Soon after moving to a new apartment in Grenoble we leave the cardboard box mess behind and go for a two-week Interrail trip. It took us to Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallinn, Warsaw, Wien, Ljubljana, Trieste, and Padova between December 19 and January 3. We passed through many other places changing trains, buses, and ferries, like Basel, Hamburg, Stockholm, and Vilnius.
We stay in Helsinki just for a couple of days our main mission being to empty the cellar of our former apartment, which already has a new owner. We also visit a relatively new Szechuan restaurant with our friends. The flavors are quite authentic, but the dishes not quite as spicy hot as one can find in Shanghai.
On Christmas Eve we make a quick trip to Tampere to have Christmas dinner with Tei's mother. That is a tough call, since very few place are open --- we have to resort to a chain hotel's Christmas buffet.
Before midnight we take a bus from Tallinn to Warsaw. The whole trip takes about 16 hours, with a connection in Vilnius at 5am. It is a very comfortable bus ride, and we have a good night's sleep; the seats recline well and we have plenty of leg space, especially in Lux Express from Vilnius to Warsaw. It is like being in the business class on an air-plane.
We have dinner at Most, a place recommended by our host --- he said all his guests had liked the place. For starters we have scallops (pictured) and pepper soup with crab, and for the mains beef with black truffle, and lamb with chilli pepper and potatoes. All with a local (red) wine variety teran.
From Ljubljana we take the train to Villa Opicina in Italy. We had been informed that from there we can take a bus to Trieste --- there is no direct train connection. When we get off the train we are a bit lost since we don't see a bus or any other connection. A kind train conductor just finishing his shift offers us a ride to the town, where we can take a tram/funicular to Trieste.
We take the tram to Opicina for sightseeing.
The tram is a hybrid of tram and funicular trailway. From Wikipedia:
"For most of the journey, the line operates as a conventional, electrically powered tramway, with a mixture of street running and reserved track. On the steepest section of the line, between Piazza Scorcola and Vetta Scorcola, the trams are pushed uphill and braked downhill by a pair of cable tractors that operate on funicular principles."
It is new year's eve, and we have not booked a table for dinner. We find out that there is one restaurant that is open and does not take reservations, Fratelli La Bufala. We are lucky since after a ten-minute wait our two-member party is escorted to the table.
Next morning we are in Padova, Italy. We stay near the railway station at an apartment renovated in a former industrial building. All structures and decorations are creatively constructed from recycled materials.
Monumento Memoria e Luce --- 9/11 memorial at night. It was designed by Studio Libeskind (the same architect who designed the apartment complex we last stayed in Singapore: Reflections at Keppel bay). It contains a twisted steel beam that was salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center and donated by the USA to Veneto region.
We spend a few hours in Turin, and have lunch at a place we have found good before, Crudo Osteria Contemporare, near Piazza Castello.
From Turin we take a bus to Chambery, France (one cannot buy international train tickets in Italy but through a travel agent), and then a train from Chambery to Grenoble.