Melbourne Time

Playlist - My Travel Videos

Thursday, 28 November 2013

22. London to Italy via Munich through the scenic Brenner Pass.

The other way of getting from London to Italy is via Munich and the Brenner Pass.

There are two ways to do this route:
(1) Depart London by Eurostar in mid-afternoon and use German-run City Night Line sleeper train to Munich then a day train next morning through the scenic Brenner Pass to Verona.

(2) Depart London by mid-morning Eurostar and afternoon TGV to Munich, stay overnight in Munich, then take a morning train to Italy through the scenic Brenner Pass next day.

Option 1: Using the Paris-Munich City Night Line sleeper train...

1. London St Pancras depart 15:31 arrive Paris Gare du Nord at 18:47.
2. Walk from Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est - 10 minutes. (Instructions given below.)

3. Travel from Paris to Munich overnight by the City Night Line sleeper train Cassiopeia.
Departs Paris Gare de l'Est 20:05 and arriving in Munich at 07:10 next morning.

4. Travel from Munich to Verona or Bologna on air-conditioned Austrian EuroCity train.
Departing Munich at 09:38 and arriving in Verona at 14:58 or Bologna at 16:20. For the best views find an unreserved seat on the right hand side of the train

5. Change in Verona for Venice, change in Bologna for Florence or Rome. Use Trenitalia to find am onward connection. Allow at least 45 minutes for connections in Verona or Bologna.

Option 2: Using daytime trains with overnight hotel in Munich.

Day 1: Travel from London to Munich by Eurostar to Paris and TGV to Munich, leaving London St Pancras at 10:25 (11:01 on Saturdays), changing trains and stations in Paris and arriving Munich at 21:36.
Depart London St Pancras at 10:25 (11:01 on Saturdays) arrive Paris Gare du Nord 13:47
Walk to Gare de l'Est.
Depart Gare de l'Est 15:25 arrive Munich 21:36.

Day 2: Depart Munich 09:38 arrive Verona at 14:58 and Bologna at 16:20.
Change in Verona for Venice, change in Bologna for Florence or Rome

Alternatively, have a look round Munich, then take a direct EuroCity train from Munich at 11:38 to Venice arriving 18:10, also travelling via the scenic Brenner Pass - this direct train may be cheaper, too, as one ticket gets you all the way from Munich to Venice from as little as €39. This train also features a full-service restaurant car

NOTE: Travel from Verona to Milan either on a fast train or a regional train. (Takes about 1 hr 25 mins and costs from 19 euro)

Gare du Nord ▶ Gare de l'Est
a) Walk out of the Gare du Nord onto the street in front of the station.
b) Turn left along the front of the station, and keep going straight ahead of you up the Rue de Dunkerque until the tracks leading into the Gare de l'Est stop you going any further.
c) Turn right into the Rue d'Alsace along the tracks, descending the long flight of pedestrian steps to the side entrance of the Gare de l'Est.

Note: This is the quickest and shortest route, but to avoid the long flight of steps, walk out of the Gare du Nord and across the road into the Boulevard de Denain straight ahead of you, turn left into the Boulevard de Magenta, then left again into the Rue du 8 Mai 1945. This route is a bit longer, but gives level access from one station to the other.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

21. London to Italy via the Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps...

I am thinking of doing this trip instead of the seven nights in Paris. There is a map further down showing the different routes and also in the "Maps" tab. There's also the Brenner Pass which I'm considering. At the moment, I'm running through them seeing how it could work, how many day's I'd need. I've already determined for the Gotthard Pass, I'd have to get the early train from London so as to reach Zurich at a reasonable time which will give me a few hours to stroll around and see something of the place.

