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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Slow travel with Le train des Pignes

We were looking to do something completely different, to beat the heat and a change from the crowed beaches of the busy Côte d’ Azur.

We found the answer – a slow train ride through the mountains to the villages in the foothills of the French Alps, the good old fashion way – steam, of course.

This is a private narrow gauge railway (one meter only) hauled by an authentic steam locomotive and run by volunteers. Pignes is the French word for pines. The story is that they ran out of coal one day and had to resort to pine cones to fuel the engine.

We boarded the locomotive at Puget-Thenier at 10.45,chugged uphill through some spectacular scenery; deep river and valleys all the way up  to our first stop, the fortified village Entrevaux  where the crew shoveled in more coal while the passengers admired the  high fortress in the distance.

The steam whistle blew again calling the passengers back unto the train to our final stop. The scenery after Entrevaux is just as spectacular; the black locomotive pulled the four passenger cars winding its way between trees and rocks before we lumbered into Anot at midday.

A five minute walk from the station lead to the medieval village listed a Village et Cité de Caractere. The town, set at an altitude of 700 meters is surrounded by some stunning large boulders with many houses built against the rocks, called Gres d’Anot. The streets are narrow in the old part of the town; so many little details to admire such as the doors and knockers of the houses, the narrow passages.

Le Train des Pignes is a great way to take in some pure mountain air as long as you quickly shut the windows when you hear the whistle signaling the approaching tunnels.
I had a quick chat with the crew before we left - even though their lovely blue overalls were coal covered  they were already looking forward to next Sunday.

This little train runs every Sunday from May to October;

The fortress  in Entrevaux seen from the train

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