Tag Archives: #ontheflightpath

Weekly wisdom – just start

… because if you’re anything like me, you’re doing this right now!

Don’t keep putting things off, waiting for 12 doves to fly
over your house in the sign of the cross before you begin.
Just start.                                                              Jack Canfield

honeyeater

Okay, it’s not a dove or 12, but you get the picture… © Louise Creely

 

 


5 great reasons to take the Eurail

Lisbon station - travelling light

At Lisbon station, heading to Oporto…

After a couple of brief train trips, at speed, in Italy and France, I thought we’d lost our minds deciding to (mostly) train it around Switzerland, Portugal and Spain for 10 weeks.

But after an ‘initiation of fire’ in Tokyo’s efficient maze of subways and metro lines, we were well-prepared for our train adventures in Europe. And now we are huge fans…

Here’s five great reasons to take the train – and five tips on doing it stress-free. All aboard!

Reasons to ride

Convenient

On past Europe adventures, we’ve always hired a car and hit the road. Taking a train around Europe just seemed like too much trouble. Who wants to be tied to train schedules and stuck with booking seats, dragging baggage off and on trains – and up and down stairs?

In fact, it’s super convenient and relaxing. This was confirmed for us when we hired a car to drive from Oporto to Estoril – when the hire car people didn’t set up our GPS to recognise the streets of Portugal (read how to fix that problem here). Give me the train anytime…

Relaxing

View from train in SwitzerlandThe best thing about train travel is you can both sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s always a restaurant car if you’re peckish, and the toilets are usually clean (especially on Swiss trains).

There’s no traffic, tolls or fuel stops and you arrive at your destination ready for the next adventure.

Cost effective

It seems expensive to go by train, especially because you pay for your ticket, then you can pay up to €25 (for domestic travel) to reserve your seat for each trip.

But compared to the cost of hiring a car, insurance, fuel, tolls and a GPS – and finding your way around when the GPS has a hissy fit or the fuse blows – then train travel is a pretty good deal.

We had the ‘select pass’ which lets you travel in 2-4 bordering countries of your choice, for a specific number of ‘travel days’. Read all about it here.

It makes you travel light

Knowing you have to be mobile and flexible is a great incentive for lightening your load. So you pack what you’d like to take, and then you take half of it out. There is nothing better than streamlining your stuff (this from me, your classic over-packer) and feeling an incredible lightness of being.

It gets you out of your comfort zone

At first, train travel can be daunting. You’re in unfamiliar territory, you don’t speak the language and, when you arrive at your destination, you have to find your hotel. It helps to have a decent street map (see tips below) and to leave the station at the right exit!

But after you’ve been doing it a few times, you really get into the swing of it – and even enjoy the process.

Tips to keep you on track

Book your seats

Ignorance may be bliss, but not when you jump on the train, find a great seat – and discover it belongs to someone else. You end up standing uncomfortably near the doors, wondering what to do next…

While the guards were friendly and helpful to us two crazy Aussies, we made sure to reserve seats for our next trip each time we arrived at a destination. You can reserve your Eurail seats up to three months in advance, which is my ‘note to self’ for next time!

Fill in your travel document

Before the train leaves the station, always complete the travel details on your Euro-pass, with your name, passport number and (most importantly) the date you’re travelling.

Always complete your Eurail passYes, the guards will check it… carefully. No, never change a date or the information. We saw someone caught out and it wasn’t pretty. It would be hard to swift talk these guards (who have heard it all) when you speak the language, let alone when you don’t. As the hapless couple found to their peril (and a dent in their travel funds).

Travel light

travelling light

Leaving Australia for 10 weeks away, with just our small carry on bags. Can we do it? Yes we did!

The biggest thing I noticed on our train travels was the ridiculous amount of luggage people had with them. I swear some of them were moving house.

The size and weight of their bags made every entry and exit a drama – and I was so glad we travelled light.

It meant we were flexible and mobile – and our backs didn’t cave in with all the lifting.

It’s surprising how little you need – especially in Europe where the women have turned flats and loafers into high fashion.

If you want to spot the touristes femmes, look for women hobbling across the cobblestones in killer heels, while the locals are striding out in their stylish flats looking supremely elegant.

Know where you’re going

After peering at the black & white maps our travel agent printed off for us, we decided there are two types of maps you’ll need:

  1. The train line maps, available at any station, so you know the route and the stops – even though it’s announced on the train, it’s good to keep track so you’re not scrambling to get off at the last minute
  2. Colour maps showing your hotel and the station, so you know where you’re going when you get off the train – and the exit to take. Sometimes you’ll take a taxi, but if your hotel is easy walking distance, it’s great to hit the ground and get your bearings (as long as you’re travelling light!).

Get there early

We only got caught out once in Portugal, when we weren’t prepared for a huge line-up to get onto the train. We missed it and had to wait almost two hours for the next train. Cheap lesson – and we weren’t caught out again. It’s not unusual to see people rushing to their carriage, dragging massive bags, but that’s more like hell than a holiday!