1. Travel from London to Paris by Eurostar

2. Travel from Paris to Zurich by 198mph Lyria TGV, departing Paris Gare de Lyon and arriving in Zurich Hauptbahnhof.

3. Spend the night in Zurich.

4. Travel from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to Como and Milan by air-conditioned EuroCity train,

London St Pancras depart 13:31, arrive Paris Gare du Nord 16:47

How to Cross Paris by metro from Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon,
a) At Paris Nord, walk to the end of platform
b) Turn left. Look for the steps down to RER (Express Metro and Metro)
c) Follow the signs to RER Line 'D'
d) Buy a metro ticket from the machines
e) They have a touch screen and English button...Cash and cards are accepted
f) Enter the ticket gates to RER D
g) Head for Platform 44 (Trains run every 3 to 6 minutes) All southbound RER D stop at Gare de Lyon but always check screens. It's two stops, only six minutes.
h) Follow the sign to 'SNCF - Grandes Lignes'...
i) Exit the RER and head upstairs to the SNCF main line concourse.
j) The Gare de Lyon has two concourses - Hall 1 (Platfomrs A to N) and Hall 2 (platforms 5 to 23)

Travel from Paris to Zurich by 198mph Lyria TGV,
Depart Paris Gare de Lyon 18:23 arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 22:26. (Book an upper deck seat for the best views.) (catch an earlier service from London to Zurich if you want to reach Zurich earlier in the evening)

Day 1: London St Pancras depart 07:55, arrive Paris Nord 11:17
Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon for the TGV-Lyria train to Switzerland..
Paris Gare de Lyon depart 12:22, arrive Zurich 16:26

Day 2: Depart Zurich 11:09 arrive Milan (MILANO CENTRALE) 14:50

What does it cost?
London to Paris by Eurostar: (From) £39 approx $69
Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria: train: From £21 (Book-ahead fare) approx $37
Zurich to Milan by EuroCity: From €32 approx $47
All up around $153. Not including Eurostar, $84.

Eurostar and Europe train map


Reservations for Paris-Switzerland trains open 90 days before departure. Eurostar reservations open 120 days ahead. The Man in Seat 61 "strongly recommend waiting so you can book all your trains together and double-check the Paris arrival/departure times before booking a non-refundable non-changeable Eurostar ticket."

How to buy tickets in Australia
If you live in Australia or NZ, Asia or Africa, you can buy tickets for Eurostar, the Paris-Zurich TGV Lyria and the Zurich-Milan train online at RAIL EUROPE. They sell print-at-home tickets in many cases or they will send tickets to any country worldwide except the USA for a small fee.

Finally, the absolute cheapest way to book is direct with the relevant train operators, though this means splitting the journey and booking in two stages. First use capitainetrain to book from Paris to Switzerland or the Swiss Railways site SBB to book from anywhere in Switzerland to Paris. Then use Eurostar to book a London-Paris Eurostar connection, allowing at least 60 minutes southbound or 90 minutes northbound to change trains & stations in Paris. (Information from The Man in Seat Sixty-One.

20. When Something Isn't Working - Change It

It's all been a bit mundane working out this trip. While I am pleased to be going to Europe, (I was so excited when my son gave as a mother's day present two Lonely Planet books, Great Britain and Discover Ireland, (he said I know you've always wanted to go there (meaning Ireland) and a hand drawn voucher with "Exchange for return trip to London" on it; I find the planning isn't the same as my previous trips. It's different, I really enjoyed working out all the places I wanted to go (my last trip was to Viet Nam, China, Hong Kong and Macau) and trying to fit in all the places I wanted to see, shopping and changing, adding a day here, dropping a day there so it fitted within the time frame - I knew had had a certain number of nights and it took a lot of work and effort to be able to see the things I wanted to see and stay in the places I wanted to stay in. It was exciting doing all that, and then comes the part where you have to check and re-check transport times so they link up, work out travel distance and time, checking fares, cost of accommodation, cost of tours etc.

I've done this before for all my other trips, but this time wasn't the same. Something was missing. It was not exactly boring but rather like a glass of lemonade that had lost its fizz. It was flat. Yes, I'll be in London and yes, I'll get the Eurostar to Paris and yes, I'll fly to Dublin and go around Ireland but it was just frankly dull and boring. There's really very little planning involved - the only "planning" at all, was working out the Ireland bit, but even that wasn't really exciting. Perhaps because I've been to "exotic" places experienced cultures very different from my own, the sights, sounds and smells are far removed from suburban Melbourne.

