View Full Version : Palermo, Venice, Paris in October

Jim Andrada
16-Mar-2018, 21:08
Looking for suggestions, comments etc.

My wife and I, along with two friends from Tokyo, will be spending 10 days in and around Palermo and the western end of Sicily in the 2nd half of October. We may have a rental car for a couple of days or more, not decided yet. From there we'll fly to Venice for a couple of nights and then take the overnight Orient Express to Paris, where we'll stay 4 or 5 nights before returning home. We plan to make a side trip to Mont St Michel and might stay overnight in the area with a rental car. My wife and I have been to Italy several times and speak Italian reasonably well (but of course in Sicily they speak Sicilian!) but have never been to either Sicily or Paris. We do have a Sicilian friend in Palermo whom we met in the US.

There will be two photographers, and two "anti-photographers" - of course the ladies, who can't understand why we want to waste time fooling with cameras when there's so much shopping to be done! (Sort of kidding, but only sort of...)

My wife has magnanimously allowed me to take one camera (but I'm sure she means one film camera and one digital camera, and of course the Minox is too small to count as a camera, and...) Probably because she remembers our trip to Japan a couple of years back where I took the 4 x 5 Technika, a Mamiya 645, a Canon 5D, a Canon C100 videocam, the Minox, and a Zeiss folder.

I'm tentatively planning to take the Technika. I have the hand grip and the sports finder and will have a couple of lenses cammed - probably the 100mm WF Ektar and the 203mm Ektar. Will probably also take the 5D III, but the Mamiya 7 would be lighter by a lot. One big advantage of course is that the 5D does take quite nice video, which will be good to have during the train trip. Will probably only take a couple of 4 x 5 holders as I mostly shoot 6 x 12 or 6 x 9 with a Sinar Vario adapter.

Any comments, suggestion, recommendations for thing to photograph would be more than welcome.


17-Mar-2018, 10:08
Jim - If I was going on the same trip I'd bring my Pentax 645NII and (possibly) my series 0 Gitzo. Having access to a car I would consider adding the Toyo 45CF (the tripod would then be required.) For lens, the 45-85 zoom for the Pentax http://https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1045492-REG/pentax_26725_45_85mm_f_4_5_smc_fa_645.html and the 150mm apo-sirona-S folded with the CF. Face it: The main order of business is going to see "sightseeing" and touring about. You don't want to be encumbered with a lot of photo gear.


Jim Andrada
17-Mar-2018, 11:32
Thanks Thomas. I'd thought of just taking the Mamiya 645 or Mamiya 7 plus a digicam of some type. But I'd really like to have at least 4 x 5 's of some of the Sicilian temples etc. The good news in a way is that we won't be making a move every day - basically staying in an apartment in Palermo for over a week and Paris for 4 - 5 nights. The only "short stay" will be Venezia (The Orient Express ticket includes a pick up by boat from the hotel to Santa Lucia station so not a lot of schlepping gear.) and maybe one night in Normandy. I think I'll just get the Technika cammed for one lens and have a try at using it handheld for a couple of weeks here in Tucson. The "sports" finder seems to work pretty well. I have to admit that one of the best pics from our Japan trip was taken with the 6 x 4.5 folding Zeiss and most of the others with the Mamiya 645. I managed to get all the gear in the camera bag but it was definitely hernia-inducing putting the 40 pound bag in the overhead and I want to avoid that this trip.

17-Mar-2018, 11:43
Then for the 4x5 I'd add the 90mm F8 Nikkor - very small and compact. I bought it for backpacking to replace the Rodenstock 900mm F4.5 which I still have but don't use it for backpacking because of its size. So for me, the Pentax 645NII with 45-85 AF zoom, Toyo 45CF with 150 and 90mm lens and the series 0 Gitzo.


Jim Andrada
17-Mar-2018, 12:38
90mm would be nice but I only have the SA 90 which is a bit bulky - 100mm WF EKTAR is small so I'll go with that. The 203 EKTAR is also small enough and I have a 150 G-claron, but I think I'll take the 180mm Dagor. It would be nice if I had a Dagor in the 135 - 150 range but I usually prefer somewhat longer lenses so I think the 180 will be just fine. Maybe just use the 100 and 180 handheld and carry the 270 Dagor for tripod use. Then the "dreaded" digicam - Canon 5DIII with 16 - 35 zoom and 70 - 200 (which really does weigh as much or more than the Technika. B&W for the Technika and digicam for color and video. I have a CF Gitzo Traveller with an FLM head - could use a smaller head for compactness, but the tripod is pretty small and light. Or just take the 100 mm and 180mm OR 203mm and be done with it. And maybe do what I used to do eons ago and do without a tripod head.

Emmanuel BIGLER
18-Mar-2018, 11:14
Hi Jim and congratulations for your European trip including a superb train cruise from Venice to Paris!

So far, I have not been able to find the exact itinerary followed by this very special train, the only thing, for sure, is that you'll have to cross the Alps at some point ;)
Not kidding, I do not know whether the train goes through Austria (Vienna? Innsbruck?) or through the Simplon tunnel, through Switzerland; this determines the actual route followed in France to reach Paris. Nevertheless, weather permitting, you'll enjoy magnificent scenery.

I won't comment about the choice of photographic equipment; regarding the Linhof Technika with a rollfilm back, you'll be able to find rollfilm and even 4x5 cut film in a few street shops in Paris downtown if necessary, but not en route to Mont St Michel by car for sure.
So plan ahead and think twice about your film stock and be prepared to cross a desert without any 120-film suppliers, except, may be, in Venice (???) and Paris.

A 5-day program in Paris would already be 200% full of photographic and shopping opportunitinies, not forgetting numerous museums and photographic exhibitions.

Now if you want to add a car trip to Mont Saint Michel, this is a good idea but do not underestimate travel time by car.

