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It is that time of year when Europeans enjoy a number of weekdays off work, variously celebrating this or that religious feast or national festival. This month has already seen public holidays associated with Mayday and the Liberation or end of World War II (the latter understandably marked more by victors than by the vanquished). This past Monday (May 24, 2010) was a public holiday in some three dozen countries on account of Pentecost.There is more to come next week (on Thursday, June 3) when Corpus Christi offers workers yet another free day in more than a dozen countries across Europe.
These bonus days off work are the prompt for many Europeans to finalize their summer travel plans, and with that ash cloud still lingering menacingly over the North Atlantic, many train operators are offering limited-time deals to persuade die-hard fliers that 2010 is the year when they really should forsake the airlines and rediscover rail travel.
Here are some of the best rail deals we’ve come across for summer 2010 travel. But take note — some of these tickets must be purchased quite soon!
From London to the Mediterranean in June (book by June 1, 2010)
Eurostar has an amazing deal this week on journeys from London to the Rhône valley and the south of France. For just £69 round trip, passengers can speed from London to Lyon, Aix, Avignon or Marseille with just a single change of train in Lille. But hurry, as this offer, valid for return journeys anytime in June, must be booked by June 1.
Paris to Italy in June (book by May 30)
Rail Europe’s UK office also has a great deal for those who act quickly. Just until next Sunday, you can nab a one-way ticket from Paris to six Italian destinations from just £23.50. Like the Eurostar offer above, this Rail Europe special is valid for travel anytime in June and can be used on the daytime Artesia trains from Paris to Italy. Traveling from the French capital to Milan takes just seven hours, and this route has become so popular that an extra daily return daytime service will be added on July 4, 2010.
Rewards for early bookers
We just picked up a couple of cheap tickets for the Paris to Geneva route on www.tgv-europe.com. The Piccolissimo fare of just €20 one way is a regular offering on the TGV Lyria services that link the two cities in less than three and a half hours. But it does need to be booked 60 days in advance of travel.
Thalys also has some good advance booking offers on its seasonal routes from the Netherlands and Belgium to the south of France. For example, a one-way Smoove fare, booked a minimum of 30 days in advance, allows travel from any station in Belgium to sunny Provence for just €50.
Roam Germany this summer
German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) have a superb range of summer offers for 2010, including a so-called Jubiläums-Pass that offers a full month of unlimited rail travel in Germany for €299 (or €246 for travelers aged 26 or less). A cheaper pass is available for those who just want a one-week option (or, to be strictly correct, a pass valid for 175 hours). These special summer rail passes can be used between June 13 and August 31, 2010.