Bangers 'n' Mash!

Trip Start May 07, 2012
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Trip End Jun 06, 2012


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wake up on Wednesday morning to pack for the final time and walk the 15 minutes to Colmar Station where we are catching the one direct train that runs each day to Paris leaving at 10:11. We've enjoyed Colmar (and particularly yesterday’s trip to the nearby village of Riquewihr) but we are just a few weeks ahead of the tourist season and most things shut down early in the evening. Although it is very busy during the day with groups of sightseers from Strasbourg, etc. We were fortunate enough to be positioned in the busiest part of town though. The Alsace region is definitely worth a visit particularly if you are partial to the local vino. But best to travel down by car then at least you can bring back a few samples!

It’s a high-speed TGV to Paris Est arriving 13:05 with only one stop at Strasbourg. Only event en route is the ageing rock star lookalike on our carriage who must be famous in France with his thinning corkscrew blonde hair, black and gold leather look trousers and crocodile skin boots – but who is he? Then a leisurely walk to Paris Nord to catch the final train which is the 15:13 Eurostar back to London St Pancras arriving 16:39 UK time. Once again all trains on time to the minute. Tube to Northfields and pick up a Thai takeaway before we put the key in the front door for the first time in a month and collapse on the sofa.

What a trip and what an experience. A huge amount to pack into a month but letting the train take the strain ensured that it was not over tiring – although some days were tougher than others. We’ve both agreed that the most amazing thing is that absolutely all of the key constituents of the trip worked really well; in particular the 35 trains (timings and reservations) and all 16 hotel bookings. It’s difficult to explain the volume of pedantic planning that went into these arrangements but it all proved extremely worthwhile as problems in either of these areas could have caused substantial frustration and stress on a long trip.

Testament to how our time filled up without trying is the fact that we read very little (Janet read one book and John started reading one until his Kindle packed up! Bought a paperback in a shop in Krakow and managed to read only 14 pages!) and the travel games we were planning to use throughout the trip (e.g. trivial pursuit, cribbage etc) never made it out of the luggage. Seven hour journeys felt like a couple of hours max.

We managed to do everything we wanted to and a bit more. The weather was not as good as it should have been for the time of year with temperatures well below average for May, but we suffered very little rain and the most important days when we needed fine weather, such as Venice and the Bernina Express, it came up trumps.

The standard and timeliness of the rail services across Europe can’t be faulted (take note UK!) and it was worth the additional cost for first-class purely for the extra space it gave us on almost every journey – especially for our luggage. One of the best surprises was the standard of the hotels as we were working to a budget of around £70 per night average and that does bring some risks that fortunately did not materialise (minor irritation: only 3 out of the 16 hotels had tea/coffee making facilities in the room). In overall cost terms we just crept over budget by around 5%.

In hindsight would we have done anything different? Well maybe we could have missed out Brno and re-visited Prague on the Czech Republic leg and we probably wouldn’t have lost any sleep by missing out Belgrade! Also, as previously mentioned, our 2 hour stopovers in Salzburg and Verona were too tight by half, not allowing us the time to do them any real justice…but that’s it really.

Other minor annoyances were the sheer volume of graffiti we saw during the whole trip (except Switzerland) and the lack of a smoking ban in many bars and restaurants along the way. In respect of these two areas we are much better off in the UK. But on a very positive note we never felt any risk on personal security which can be a challenge when you’re living out of a suitcase and wandering around new places every day.

We’ve seen some great cities and sights, experienced some wonderful restaurants and food and interesting bars and booze, whilst meeting and encountering all kinds of warm, kind, helpful, amusing, occasionally disagreeable, and sometimes just plain strange and weird people (and pets), on a trip that undoubtedly exceeded our expectations. Locals and tourists, nuns and barmen, agricultural engineers and down-and-outs have all contributed to the human backdrop of our journey across Europe.

So it’s time to close the blog now. Thank you so much for following us on our little adventure. Your feedback via the blog, e-mail, text and Skype, as well as noting that the blog has received over 930 'hits’, has really made it worthwhile taking the time to record our 31 day journey. If anybody is interested in doing a similar trip in some shape or form just let us know and we’d be delighted to pass on whatever information or assistance we can. We can certainly recommend it!

THE J & J EUROPEAN AWARDS

Best City:  1st Venice; 2nd Ljubljana; Joint 3rd Amsterdam & Freiburg.

Most memorable Sight/Attraction:  Joint 1st Auschwitz & Venice; 3rd Bernina Express & Holocaust Memorial (Berlin)

Best Hotel:  1st Schwarzwalder Hof (Freiburg); 2nd Saint Martin (Colmar); Joint 3rd MotelOne (Berlin) & Post Hotel (Chur)

Best Restaurant:  1st Drexler’s (Freiburg); 2nd Van Kerwijk (Amsterdam); 3rd La Cocotte de Grand Mere (Colmar)

Best Bar:  1st Birrificio Lambrate  (Milan); 2nd House of Beer (Krakow); Joint 3rd Hausbrauerei Feierling (Freiburg) & Café ‘t Smalle (Amsterdam)

Best beer:  impossible to say…. or remember!

Love and best wishes to all.

John & Janet xx
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Comments

John East on

Great blog Janet and John. Just sorry that I haven't commented as much as I would have liked. For your next adventure I will be better placed to keep upto date with your travels and comment accordingly. Some polite, some not so polite ( the latter being aimed squarely at John).

Meant to contribute when you were in Venice and John got the mosquito bite. Mosquitos, he should come here to really know what they are.

burneyt
burneyt on

Well done J & J and for sharing with me YOUR tour of Europe. I note your planning as artictulate as ever, returning for the start of EURO 2012. Feet up....

Bob S on

Welcome back/Willkommen/Bienvenue. And congratulations on an informatibe and interesting blog. Seeing as there was no photgraphic evidence of a Palace, I look forward to you buying me a (dark?) beer.

Cheers
Bob S

Bob S on

Sorry about that spelling, and I can't find an edit option!! Palace fan, of course!

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