A quick look at the viamichelin(TM) route planner (https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Routes?departure=75001%20Paris%2001%2C%20France&departureId=31NDJ2dDYxMGNORGd1T0RZd01qUT1jTWk0ek5ERXhOdz09&arrival=50170%20Le%20Mont-Saint-Michel%2C%20France&arrivalId=31NDJsbm4xMGNORGd1TmpNMU1RPT1jTFRFdU5URXdOVFU9&index=0&vehicle=0&type=0&distance=km&currency=EUR&highway=false&toll=false&vignette=false&orc=false&crossing=true&caravan=false&shouldUseTraffic=false&car=hatchback&fuel=petrol&fuelCost=1.36&allowance=0&corridor=&departureDate=&arrivalDate=&fuelConsumption=)
suggests about 5-hour drive with 3 different possible routes; 2 routes using a (toll) motorway through either Rouen or Chartres, and another route in between both previous routes, without taking the motorway.

Rouen and Chartres offer magnificent cathedrals, Rouen's cathedral has been painted several times by Claude Monet, so if you are interested in XIXst century French painting, you might be interested by a "tripod hole" session at Rouen's cathedral.
On the other route, Chartres' cathedral is visible from very far away since the surroundings or Paris are very flat. This cathedral has famous windows, a challenge for any serious LF photographer ;)

Now regarding Mont St Michel itself, there have been recent changes in road and car access, and the famous monument is now an island again, a former solid jetty impeding the free circulation of sea water has been replaced by a bridge with restricted access. You can no longer reach the place by car, but there is a free shuttle bus service from various parking lots.


Mont Saint Michel Bay is famous for its highest tidal ranges in Western Europe, the Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada having the world record for tidal range. So depending on the time of the year when you come, you might enjoy some of those record tides. Going for a walk on sand at low tide around Mont Saint Michel can be dangerous, as the saying goes, water will come back "at the speed of a galloping horse".

The place can be overcrowded in summer, but outside this period, when you come at the end of October, it is certainly more quiet (and even quieter if it rains, Normandy is well-known for its wet climate suitable for apple growing and cider making, but remember that the driver should not drink, this will be a major difference with respect to your train cruise, where you'll be able to enjoy some good wines, as you wish ;) )
In short, be prepared to wet weather conditions in Normandy.

It is not impossible to reach Mont Saint Michel by train and bus from Paris, but the itinerary is a bit complicated, and overall travel time will exceed 6 hours since you'll need to take a train plus 2 connected buses; so a rented car will be definitely more convenient.

Enjoy your trip and do not hesitate to raise here any question you would have regarding your stay in Paris or in Normandy!

Tin Can
18-Mar-2018, 12:15
All I can say is you must be very healthy.

I do it differently. I stay a month in a city. Become almost a resident, develop friends.

I loved Venice in June, for a month. Never bored. Very safe. No cars.

Did a month in London. Montreal, etc.

My quick tour was in 1975. Many places. Paris was wonderful.

You make me want to travel!

Tin Can
18-Mar-2018, 12:46
Here's inside the train in 3 minutes on youtube. Paris to Venice overnight.

Sure wish USA had trains this nice.


Jim Andrada
18-Mar-2018, 16:26
Hi Emmanuel

Thanks much for your comments. We're thinking to take a train (TGV?) from Paris to Rennes and get a rental car there. We'd plan on leaving Paris shortly after breakfast and after picking up the car we'd drive around a bit and then stay in a hotel near Mont St Michel. Next day would be walking around the island and then return to Paris after lunch. Does that seem do-able? We could possibly stretch the time near MSM another day if you have some good idea of other things to see and do - I think the area is known for cheese and we love cheese so a cheese tour would be nice. I thought of trying to go to the American Cemetery but my wife doesn't like cemeteries. So I guess we'll skip it.

And even though the word "Simplon" is in the name of the train, it doesn't use the Simplon Tunnel anymore. Better scenery this way!!!

Hi Randy

Thanks for chiming in. You got the right idea but the wrong train. This is the train


The first or second English language book my wife (Japanese) read through from cover to cover was the Agatha Christie novel "Murder on the Orient Express", so naturally she wanted to ride the train. Of course it's "over the top"!!! And we didn't do anything special for our 25th so this will be a delayed celebration.

Emmanuel BIGLER
18-Mar-2018, 17:04
Hi Jim!

Regarding the Mont St Michel travel, your plans are the best and fastest since you'll take advantage of the high speed train to escape Paris quickly, avoiding traffic jams, same will apply on your return travel, traffic jams re-entering the Paris area can be a nightmare.
And then you'll only have a short and pleasant travel by car from the heart of Brittany in Rennes to the borders of Normandy where Mont Saint Michel is located. So doing like this is fine, you should go for it, you have a TGV train almost every hour between Paris and Rennes, travel time between 1h30 and 2h; and then travel time by car from Rennes to Mont Saint Michel is less than 2 hours and you can combine with a visit to Saint Malo, a very nice old city surrounded by walls.
The only uncertainty is about weather conditions in the 2nd half of October in Brittany and Normandy, but on the other hand, this might be a very good time to visit Sicily with less tourists than in (hot) Summer and September.
Palermo is located 38° North almost like San Francisco, CA, so from Palermo to Paris located 48°N , the difference in weather conditions can be similar to what can be experienced in autumn flying non stop from SFO, CA to Seattle, WA ;)

Regarding your train cruise, I'd be curious to know which is the itinerary. If the train does not cross the Simplon tunnel (one of the historical routes) and goes to Austria, I'd like to know the route followed by the train from Venice, probably you'll see the Dolomites area between Venice and Austria, a magnificent place worth in itself another visit. The Dolomites area is also not far from Bozen-Bolzano in Northern Italy close to the Austrian border, where DURST enlargers were made, certainly an important pilgrimage for every serious LF-er ;)

Tin Can
18-Mar-2018, 18:32
Jim, your wife is correct. What a train, what a trip.

