A charming train journey: the Bernina Express from Switzerland into Italy

The Bernina Express is one of Switzerland's most iconic train journeys, leading through a UNESCO World Heritage site across the Alps into Italy. As it makes its way from Chur to Tirano, it passes through 55 tunnels and crosses 196 viaducts and bridges. The awe-inspiring scenery can be enjoyed through vast panoramic windows: the view really comes to you, like a cinema of real-life. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to take the journey in First Class for an article I am writing, and what an experience it was to take a journey just for journey's sake.

Tim and I had spent the previous night in Chur, exploring the Old Town and soaking up the atmosphere created by football fans supping beer in street side bars, so we were nice and early for the 8.32 train. As it wound westwards, through lush meadows decorated with castles and across vertiginous gorges, I realised how seldom I have been on a train and simply happy to look at the view (normally I am working or have my head in a book).

Among the most impressive sights were the Landwasser Viaduct, with its 328-foot arches, and the Brusio circular viaduct, which follows a 360-degree curve. For me, the most beautiful stretch of the line was passing the Lago Bianco and Lej Nair beyond Pontresina in the Engadin region. Up there, at more than 7,000-metres above sea level, the landscape was so wild it seemed odd to be crossing it by train. It was rather somewhere we should have hiked to! Above the icy blues and greens of the lakes, glaciers created a chillingly beautiful backdrop.

A little later, we stopped at Alp Grüm to take photos - the view was of Lake Palü and the Palü Glacier. And then the train began its descent towards Italy: instead of looking upon wild Alps, we were among tame farmland bordered by olive and palm trees. It was bizarre to be navigating old villages at some points via the middle of the street! We stopped for lunch in a restaurant in Tirano - which sadly served the worst pizza i have ever tasted, but the less said on that the better - and enjoyed some sunshine before jumping back into the train for the return journey. By the end of the day, we had spent more than 8 hours in a train. But I wasn't bored or fed up of sitting still (well, maybe a little by the end)... Instead I felt completely relaxed, and fulfilled to have been on perhaps the most scenic train journey of my life.

Off the beaten track in ... Majorca

Returning to the same island year upon year cannot be described as adventurous, and as a travel writer I have a certain hunger to find new and exciting places. However, holidaying on Majorca once a year for the last three years has enabled Tim and me to find a world beyond the high-rise resorts and tourist traps. Visiting in June for the first time (we normally go in September), we discovered a more lush landscape: bougainvillea cascading in bright pink clouds, the leaves on the gnarled olive trees lively green rather than dry and sad-looking. Indeed the apartment Tim's parents own, just outside Santa Ponsa in the south west corner of Majorca, was cloaked in greenery and colour.

We are fortunate to have such a nice base when we stay: breakfasting on the terrace there, listening to the wind rustle in the palm trees and gazing to a sea of myriad blues, is heaven itself. It is one of my favourite places to eat breakfast - especially because our days there always start with freshly squeezed orange juice and creamy natural yoghurt, followed by a swim in the pool. We awoke to cloud on our first day, so instead of going swimming, we drove to Deia - somewhere that has been on my wish list for ages.

Famous for having been home to writer Robert Graves (who is buried in the graveyard there and whose house is open to the public), Deia is a pretty village of sand-coloured cottages that wind, helter-skelter like, to the top of a hill. An amphitheatre of rock rises all around, while below a rocky cove opens onto the Mediterranean Sea. We sipped homemade lemonade (made with local lemons), munched Spanish omelette and people-watched from the vantage point of a street-side cafe, before setting off to hike to the cove.

The path to Cala Deia is steep, but well-marked (we did still manage to get lost and find ourselves getting prickled by briars at the heart of an orange-tree grove), winding downhill through woodland and shrubbery for about half an hour. The effort is worth it: the horseshoe-shaped cove is tiny and sheltered, little more than a sprinkling of boulder-sized shingle enclosed by sand-coloured cliffs, which conceal two small cafes. There was hardly anybody there when we visited - and I can't imagine it ever gets too busy, as it requires either a walk or a tricky drive (with minimal parking) to get there.

And that is the easy bit: watching people navigate the slippery boulders along the shore to go for a swim was like watching human evolution in reverse (and I include myself in this): the sensible ones sat down and slid in backwards, while the rest of us gradually hunched further and further over, trying not to let our bellies touch the chilly water until we were acclimatised, but needing to use our hands to prop us up from the front. Once in, it was delightful. The water was the most vivid turquoise I have ever seen, and so clear I could see my feet. While at some beaches on the island you swim a peaceful sea, but can hear the thump of music from the sun beds, this one was undisturbed. We sat on a boulder to dry off and walked back up to the village via a different route, this time through olive groves, beneath huge cacti and alongside lemon and orange groves.

Other trips during our holiday included a morning at Sant Elm beach, in my opinion one of the prettiest of the easy-access ones, and a day out to Soller via the wooden train. I had reserved high hopes for this, and was disappointed. Soller is famous for its oranges, but the freshly squeezed orange juice we bought at the train station had noticeably been watered down, but was just as expensive as if it had been bought anywhere else - first sign of a tourist trap. Second sign: we were on the island at a quiet time of year, and had hardly seen anyone during the whole visit, but the train was full to the brim with people.

Soller itself was very pretty, and Port de Soller even more so, with its widely curved bay, strip of creamy sand and chic arrangement of buildings along the seafront: we sat in the shade outside Hotel Esplendido, watching the wooden tram trundle back and forth with a chaos of crowds on board, and peacefully enjoyed a delicious lunch of local olives, homemade rosemary bread and orange-scented fish. It is moments like these that make a holiday. Oh, and we did get our 'proper' Soller orange juice: throughout the town groceries sell local oranges by the bag load, so we bought some to juice ourselves - delicious. I kept one aside and munched it on my first day back at work: it was like a taste of sunshine, and quite simply the most scrumptious orange I have ever eaten.
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