There will always be train-travel skeptics, but we absolutely loved the whole adventure. So don’t be put off – but do travel light and be prepared. Then sit back and enjoy the ride…


Faces and places of Valencia

While I’m not a huge fan of hop-on|hop-off buses, it’s worth taking one when you arrive in Valencia, on Spain’s southeastern coast, for a snapshot of the city. But you’ll need to get off the bus and take to the streets to really get a feel for this amazing (and dramatic) place…

Another world

Science, technology, art and nature merge perfectly in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences – and it’s no surprise this is one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.

Futuristic buildings house an IMAX theatre complex, a science museum, an arts palace, and the largest aquarium in Europe. To be here is to be awestruck.

© Louise Creely 2016

Wait, did someone say aquarium? I’m in! There are hundreds of aquatic and marine species at the Oceanogràfic, some in massive underwater towers that represent the major ecosystems of the planet.

But we can’t stay here forever watching those cruising sharks and graceful manta rays, or the cheeky sea lions and sassy penguins… or can we?

© Louise Creely 2016

© Louise Creely 2016
A wild life…

© Louise Creely 2016

What could top the underwater wonders of Oceanogràfic? A walk on the wild side at Bioparc Valencia of course.

This has to be one of the best zoos you will ever visit. It’s so carefully and cleverly designed that the animals seem less hemmed in and more relaxed in their environment.

And you feel like you’re right there with them in the forests of Madagascar, the savannah and equatorial Africa. I could go on (and on), but they speak for themselves really……

 

© Louise Creely 2016

Blending in on the viewing platform…

© Louise Creely 2016

© Louise Creely 2016

© Louise Creely 2016

Street scenes

Back streets, cobblestone alleys, abandoned buildings – the urban canvas inspires edgy and incredible artwork. It’s definitely my gallery of choice – and here in Valencia I’m in street art heaven. Here’s two of my favourites (more coming soon).

2016-10-27 11.36.59

@lanenawapawapa

@xolaka

Last stop… 

It’s hard to miss Estación del Norte when you’re leaving Valencia by train – but this is one gorgeous station. Opened in 1917, the original porcelain tiles, carved woodwork and lamps instantly transport you to a time when train travel was fresh, exciting – and slower!

It’s a fitting end to our visit, and we leave feeling we have barely scraped the surface of this delightful city. Adiós y gracias, Valencia.

© Louise Creely 2016

Bien viaje!


The colours of Madrid

© Louise Creely 2017

A different perspective… city view from the Caixa Forum on the Paseo del Prado

© Louise Creely 2017From museums,  art galleries, gardens, enormous monuments and stunning architecture, to delicious food and wine, and welcoming people… Madrid knows how to switch it on.

One of the things EB and I love to do when we hit a new city is to walk. A lot.

So it’s no surprise that hitting the streets with a bunch of like-minded food and wine lovers, and getting the inside goss from a local expert, is the perfect thing to do.

In many of the cities we visit, we’ll book into a foodie and vino tour, just to get a feel for the place.

food-and-wine-tour-pouring-ciderThis time we’re off on Viator’s Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour. Apart from practicing weird cider pouring methods and learning the joys of tapas and Spanish wine on a tour like this, we often pick up tips and tour ideas from fellow travellers and have heaps of fun doing it.

Back out on the streets on our own, we soon discover some favourite places to hang out, like Vinoteca Vides on Calle Libertad (freedom street). It’s the place to be for brilliant wines, switched-on service and a great atmosphere…

With our thing for Asian-fusion food, we can’t walk past Bambubox and we’re not disappointed.

This is Thai food with a delicious modern twist, served by our lovely waiter (now friend) Thao!

Of course, there are so many great places to eat (it is Spain after all), but it’s not just about the amazing food, wine and people (well, it kind of is…).

There are wonderful – sometimes overwhelming – palaces, monuments, galleries, gardens and buildings in Madrid, and it seems that around every corner there is something divine or surreal!

© Louise Creely 2017

Divine glimpses around every corner…

© Louise Creely 2017

serenity on the streets

© Louise Creely 2017© Louise Creely 2017

A heart-warming sight…

© Louise Creely 2017

Green and blue moments

© Louise Creely 2017

Bright and delicious Mercado de San Miguel

Ah Madrid, such a colourful, welcoming and fascinating city. But don’t take our word for it – put it on your wishlist and see for yourself. We might even bump into you there…

© Louise Creely 2017


Taking flight… soon

In a few days we’ll be literally on the flight path as we take off on our 10 week trip to Portugal and Spain, with stops along the way in Japan, Switzerland, Morocco and Singapore.

And, of course, the pre-travel madness has set in.

What is it about travel that makes you get everything done before you go? Talk about emptying the in-tray. Sheesh.

I mean, all we’ve been doing these past few weeks is renovating our house (at least it’s lockable now!), closing EB’s business (after 30 years, because he’s over it… wait, that happened 29 years ago), getting my own work projects wrapped up before I go, and all the usual family dramas (mostly the mother/granny-lou-thing about leaving them for over 2 months).

I’m exhausted already.

And did I mention the packing dilemma? Our trip will involve lots of train hopping, so travelling light is the only way to go. Between us we have two cabin-size bags and a couple of small backpacks… and even that feels like too much!

So the countdown is on. Just a little bit excited now. See you on the flight path…