I am big on trains. I study them, ride when possible and dream.

I want to take the Trans Canadian and Moscow to Vladivostok. The latter will not happen...

Bon voyage!

Jim Andrada
18-Mar-2018, 19:46
Hi Emmanuel

I THINK the train goes through Innsbruck but I'm not 100% sure. Some of them do, but from looking at their map it also seems that some don't.

I found an explanation on this page


In spite of its name, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express no longer uses the Simplon route via Lausanne, Brig & Milan. Instead, it runs overnight from Paris to Switzerland and you'll probably wake up just beyond Zurich. When I last took it, I found the train running alongside the sparkling waters of the Zürichsee or Walensee with a breathtaking mountain backdrop, heading for the Arlberg Pass then the Brenner - although from 2016 it travels via the Gotthard Pass to Milan, only using the Brenner and Arlberg northbound. A Continental breakfast of excellent coffee, juice and fresh croissant is served on a tray in your compartment by your sleeper attendant. When I took it, the train clipped a corner of Lichtenstein and entered Austria via the wonderfully scenic Arlberg Pass - which once gave its name to the Paris-Switzerland-Vienna Arlberg Orient Express which used this route. The VSOE turned right after Innsbruck, and as a 3-course lunch was served in the restaurant cars we headed into Italy via the almost equally scenic Brenner Pass to Verona, passing Padua and Venice Mestre before finally rumbling slowly across the 2km causeway to Venice Santa Lucia station on the banks of the Grand Canal in central Venice, just 15 minutes walk from the famous Rialto Bridge or 25 minutes walk from St Mark's Square.

Emmanuel BIGLER
19-Mar-2018, 15:29
From Randy
I am big on trains. I study them, ride when possible and dream.

Hi Randy.
So am I.
Since I discovered the German Bahn web site train ride planner (see below), I often use it to dream to improbable train, travels, including the legendary trans-siberian route; the German Bahn web site has almost everything European and Russian in its database, except, probably, the very special "private" train we are speaking about between Venice, Italy, and Paris, France.


| Station | Arr. | Dep. | Train No |
| Paris Est | | 18:55 | TGV 2077 |
| Strasbourg | 20:41 | 22:00 | EN 453 |
| Moskva Belorusskaja | 10:53 | | transfer |
| Moskva Iaroslavskaja | | 23:45 | D 2SZ |
| Vladivostok | 23:55 | | |
| Duration: 196:00 hours

Look at the above web link and try to organize your future trip from Paris, France, to Vladivostok, Russian federation: the German robot will give you the answer, immediately ;)


From Jim
I THINK the train goes through Innsbruck but I'm not 100% sure. Some of them do, but from looking at their map it also seems that some don't.

Thanks Jim, so very probably you'll cross the border between Italy and Austria at the Brenner pass (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenner_Railway). Much better than a tunnel; as far as sightseeing goes! However there is a major rail tunnel project to connect Italy to Austria by a record-length tunnel, the Brenner Base Tunnel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenner_Base_Tunnel)
Before that, you'll cross the DURST country at Bozen-Bolzano (the area is named Alto Adige in Italian, Südtirol (South Tyrol), as Austrians say, this is an old and painful European story; one century old, from WW-I; I let you discover what happened at the time) near Bolzano and then go to Inssbruck, then the Arlberg rail tunnel (opened in 1884) and then along the Walensee lake to Zurich, Switzerland.
This is a really magnificent route although you'll see nothing at night for many hours ;)
From Zurich I'm anticipating the train to go to Basel, Switzerland and then from Basel to Paris through the conventional Basel -> Paris train line which is now less used by French railways due to the opening of a new high speed train line following another route.
But here, in such a train cruise, high speed is not an issue: comparing the speed of digital photography to the slow approach of LF photography on a tripod is irrelevant!

Nevertheless, in short, from Venice to Basel, crossing the Alps through the Brenner region, Inssbruck, Zurich, the itinerary is superb, you'll enjoy it. And if the route is eventually different, no problem, we'll try to identify the itinerary as well!

I'm looking forward to read here, in November, your report about this superb travel!

Jim Andrada
19-Mar-2018, 19:06
Thanks much Emmanuel. Of course I'll make a write up when the trip is complete.

20-Mar-2018, 11:15
Since I discovered the German Bahn web site train ride planner (see below), I often use it to dream to improbable train, travels, including the legendary trans-siberian route; the German Bahn web site has almost everything European and Russian in its database, except, probably, the very special "private" train we are speaking about between Venice, Italy, and Paris, France.

Emmanuel - I'd love to take a trip like that! Do you know if a ticket can be purchased by bicycle tourists that allows one to disembark at scheduled stops and continue on a different train a day or so later with his bike? I've done a couple of month long bike tours in Europe but cycling and using the train is more appealing to me at this time in my life.


Jim Andrada
21-Mar-2018, 21:59
Hi Thomas. Have you thought about the bike/boat river cruises. My wife and I had thought about doing one before I became "bionic" (repaired lower back, new knee) but it will probably be quite a while before I'll feel up to a week of biking.

22-Mar-2018, 11:15
A few years back a spent a week or so touring from SEATAC to Anacortes and used the WA state Ferries to hop across and camp on the San Juan's, and then taking the ferry to Sidney, BC and biked down to Victoria where I took another ferry across the Strait to Port Angeles and the biked back to SEATAC taking the ferry across Puget Sound at Southworth. I was impressed with the Washington State Ferries and at one time considered touring the Alaskan coast using the ferries - getting off for a day or two and touring around on the bike - but I never followed-up on it. The trip that Emmanuel set-out above - starting in Paris (where I have never been) and ending in Russia (also where I have never been) is appealing if I can do it with my bike - getting off at interesting stops and spending a day or two touring with the bike and getting back on either at that location or maybe at the next stop on the route. Full time in the saddle is not as appealing as it once was.