On Remembrance Day this year, I started thinking about WWI and realised I'd be in a part of the world where those battles took place - I decided I'd like to see the WWI batlefields. It was quite pleasing researching that, tours, where to stay. I had to be in Paris on the 10th so had to work it all in with that. But ..... I found I was really only going through the motions. I thought right - go London to Lille, then Lille to Ypres for two nights, Amiens for two nights then on to Paris. But, it meant I had to leave London on the Sunday - I realised I didn't want to leave London on Sunday, I wanted to spend first full the weekend with family. I suddenly realised cutting down the number of nights in Paris wasn't such a big deal. When I was only going to be seeing Paris when in France, a week seemed like a good idea at the time, but if I'm going to be seeing other places, I don't need seven nights there.

And then I couldn't get the dates to gel, the two cheaper accommodation places in Ypres didn't have the dates I wanted. I went through different ways of doing it, like having three nights there and doing both the Ieper and Somme tours from Ypres and not staying in Amiens at all. I've wasted so much time on trying to get it to fit and found myself wasting so much time on it yet I wasn't really enjoying it. I toyed with the idea of going instead to Nice and the French Riviera and popping over to Monaco and Italy. That didn't last long I can tell you - after a day and a half, I knew I didn't rally want to do that. Not really interested in seeing the Riviera - it doesn't call to me or tug at the heart strings.

I think I've found something I really would enjoy and I'm currently working on it. I can do a train journey. I was looking at the Man in Seat 61 for something (forget what it was now), but found something I think would be great and I'm sure I'll enjoy it a heck of a lot more than seven nights in Paris or looking at battlefields. Don;t get me wrong, I would really enjoy seeing the battlefields, but when I weigh it up, I think I will enjoy the now, more so than the before. I could go to Italy by train from London via the Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps. Spend a night in Zurich and well I haven't worked the rest out yet. But I like trains and holidays and experiences aren't just about being in a place, it's all about the journey. I forgot one of the most important things - it is not the stars, or the moon, the towns or many roads you travel...the journey is the destination. This was what was missing - the journey.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

19. Great War Battlefield sites - Ypres, Flanders and the Somme

With tomorrow being Remembrance Day, I would like to see the WWI Battlefields of the Somme and Flanders Fields in Belgium and being in Paris next year gives me the opportunity to do this. With this in mind, I have been searching for day tours from Paris. I found one company that does this but they aren't cheap.

Cityrama have day tours to both the Somme and Flanders departing from Paris. The one to Flanders is (from) $292.13 and only runs on Thursdays. Although Cityrama offer two tours to the Somme, only this tour would be suitable because it includes the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux whereas the other one doesn't. It runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and costs (from) $257.01. They aren't cheap and adding them together, I'd be looking at $549.14 at least. I have an idea the price quoted is US dollars which equates to $585.37 Australian. A lot of money, plus I'd have to alter my accommodation and stay extra nights in Paris. Add an extra 65 euro per night with two nights extra, that's 130 euro - $185.25 plus the tours is $734.19. Way too much for someone on a budget.

The alternative is to either skip one of the tours and do just one, or get the Eurostar to Amiens, stay two nights and do a local tour. Alternatively I could go from London to Bruges, stay two nights and do a local Flanders tour. I found a tour company based in Bruges which offer a Flanders tour and a tour of the Somme as well. I'll have to find that website again and look into it.

Tours to WWI Battlefields
Some of the websites I found do tours from Flanders and Lille. I am putting them here for future reference as it's easier to just click on the links than go searching again.

Flanders Fields Tours
In Flanders Fields - The battlefields of the Great War
Flanders Fields Battlefield Daytours
Salient Tours
Travel advice on visiting the battlefields - Battlefield Guide Books
True Blue Digger Tours
Battlefield Tours - Visit Ypres, Somme and Flanders (expensive 810 euro, around $1100)
Battlefield Tours From Paris | Paris Insiders Guide
Flanders Battlefield Tour
Visit Flanders