Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris.
Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris. iStock

Splendour relived one of the great thrills of travellers

Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice on November 11, were world leaders, dignitaries and royalty.

They congregated in France in the rain for many commemorative events and Donald Trump didn't get his hair wet once.

Among the ceremonies and events - and you might have missed it - was a visit to Compiegne in the Picardy region of France, where the Armistice treaty was signed in a railway carriage in a clearing in the middle of a forest on November 11, 1918.

We had visited that train carriage (a replica now) in that forest just a year ago on a tour organised by crew on our European Waterways barge during a delightful canal cruise into the Picardy region.

We knew nothing of the railway carriage or the nearby museum featuring photos and replicas of tanks in WWI, nor did we know much about the signing of the Armistice. However, we took to learning from our guide and walked through the carriage - immaculately presented right down to the china and glassware on the table - but we were not awed by its significance then. We are now.

There is always a frisson of thrill when a destination you have visited comes up on the telly.

Of not the same significance as the Armistice signing, but still a small quiver was a recent 60 Minutes show featuring the still-curvy Pamela Anderson interviewed about her strange support for Julian Assange. The interview took place in the impossibly picturesque port of Cassis in the south of France, where we had spent an unforgettable week in July this year.

Even though it was hard to take the eyes off Anderson tripping prettily around the port in a pink gingham sundress, the real star was the Cassis backdrop.

Apparently Anderson lives in the hills above Cassis with her French soccer-playing boyfriend and she's a regular visitor to the small port.

Hundreds of bobbing watercraft, endless bistros packed with people eating moules, busy waiters in cafes serving Aperol Spritz, baskets of flowers hanging from poles - there was Cassis on the telly looking like a traveller's dream destination, a place that makes you want to shout, "I must go there". And we already had.

If this sounds smug, it is.

But there is more.

Even Mr Bean's Holiday movie caused pleasant conniptions in our household when he arrived at the Avignon TGV in the south of France, a train station we have visited at least 20 times and navigated our nervous way out of in a hire car on to the busy streets of Avignon.


The famous Boulevard de la Croisette.
The famous Boulevard de la Croisette. iStock

"Look, we've been there," we shouted at the telly. "There's the street where we made a wrong turn. Look at those leafy plane trees ... I want to go back."

When Mr Bean arrived in Cannes for the film festival, our excitement frothed over. There was the Boulevard de la Croisette we had so recently walked. We caught glimpses of cafes where we had sipped pink wine, a designer shop we were too scared to go into. It was almost as good as being there again.

In the same movie Mr Bean dined at the gilded Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris, and yes, we had been there recently as well.

You might remember the scene where Mr Bean was so horrified by the plate of oysters presented to him, he slipped them one by one into the handbag of a lady at the next table.

"We've been to Le Train Bleu," we shouted at each other as we recognised the sheer opulence of the restaurant. We were like over-excited children on Christmas morning. Le Train Bleu is all about Belle Epoch glamour: chandeliers, frescoed-ceilings, French formality and gastronomic pleasure. In a railway station.

P.S. Small apologies for all this showing off, but the flashes on the telly of places you have visited is all part of traveller's excitement.


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