Daniel Casper Lohenstein
25-Mar-2018, 09:03
Hello Jim,

let me answer you.

I once lived in Paris during my studies in art history, and in Venice, too. I already hiked with cameras in Bretagne (Quimper, Mont St. Michel, St. Malo) as well as in Normandy (Bayeux, Caen, Rouen, Falaises).

You have chosen some of the most romantic places in Europe, and you want to connect these places with a great train experience and the freedom of driving around in a car. Distances are not so wide. You will be happy, Congratulations!

But here are some b-minors:

In Venice they're waiting for you and your camera. They will steal you anything they could sold, as soon as possible, perhaps already in the train station, at least on the vaporetto, so don't bring in your Linhof, don't bring in any precious gear, they're waiting for your delivery. They got razor blades to cut your sac on the bottom, then thy let fall everything in a plastic sac, the plastic sac will be given to the neighbor, even on a vaporetto boat, that ususally is too crowded to find out who has the gear.

Given the fact that there are zillions of tourist searching to protect their gear and staing in a huge knot of people you should free yourself with a little 6x6 folding camera eg. Zeiss Ikonta or a Voigtländer Perkeo II (I adore it!) with an excellent Color-Vaskar (equals a Zeiss Tessar or a Schneider Kreuznach Xenar, 4 lenses). Take a good exposure meter with you, an incident light meter like the admirable Sekonic L28c will be the best thing. Then you can swarm around. You will have nothing to lose. There are places in Venice where no tourist ever will come to, and there are the best trattorias and the most interesting artworks and the most pittoresque channels with real inhabitants, who are quite frendly and interested whenever someone is interested in them, too.

The same in Paris. I don't know wether you want to do sightseeing. To take good pictures of the monuments you should be there at six in the morning. At eight there will be the first zillions of visitors with their loud speaking guides. At six in the morning you can take your Linhof out of your bag, even at Sacre Coeur / Montmartre, but just mind that Paris isn't tripod-friendly at all. If you take the metro you will pass trough small entrance doors and there will be non-smiling soldiers with machine guns examining every suspect individual with a huge tripod and a great camera. French soldiers are quite severe ... So if you want to have some bizarre Pierre Richard moments, just do it, otherwise let it be. - Paris in the morning hour, with a café crème or an anisette in a bar near a train station, some cigarettes, watching PMU in Vincennes, taking photographs of the younger Parisiennes, out of the hip, with a Minox, your folder or a Rollei 35S, loaded with TRIX, that's it.

Palermo: isn't it in Italy, in the south? If you want to do some shots of the Etna or the landscape, then a Linhof could be great, like the Mont St. Michel in Bretagne. But if you stay on the hotspots, you should consider what I told you about Venice. Perhaps a Mamiya 7 would be nice, too. I would use the Mamiya 7 outside the towns, outside the tourist centers. But I would store it in a very old bag and let it in the hotel safe in Paris and Venice.

What about a little Mamiya C33 or C220? One size fits all.



Jim Andrada
25-Mar-2018, 13:38
Maybe I should just take a 2 x 3 Graflex...

Daniel Casper Lohenstein
25-Mar-2018, 14:11
Maybe I should just take a 2 x 3 Graflex...

This is a great idea.

You have tilt and shift and you can contemplate about your pictures.
You can change the roll film backs doing color and b&w.
It looks quite old and everybody will think you're an old-technique-aficionado.
Given a sharp lens, eg. a Fujinon NW 5.6/125, you will produce enlargeble negatives.
Two additional lenses with 46mm - 49mm filter size aren't heavy, e.g. Rodenstock Sironar N 5,6/150 or a Fujinon NW 5.6/105.
It folds to a compact size and the thing will be quite sturdy when closed.
All this will fit in a small insert, e.g. Tenba Byob 10.
If you have got a rangefinder, you can act quickly, and without a tripod to focus via ground glass - this is important when doing snap shots and street photography.
It is light weight: about 2000g with 2 magazines and one lens.
You could do great macros in Sicily and France.
You can use a light weight Gitzo Weekend 0-series or a Cullman Mundo 522, 900-1300g with smallish dimensions.
-- A drawback: changing ground glass to roll film holder ist fiddly, and everybody sees you when your under your focusing cloth. - If you don't have a range finder ...
Another great option for your trip would be one of these fantastic Fuji 690 texas leicas, or a really great and foldable Voigtländer Bessa II 6x9 with Color Heliar or Apo-Lanthar ...


Jim Andrada
25-Mar-2018, 15:20
Actually I meant my 2 x 3 Graflex SLR with the big hood and waist level focus. But the idea of a 2 x 3 Crown isn't so bad - they're available pretty inexpensively and I already have a 4 x 5 version that I like. If someone steals it it isn't a huge loss financially.

And I ALWAYS take my Minox B when I travel.

25-Mar-2018, 18:09
The basilica of St. Denis is close to a subway even though it is in a high crime area. But it is the home of the tombs of royalty, early gothic and has a fantastic crypt which was very tripod friendly when I was there as was the upstairs.

Emmanuel BIGLER
26-Mar-2018, 08:52
From Thomas:

Do you know if a ticket can be purchased by bicycle tourists that allows one to disembark at scheduled stops and continue on a different train a day or so later with his bike? I've done a couple of month long bike tours in Europe but cycling and using the train is more appealing to me at this time in my life.

Sorry for a long digression wth respect to the Venice-Paris train cruise ;)

Well, regarding the Russian federation, I have absolutely no idea! I have even no idea of the availability of paved roads close enough to the trans-siberian train line, so that you can leave the train for a while, travel by bicycle, and board it again. In Russia, distances are formidable!

