I’m jumping forward in time in this post, although I will probably return to the distant past in due course. The sunshine this week in our grim northern outpost (Edinburgh) has made me think fondly of warm southern holidays and travelling across Europe to distant and different places.
I thoroughly recommend The Man in Seat Sixty-One for planning this kind of journey, particularly if it’s at all complicated. I’ve always found his advice on routes to be excellent, even although the details may change slightly over time. For instance Rail Europe, which we used to use for European train bookings, has now been replaced by the SNCF website.
It’s also best to be flexible about through bookings. So for instance it’s theoretically possible to book from Edinburgh to Paris or Brussels or some other European destination via the Eurostar website, but I usually find there’s some reason to make the bookings separately. For instance you might want to travel first class from Edinburgh to London – I quite often do, to avoid the fall-out from random occurrences such as the passengers from two trains being shoehorned into one train, and to take advantage of the ‘free’ food that appears regularly in first class. There’s nothing like an apparently endless supply of free coffee to help you forget you’ve been travelling for over 24 hours. Sometimes first class isn’t all that much more expensive than standard class on the East Coast main line either.
Our first foray into Europe by train as a family took place only a few years ago, when I wanted to visit Disneyland Paris to mark a special birthday. This is an ideal destination to reach by train as you can go straight out of the station into the park. You can also travel into Paris by train for the day from the same station. My tip for this trip is to make sure you learn the French phrase for ‘my ticket won’t work in the exit gates’ in case you get stuck inside Les Halles station as we did!
Once we had successfully completed that first trip, Europe was our oyster (not a reference to the London transport card). More on all that later.