Published: 27 Sep 2012 18:04 GMT+02:00 | Print version
Updated: 27 Sep 2012 18:04 GMT+02:00
Explore some of Europe’s best wining and dining spots with an InterRail Global Pass, as your train journey takes you through wine routes, gourmet centres and traditional cuisine in Portugal, Spain and France.
Often called “City of the Explorers”, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and one of the world’s most historic cities, Lisbon is the perfect gateway to Portugal. And there’s no better place than the Bairro Alto old district to sample freshly caught bacalhau (cod). Salted, smoked or grilled, it’s often said that the Portuguese can serve their favorite fish in more than 365 ways, one for each day of the year.
Seafood has been a staple of Portuguese cuisine for centuries. Often simply served with olive oil and white wine vinegar, they sometimes fire shrimp or chicken up with spices like piri piri (small chilli peppers). Wash down fresh sardines, octopus, lobster or sea bass with delicious local wines in the lively Docas area at the Santo Amaro docks.
From Lisbon head north to Porto, Portugal’s second city, world-renowned for its port wine and UNESCO-protected old town. After trying out the port wine cellars on the Gaia hilltop, head downtown for a traditional dish of tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans). This has been an important local dish since the 14th century when the locals had little else to eat. After a stroll along the beach in the Foz district, try Porto’s most popular ‘sandwich’ snack, a Francesinha (Frenchie).
If time permits, take the train from Porto’s old São Bento station to Pocinho which passes through the spectacular Douro Valley, complete with vineyards, tunnels and bridges. Don’t miss Régua’s old station, once the most important in the region.
Head back to Lisbon and hop on the overnight train to Madrid. Around ten hours later, wake up refreshed to explore the Spanish capital, as famous for its history, culture and architecture as its food. The city attracts people from all over Spain, so it’s a good place to try out Spanish dishes from the Basque, Andalusian and Galician regions. Besides its traditional meat stews, Madrid is also the place to try the popular tortilla de patatas (potato omelette). Leave some space for churros dipped in hot chocolate sauce.
Two and a half hours later disembark the AVE high-speed train in the vibrant city of Barcelona. Perched between the mountains and sea, and home to Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, Barcelona is a cultural hotbed. Get a taste of its heady nightlife and trendy restaurant scene by taking a tapas tour or visiting the city’s cava (sparkling wine) bars.
Trace the Mediterranean coast around to France, and you’ll come to the unpretentious town of Sète. One of the country’s major fishing ports and home to mussel and oyster fields, try local specialities like moules farcies (stuffed mussels) at one of the restaurants on the Canal Royal.
A stone’s throw from Sète lies Montpellier, fast becoming one of the most popular cities in France for visitors. Spend a day at a cooking school learning how to prepare local dishes like bouillabaisse (fish soup), washed down with some local wines.
The two-hour TGV train journey from Montpellier winds through the Rhône valley, one of France’s most famous wine-growing regions, before reaching Lyon, France’s third largest city. An old Roman city, Lyon has been put on the world cuisine map thanks to Paul Bocuse after whom the prestigious Bocuse d’Or award is named and its proximity to the Beaujolais and the Côtes du Rhône wine regions. Enjoy a hearty Lyonnais meal with delicacies like tête de veau (calf head) and andouillette (intestines) in a local bistro (bouchon) on the touristic Rue Mercière.
En route to Paris, stop off in Dijon, the heart of France’s mustard industry, and capital of the Burgundy region. Once you arrive in the French capital, grab a bottle of champagne and watch the sunset from the Sacré-Coeur hilltop.
Not everyone gets the chance to party with the stars at the Cannes festival for two days, unless that is, you are the French double of 'Gangnam style' entertainer Psy and you have the nerves of steel to pretend to be him. Meet Denis Carre our undisputed French Face of the Week. READ () »
Jewellery thieves have had some rich pickings at Cannes this year with jewellers announcing on Thursday that a €2million diamond De Grisogono necklace had been stolen, just days after €1.4 million worth of Chopard bling was pilfered. READ () »
Higher education has dominated the news in France recently thanks to plans for more courses to be taught in English so there's no better time to speak to an international academic to find out more about being a lecturer at a French university. READ () »
Of all the inappropriate shapes a teacher could use to teach geometry a swastika has to be near the top of the list, but not for one prof in France, whose use of the Nazi symbol to demonstrate angles has landed her in a spot of bother. READ () »
A contentious proposal that would see more courses at French universities taught in English was given the green light by deputies in the French parliament on Thursday. Critics say the move will lead to France losing its identity. READ () »
France said on Thursday that there were dead among the victims of twin bombings at a uranium processing plant owned by French nuclear giant Areva and a military base in northern Niger. READ () »
A British national, suspected of being the mastermind of €1.6 million bank fraud scam in France was found hanged in his cell in a French prison this week. READ () »
Germany's opposition Social Democrats mark their 150th birthday Thursday, with French President Francois Hollande as the only foreign speaker and conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in the audience. READ () »
Liberté, egalité, fraternité, the famous motto of the French Republic must be displayed on the facade of all French schools and the Tricolour flag must also be on show outside all establishments, the French Senate ruled on Wednesday. READ () »
French prosecutors investigating corruption are set to decide on Thursday whether to charge IMF chief Christine Lagarde over her handling of a row that resulted in a €400 million payout being paid to disgraced businessman Bernard Tapie. READ () »