Regarding Western Europe, not all trains allow to board a train with a bicycle loaded with personal camping equipment, but combining cycling plus train is common for many European cyclo-tourists.
At the end of the last century, in 1991 (actually, this was a short time after the collapse of the Berlin Wall) my wife joined a party and went to the Czech Republic by train and did a nice combined tour with her bicycle and local Czech trains. The tour was organized by non-profit French cyclo-tourist association.
I have no idea of the availability of commercial package tours organizing everything for you for cycling + train.

Many years ago, I had heard about a very special package cycling tour in the South West of France, organized by a Dutch tour-operator: this was a combined wine-tasting and gastronomical cycling tour ;). The tour-operator provided a van to carry most of the luggage, and the cycling itinerary connected wine cellars to farmhouse accomodation with traditional French food served "like at home" every night. But no mention was made regarding taking a train with a bicycle in this very special tour.

In Europe, as you probably know, there exist several dedicated long-distance cycling routes where car traffic is prohibited on a substantial part of the route.
One of them, EuroVelo#6, connects the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes, France to Budapest, Hungary and this route about 3600 km (2270 mi) long goes through Besançon, my hometown. Since people traveling along this route come from anywhere, cyclists, most often, take a train to join the cycling route and go back home by train at the end of their travel.

The Netherlands and Belgium being countries where people travel a lot by bicycle, I'm sure that many trains can be boarded with a bicycle.

In France, high-speed train (TGV) cars are probably not convenient to carry a bicycle (to be checked), but conventional trains are suitable for this. Modern French regional trains are designed to combine train + cycling conveniently.
France offers a real paradise of small, well-paved secondary roads in the countryside, this network is very dense; but the regional train network is nowadays gradually loosing many small lines. Profitability is the keyword, I prefer not to comment; this is a major issue for regional trains in many parts of Europe.
Cycling on the secondary road network, you can cross all France in many directions combining regional trains. Travel possibilities combining cycling and regional trains in France will allow you to cover a major part of the country.
And train travel planner web sites (e.g. the French SNCF web site or the German Bahn web site) will give you all the details about existing train schedules and connected buses operated by the French National Railways Company (SNCF). Small French regional trains (TER) are second-class only and seats are always available, there is even no reservation system available for those trains. So you only have to know the train timetable in advance, to plan ahead for camping or accommodation, and your are almost all set without need of a tour-operator or special combined ticket.

Regarding monthly rail passes and other kinds of discount prices for train tickets, the commercial offer is a bit complex and absolutely not unified from one European country to another, hence the help of a tour-operator could be useful. I'm not sure if it's worth taking a monthly rail pass, if you do not take the train every day between several cycling days.

Switzerland maintains a very dense network of regional trains with frequent connections, one train each hour in every direction, this is somewhat unique in Europe. Trains and buses will carry you almost everywhere in the Swiss mountains, including up to the highest glaciers (ahem, at a nominal cost: the price to go up the Matterhorn rack-and-pinion train is frightening, but this very special mountain train is probably not the best idea for a combined cycling + train travel ;) ).
Many of the Swiss trains allow to board with a bicycle, but I have no experience about cycling + train in Switzerland.

27-Mar-2018, 10:49
Emmanuel - Thank you for the in-depth reply with links - what a wonderful source of information for long distance cycling in Europe! On my last trip I had supper with a couple from Vienna on holiday. They told me about a 600 mile bicycle trail along the Danube that I later planned to incorporate in a bicycle trip I envisioned following the Silk Road starting from the Danube's origin (rumored to be from people's water taps) near Zurich to the Black Sea. The Danube, as you know, was the traditional invasion route into Europe and the Silk Road extended all the way around through Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan into China and I even fancied biking through northern Afghanistan where, I fancied, I would pay the warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud for an armed escort across Afghanistan and hire a vehicle to transport me and the bike across the Taklimakan Desert to China where I would continue to Bejing. Fanciful trip but I believe that the first stage of it, along the Danube to the Black Sea and to Istanbul is doable as is hiring a vehicle across the desert. But Iran and Afghanistan pose a security problem unless, possibly, by train, and Northern China is too dangerous unless by train. Part of the fun is in the planning and the information you provided above opens up many possibilities.


Jim Andrada
6-Sep-2018, 18:47
Well, the big day is rapidly approaching - we leave on 10/9

After a lot of head scratching I decided to take my sort of Ancient Mamiya AFD MF camera (well, ancient as digital goes that is...) I have both digital and film backs for it - the digital back supports up to a 2GB SD or CF card - wow. 23 mp/ 48 X 56 (IIRC) pixel. But quite nice results. I'm still trying to find a secret spot to hide the 2 x 3 Crown though. It doesn't weigh much and the rangefinder is set for the 150mm Xenar... Maybe I could sneak it into my wife's suitcase when she isn't looking (fat chance!!!) I also have a small tripod and a hiking stick that I modified to add a lightweight ball head - that should work in tripod unfriendly spots.

We gave up on going to Prague - will go to Galicia instead - better seafood!!!!!

6-Sep-2018, 20:13
Enjoy your trip Jim!


Jim Andrada
6-Sep-2018, 20:22
Thanks Thomas. It's been a while since you and I got together. I got a metal back and a new knee so the last two years I haven't been traveling much. I just started a new job with a Tech startup in Tokyo and I've been in San Jose every other week for a while. I'll be there next week as a matter of fact. Not sure if I'll have time to run up to the city, but if I do I'll give you a holler.

7-Sep-2018, 10:06
Looking forward to it Jim. Too bad that Fuji threw in the towel on Acros - I'm down to my last 2 sheets. About 2 years back I experienced a (for me) serious flare-up with left knee Osteoarthritis which limited my mobility for several months. I started to get knee osteoarthritis 20 years ago (it was painful to genuflect in church) but I then discovered Glucosamine which put an end to it pronto and have taken it ever since. However after about a year or so switched from 2000mg daily to 1000mg but after the latest incident went back up to the 2000mg daily dose and started back riding the bicycle to strengthen the legs. My condition is considered as "mild" by the doctors and I am able to stand/walk all day long without the knee giving problems but I am conscious of the condition and take care not to put undue strain on that knee. Two Glucosamine tabs daily for life!


