A toe in the water

At the beginning of April we took our first, tentative, steps outside the UK for the first time in 30 months. With huge thanks to some family friends, we spent a week at their flat in Marseille. Having spent almost all of the pandemic time in a small rural community in the Scottish Highlands, this was a massive shock for us.

We love where we live but we also love to travel (one reason why we run a hostel) and after several years of Scottish weather we longed for a bit of actual sunshine on our faces. Marseille definitely provided this – not a heatwave but probably the equivalent of a good Scottish summer. All this plus some wonderful food and drink and great walking in the Parc National des Calanques. We even managed a dip in the Med. It was freezing cold!

This was not our first trip to France’s second city. We visited there for the first time in April 2019 and loved it. It is the most amazing cultural melting pot (and gritty with it), with the massive bonus of providing some great walking in the Calanques literally on its doorstep. Because she was still recovering from a broken arm, Helen had to be a bit careful to avoid what in other circumstances are some fabulous scrambling opportunities. Even so, we found plenty of pure walking alternatives without repeating anything we had done three years before.

An important element of the trip for us was that we travelled by train. Like a lot of people, we reassessed some elements of how we live during the pandemic. We decided that in future we would avoid flying if at all possible. Getting from Inverness to Marseille by train is not simple. It requires a lot of planning just to find reasonably priced tickets, particularly for the UK legs of the journey. It also takes longer than flying. Rail travel isn’t currently practicable for everyone, and we know that we are lucky since we can set our own holiday timetable.

We will continue to do what we can to travel more sustainably in the future and we’ll enjoy the view from the carriage window while we do so. In the meantime we are thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to another country again.

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