigo and Matador Network, American videographer Blaze Nowara gave train travel a try. He began his journey in London and made his way through Paris, Berlin and Kraków—four major cities, five days, and two cameras to record it all. Along the way, Nowara documented his discoveries in food, drinks, and points of interest. His first two stops were London and Paris.
Train trips in Europe: part 1
1st stop: London like a West Londoner
West London is often associated with heavy foot traffic and overly clichéd tourist traps. Nowara focused instead on exploring a few of the secret gems of the neighbourhood. His first stop was the Leighton House Museum, the former 19th-century house of British artist Lord Frederik Leighton. His abode features a stunning Arabic hall, a light-filled studio, and his private collection.
He then enjoyed an afternoon out in Holland Park, the preferred park of true West Londoners. Like its more famous counterparts, Hyde Park and Regents Park, Holland Park has charming English squirrels, a venerable manor, and manicured hedges. But unlike the others, Holland Park also boasts two Japanese gardens, a theatre, the elegant Belvedere Restaurant, and peacocks that roam the grounds. It is quintessentially West London.
Nowara also stopped in at Jeroboams, one of the best wine and cheese shops in the area. It is conveniently located next to the Holland Park Underground station. After a restful night at the Hotel Indigo London – Kensington, Nowara was on his way to Paris, but not before a glass of wine in the garden at Troubadour Wine Bar, a hidden gem near Earl’s Court.
Pro Tip: Get a visitor Oyster card and top it up to take advantage of the Underground system—it’s the cheapest and quickest way to travel around the capital. To know which line to take where, check Citymapper – it’s what Londoners do.
2nd stop: Paris with a true Parisian
After checking into his room at the Hotel Indigo Paris – Opera, Nowara spent his sunny morning at the Jardin des Tuileries, the beautiful garden that leads to the famous Louvre Museum. Sit by a fountain or grab one of the chairs and move it where you would like—that’s why they are there. Rather than revisit the Louvre, opt to admire art in a different form.
Walk through Passage Brady, a stunning covered gallery, which is still home to artisan shops and pâtisseries. More such galleries are dotted around the Grands Boulevards — look for them on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, les Capucines or Haussmann.
Nowara then headed to Place de la Madeleine for some midday snacks. The tea box-lined shelves of the Mariages Frères shop will take you back in time, while the nearby Hediard and Fauchon shops are some of the best fine foods stops in the city. For proper French fare, Nowara dined at Bouillon Chartier, a century-old blue collar canteen that still serves traditional dishes like escargot.
Pro Tip: Dine like a true Parisien and sit outside. Charming terraces line almost all of Paris’s main streets and most provide heating during colder seasons. This is where Parisians practice their well-known art of people-watching. Alternatively, have a meal at a Chef’s bistrot Place du Faubourg St Honoré. They are the more affordable eateries of Michelin-starred Grand Chefs, allowing for a taste of their specialities at a fraction of the price.