Jim Andrada
7-Sep-2018, 17:38
Make that your last 22 sheets! I was rummaging in the film locker today and came across an unopened box of 2015 Acros 8 x 10. It's yours if you want it. Do you think we could meet somewhere near San Jose for the handoff? I'm not doing 8 x 10 since becoming bionic - in fact I've been restricting myself to MF about 90% of the time lately. Just not up to schlepping things around. It's hard enough schlepping myself around these days.

Emmanuel BIGLER
8-Sep-2018, 04:14
Hi Jim!

One month before departure! Thanks for the update!

will go to Galicia instead

Well as you guess, you can't appreciate all the beauties of Europe in a single trip, this opens a lot of opportinuties for a future travel focused on Prague and mittle-Europa!

The North coast of Spain, as you probably know is very different from the other parts of Spain: no dry & hot areas, but instead a cool, wet & windy climate. Irish-style ;)
In Galicia, you'll have too many opportunities of nice photographic spots for architecture, landscape and street photography...

And be prepared to drink cider ...
[actually, Asturias close to Galicia is the most famous place for Spanish cider, but Galicia does produce cider as well, and excellent wine extra, something we do not have in France: Brittany and Normandy are famous for their cider, but there exist no such thing as Brittany- or Normandy-wine ;)]
... and hear people playing the bagpipe ;)


And for T.G. Taylor, an update regarding ...

... a 600 mile bicycle trail along the Danube...

I have a first-hand piece of information that I'm glad to share!

One of my colleague is back home (he came back at the end of August, this year 2018) from the Black Sea in Bulgaria, after cycling from Besançon to Budapest this summer, following the EV6 long-distance cycling route, then continuing along the Danube river on a combination of cycling routes and regular roads, to the Black Sea.
He joined a party of 3 cyclists using recumbent cycles ("bent"), my colleague considers that the "bent" is much more comfortable for such a long-distance cycling trip (my colleague is 65 years old).
Regarding crossing big cities in Germany and Austria, there is no problem since cycling routes inside cities are very well organized in those two countries, so you can cycle downtown very safely there.
Regarding the EV6 route, it is paved most of the way to Budapest, but not everywhere, sometimes is is a gravel road but very well maintained (''German Quality Gravel Road" ;) )
Beyond Budapest along the Danube, the cycling route is maintained ... but sometimes it is a simple grass track.
My colleague was enthusiastic of his visit to Budapest, so I pass the info to the group!

By the mere principle of closely following the river, uphill and downhill sections never exceed about 100 m of elevation along the Danube.
To the best of my knowledge, they did not book anything in advance, except may be their return arrangements.
They went camping almost all the way. Well, campgrounds beyond Budapest were not always five-star, but no problem actually, they also found B&B accommodation easily.
My colleague broke his derailleur (I discover that this term is used in English) somewhere in Romania or Bulgaria, but he could easily find a spare part.

To come back home in France, they found a company to carry the 3 "bent" equipment back home, and with a limited equipment they came back by bus.
Long-distance buses are very affordable in Europe, but they could not carry their very special cycles on such buses.


All the best!

8-Sep-2018, 12:02
That sounds great Jim! Maybe we could meet for Pizza and a pint - my treat.

I was going to decline the Acros as I have 50 sheets of 8x10 Delta and 100 sheets of 5x7 Delta unopened in the fridge but, hey, if the price is right I'll spring! I'm in the process of getting ready to make Palladotypes, Platinotypes, and Pt/Pd (Na2) prints in that order. Except for the Na2 I have enough Pd to get started and a "little" Pt - like less than 10mL available and a 1000mL Pyrex beaker is "out for delivery" today along with 200 grams of disodium EDTA. The 1000mL glass beaker that I bought from B&S developed cracks on the bottom and will leak so I bit the bullet and ordered the pyrex version since I will have to warm the developer to 90F in the microwave. Two new Crescolite trays (8x10 and 11x14), a 1000mL brown storage bottle, and a fresh pack of 11x14 HPR paper was received last week also along with the the developer chemistry. All I need now is some subject matter for a print. Speaking of which, since I am between jobs for a few days I was thinking of driving up to Tioga Lake for a view across the lake and then to Bodie for a front on shot of the general store and Bodie hotel. I shot both before but the former was taken from an angle which I find unappealing because of the store's large headpost and the latter because the crooked bellows I had on the 810G at the time vignetted the negative. Both have to be shot head-on, one in the morning (the hotel) and the other in the late afternoon. You're welcome to come along if you can make it. I have an extra tent and sleeping bag that you can use and commercial accommodations should be available in Lee Vining. Looking forward to seeing you next week.

Thanks a lot for the update Emmanuel. I replaced the "97 Schwinn LeTour which was stolen from the outside storage locker with a new Fuji dedicated touring bike and one day I am going to take that trip.


Jim Andrada
8-Sep-2018, 14:14
Hi Thomas. The Price is Right! I'll trade for the pizza and beer. Speaking of Pizza - have you ever tried Rainbow Pizza in San Mateo?


It's just a couple of minutes from I-280/Rt 92 I haven't been there in a couple of years and was hoping to get there this trip.

Jim Andrada
8-Sep-2018, 14:34
Hi Emmanuel

Question, having never been to France before. The Orient Express arrives at 7AM at Gare l'Est and we plan to take the train to St Malo which IIRC leaves from Gare Parnasse. There'll be four of us with luggage so we're debating if it's better to schlep the bags on the Metro or just take a taxi (or two) across town.

Also - I discovered that there are no car rental places open on Sunday in st Malo. I was thinking of getting off in Rennes and picking up a car at the airport (maybe lunch in Rennes.) Does this seem practical? We'll be staying about 10 minutes drive from St Malo downtown so we could take a taxi to the hotel, but it would be nice to have a car for an early AM trip to Mont St Michel the next AM.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Emmanuel BIGLER
8-Sep-2018, 15:33
Hi Emmanuel

Hi, Jim !

Question, having never been to France before. The Orient Express arrives at 7AM at Gare l'Est and we plan to take the train to St Malo which IIRC leaves from Gare Parnasse. There'll be four of us with luggage so we're debating if it's better to schlep the bags on the Metro or just take a taxi (or two) across town.

Well, taking into account the infinitesimal additional expense (in relative value of the total European trip) with respect to the price a Parisian Metro/Bus ticket (1.9 euro x 4 = 7.6, or a pack of 10 tickets = 14.90 euro), of one or two taxis from Gare-de-l'Est to Gare-Montparnasse (15 euro one taxi, 30 euro for two), I would favor sharing one or two taxis, so that you can have a look at the city from the streets and not ... from underground.
Gare Montparnasse serving Brittany and part of Normandy is located on the other side of the river Seine w/respect to Gare-de-l'Est, so you'll have some interesting sightseeing during the (short, less that 15 minutes) taxi ride.
However the Metro connection from Gare-de-l'Est to Gare-Montparnasse is straightforward, simply take Metro line#4 , no connection required, travel time is 14 minutes plus 6 minutes walk between Metro station Montparnasse-Bienvenue (Mr Bienvenüe with a strange spelling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulgence_Bienven%C3%BCe) is the family name of the chief engineer who built the Metro at the end of the XIX-st century) and the SNCF station Gare-Montparnasse.

Also - I discovered that there are no car rental places open on Sunday in st Malo. I was thinking of getting off in Rennes and picking up a car at the airport (maybe lunch in Rennes.) Does this seem practical? We'll be staying about 10 minutes drive from St Malo downtown so we could take a taxi to the hotel, but it would be nice to have a car for an early AM trip to Mont St Michel the next AM.

Yes, picking up a car in Rennes instead of taking a connected train to Saint Malo will allow you to have a good feeling of the countryside and might not be more expensive, I do not know (be prepared to a very high price for gasoline or diesel in France if compared to the US, though - the rented car might be a diesel car, so be careful when refuelling!).
The ViaMichelin.com route planner (https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Routes?departure=rennes%2C%20france&arrival=saint%20malo%2C%20france&index=0&vehicle=0&type=0&distance=km&currency=EUR&highway=false&toll=false&vignette=false&orc=false&crossing=true&caravan=false&shouldUseTraffic=false&withBreaks=false&break_frequency=7200&coffee_duration=1200&lunch_duration=3600&diner_duration=3600&night_duration=32400&car=hatchback&fuel=petrol&fuelCost=1.477&allowance=0&corridor=&departureDate=&arrivalDate=&fuelConsumption=) suggest from Rennes to Saint Malo a driving time of 00h53 including 00h39 on a motorway [to the best of my knowledge, motorways are free in Brittany, unlike most parts of France where motoraways are toll-motorways, but I've never used the motorway between Rennes and St Malo].

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

It's a pleasure for me, it is the bright side of the Internet: being able to help LF friends all over the word, 24/7!

Jim Andrada
8-Sep-2018, 16:35
Mille Grazie Emmanuel

I'm prepared for the gasoline prices. We've driven in Germany, Austria, Italy, and UK.

Japan as well. Gasoline is very pricey. Most folks don't rent a car in Japan, but it's not as hard to drive as you might think aside from left-side driving. Major roads are in great condition, well marked in Roman Letters as well as Japanese characters. One small quirk - there are no street names or house numbers as we're used to. But GPS can be your friend. If you're dragging an LF camera around Japan, consider a rental car.

8-Sep-2018, 18:50
Jim - Rainbow sounds good. I haven't eaten there that I recall but I am very familiar with the shopping center it is located in having had coffee in the Starbucks on many occasions and shopped in the Safeway on many occasions as well, In fact I was just there last week to pick-up a loaf of sourdough on the way home over 92. Did you have a date yet?

The PO delivered the EDTA to my mailbox earlier today and just a few minutes ago, just after I arrived back home, Amazon delivery came with the beaker. I was a little worried about the beaker because unlike the PO Amazon will leave it outside under a bush or something if you're not home. All my other beakers are Pyrex and they are great - constructed to last - and this one also came with a Pyrex watch glass for weighing chemistry which I always wanted.

A small earthquake (magnitude 2.8) struck in downtown Oakland early this afternoon https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/09/08/2-8-magnitude-earthquake-strikes-the-east-bay/ After a several year dry spell, seismic activity in the bay area has been on the increase so you may have a ground shaking experience on your visit.


Jim Andrada
30-Nov-2018, 02:26
Well, we survived the trip. I had back trouble a few weeks before the trip and got an Epidural injection a week before we left so I was still hobbling a bit for the first few days but aside from that...

It was quite a trip. Camera-wise I wound up with MF gear only - a Mamiya C330 TLR and a Mamiya 645 AFD with film and (shudder) digital backs - and a Pen F digital that I used mainly for video. No problem getting it all onto the airplane - it fit in the overhead just fine. Tucson to Palermo "only" took 28 hours with three connections - LAX, Paris CDG, and Rome.The Paris connection was a real goat rodeo -time consuming and tiring. I'd try to avoid connecting at CDG in the future. Palermo was great. We have a good friend who's a professor at the University there and she arranged an apartment for us in the same building where she lives which was pretty nice - we were able to have dinner with her and her fiancee most nights. She took us to her home town (Montevago) where we stayed at her father's house for a couple of nights and visited the olive grove owned by her fiancee. 400 trees, some several hundred years old. The old town of Montevago was wiped out by an earthquake in the 1970's and they moved the town a mile or so and rebuilt it. We drove to the original town and it was quite a sight to see the remains of a town scattered over quite a few blocks. They're leaving it as is as a memorial to the prople who died. Our friend pointed out one pile of rubble and told us that it had been her grandfather's house. Somehow knowing the connection made us see the remains of the town in a different light. Then back to Palermo for a few more days where we were joined by two friends from Tokyo. The apartment building is right next to the cathedral, which is a fascinating blend of architectures - it was actually a mosque during the Moorish occupation of Sicily and the patterned tile work is rather amazing and not at all what you'd expect to see on a Catholic cathedral. I think you could spend a day photographing the cathedral.

From Palermo we flew to Venice for two nights. We discovered that domestic Business Class is the same as domestic Coach with the center seat blocked off by a small table. We stayed at the Hotel Ala fairly close to St Mark's. We picked the hotel because we could reach it directly from the water taxi from the airport without having to cross any of the infamous Venetian bridges across the canals. They have steps at each end and dragging suitcases and camera bags over the bridges would be no fun at all. The hotel breakfast buffet was one of the best I've had in Europe and the staff were all friendly. Rooms were small but well appointed. Our room overlooked a small canal and i was able to get a couple of nice videos of gondolas and motorboats passing under our window.

From Venice we took the Orient Express overnight to Paris. They sent a boat to pick us up at the hotel and bring us to Santa Lucia station. Good chance for a video of the ride. The train is a destination in and of itself. Outstanding service and the food was arguably the best we've had in decades. Our car was built in 1929, but of course it had been completely gutted and refurbished inside and out. Besides lunch and dinner, there was afternoon tea served in our compartment as well as a nice breakfast before arrival in Paris. The scenery was extraordinary as the route took us through Bolzano into Austria and Switzerland before entering France.

From Paris we transfered to the TGV to Rennes, where we picked up a car to St Malo. Unfortunately we hit something in the road near our hotel and blew out both tires on the right side of the car. Fortunately the first car I flagged down was driven by a couple who both spoke English and they couldn't have been more helpful. She runs a business exporting antiques and he was an underwater photographer, so we had a lot to talk about.while waiting for the Hertz service guys to show up. They called Hertz for us and arranged for them to pick up the car and bring another one - which they never did, so we went to Mt St Michel the next day by taxi. I think an hour or two is more than enough for Mt St Michel - as Emmanuel Bigler suggested, St Malo is far more interesting as well as having better and less expensive restaurants. Very photogenic.

Next stop was two days in Paris, where we stayed across the street from the Seine very clos to the Pont Neuf. We had wanted to stay in a new hotel called the Niepce - part of the Hilton chain with many Niepce photographs on the walls, but had a problem booking it so settled for the Citadines apartment hotel. I took the Mamiya out and ran into a family from Japan, one of whom was photographer - she was quite interested in the Mamiya having never used or even seen a flm camera. I gave her a quick lesson in how to use it and hopefully triggered a bit of interest in film.

From Paris our friends flew back to Tokyo while Yukie and I headed to A Coruña, Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain, just North of Portugal. We stayed in a small inn which was in a 700 year old stone farmhouse that had been restored by the current owner - a charming gentlman who had actually lived in Salt Lake Ciyty for two years while his wife taught Spanish there and had been to Arizona several times. The biggest problem we had was finding the place since it turned out to be down a dirt track almost a mile from the paved road. We were rather surprised by how beautiful the area was and how tourist free it was. Almost nobody spoke English but everyone was friendly and obliging. The area is quite different than the common image of Spain - incredibly green with every day sunny, rainy, cloudy sunny again. From everything I've been able to find out, my father's family originated in that area and there's still an Andrade castle there - more of a decaying fort than a real castle, though.

We then headed to Santiago de Compostela for our last real night in Europe. We splurged and stayed in the Parador - a converted hostel for Pilgrims who had made the month(s) long trek to the cathedral. The hostel was completed in 1491. Architecturally fascinating building built around four separate courtyards. Unfortunately, I had eaten something in France that had given me a bit of food poisoning and I got quite sick and had to get medical attention. The hotel arranged for a doctor to come to our room. He prescribed antibiotics and two liters a day of sports drink and was kind enough to drive Yukie to a pharmacy, get the medication, and bring her back to the hotel. So instead of our last night being a Wine and Roses evening, it was GatorAid and Ciprofloxacin!

Oh well - somehow I made it to the Rome airport Hilton the next day where we stayed before our 6AM flight to Paris and then to LAX and home to Tucson. I was pretty wiped out and had to use a wheelchair at every connection point, but we made it. The food problem stayed with me though so I got to spend a relaxing (???) few days in the hospital. Since getting out I've been developing film and organizing the trip photos and hopefully I'll get them online in the next week or so, at which point I'll post a link.

Pere Casals
30-Nov-2018, 02:48
Galicia --- Unfortunately, I had eaten something in France that had given me a bit of food poisoning and I got quite sick and had to get medical attention.

hmmm, you'll have to return in shape...

13-Dec-2018, 10:02

I have experienced back problems also – probably arthritis. So a coupe of weeks ago I started doing weight training targeting the back in the gym and started feeking relief almost immediately. Look for the machined that target the back and do several sets each every day. You don't have to use a lot of weight – just enough that it works the muscles. A “Teter” inversion chair seems to make sense but I don't have room for it unless I put it on the patio and the property management might object to that.

BTW the film turned out fine. A sheet had developed out too dark and I thought that it might be either the film or the developer (7month old working Xtol). So I reshot it with a sheet of fresh Delta and another Acros in fresh developer and both sheets turned out fine. First time I have experienced bad developer which is somewhat surprising since I make the stock with distilled water and have used older stock with no problems.


Jim Andrada
16-Dec-2018, 21:53
Hi Thomas

Glad it's working OK!!! It's looking like I might be in the Bay Area again in late January/early February.