Archive for the ‘Paris’ Tag

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

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Paris – Eiffel Tower   14 comments

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The Eiffel Tower. Paris most recognisable landmark

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Throughout the trip we visited a huge host of famous sites and I’m not planning to pad out the posts with long rambling background information. You can look that up yourself! I may throw in a few facts and numbers here and there and stuff that I found interesting.

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So a few facts and numbers. 324m high with 6.9m visitors per year. It was finished in 1889 for the World Fair and was supposed to be temporary. It was planned to be torn down in 1909 until someone realised it was quite handy for radio and telegraphy transmissions. It gets repainted every 7 years and takes 25 people with 60 tonnes of paint 18 months. Oh, and there are 2.5million rivets if you’re interested.

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My trusty Lonely Planet guidebook (used extensively in all cities and are excellent in my humble opinion) said the best view was from the L’ile aux Cygnes under the Pont de Bir-Hakeim so that’s where we headed

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Added bonus of travelling on and looking at an overground section of the Metro. Well I liked it anyway

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We walked along the banks of the Seine admiring the changing angles and perspectives, shading our eyes from the blistering sunlight having forgotten to take shades out with us.

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In a funny way it seems much smaller than you think when you first see it from a distance. You expect it to be massive and totally dominate the skyline. In fact you can only really see it in Western Paris or from other high spots. Up close however and you can truly appreciate its size, weight and mass. Both in terms of iron and steel and tourists (its unsurprisingly heaving with people)

It was in the parkland surrounding the tower that we began to notice Paris has a serious rat problem. They were scuttling about in quite significant numbers around the major tourist spots and especially here. One even ran over my foot near Notre-Dame. Nasty little buggers.

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After our first visit we walked back to the apartment and stumbled across the magnificent dome of the Palais Les Invalides. This image is in effect the back garden!

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We saw the tower from several other places. Here in the Place de la Concorde

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And from a boat trip along the Seine (more of both in later posts)

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When the tower truly comes alive is at night

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When lit up (20,000 6 watt bulbs and 40km of cables if your interested) is when it really dominates the skyline and is truly wonderful sight

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But there’s more! On the hour it “sparkles” for a few minutes. I took a little video of this which you can see below. Cool eh!

 

We took a stroll around it (and the rats) on our last evening to appreciate it fully in its night-time attire

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Of course you can’t visit Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower. Well, actually you can and we didn’t. I figured that the one thing you couldn’t see from the Eiffel Tower was the Eiffel Tower. I had a much better plan for expansive views over the city to include the tower. More of that in the next post

Paris – La Defense   12 comments

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For our first proper outing in Paris we headed for the skyscraper and glass towers of La Defense. It sits just outside the city on a small rise. It was the only area of Paris I’d been to before so I was keen to see it again for curiosity sake. I also remembered the Grande Arche and the views from the top being quite good. We hit the Metro and headed over there.

It’s a glittering palace of architectural styles and a lot of glass.

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The metro exit pops you out right under the Grance Arche.

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A stunning building with intriguing lifts that run in the open “hole” and a roof terrace on the top. We didn’t need much convincing to head on up

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The views from the top are exceedingly good although not as good as I remembered. You get a great view down over the towers but they somewhat obscure the views of the rest of the city

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It does give a good view of the Eiffel Tower with the Tour Montparnasse directly behind. More on both in later posts

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It must have been windy up there judging by TJF’s lively hair. We’d struck lucky with the weather. It had rained on the train through France and it rained all day when we left the city to travel on to Turin. In between our 2.5 days were gloriously sunny

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I’d say that with other lofty heights in Paris to ascend for city-scape views its probably not worth the expense to ascend the Grand Arche. Its impressive to look at though, up close and the view from the top of the steps leading up are almost as good

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We decided to take a stroll down to the wide pedestrian arcade towards the Arc de Triomphe to explore. There were loads of water features fountains and modern sculptures like this one

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Any many weird and wonderful shaped buildings. Its very like Canary Wharf in London and I like both immensely. I love sky-scrapers and tall buildings and in the 21st Century, architects seem to be trying outdo each other in terms of unusual shaped buildings. Not exactly in keeping with the older side of Paris but its tucked away from there and adds a different dimension to thecity I think. Also being primarily an office and business park it was deserted on a Saturday afternoon.

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The water features were just as interesting as the sculptures and buildings

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I found this one intriguing

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And this one looked like it was made from drinking straws

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One of the slightly odd things about the Grande Arche is its position. The avenue in La Defense and the buildings alongside it seem perfectly aligned with Avenue Charles de Gaulle that leads to the Arc de Triomphe. When you look back at the Arche it seems to be offset such that the centre is not pointing precisely down the Avenue but off at a slight angle. I’m not sure if this is deliberate or indeed if its just a trick of the light and shadows. I got the same impression looking from the Arc de Triomphe. Very odd

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At the end of the walk there is another water feature and you can look straight down to the Arc de Triomphe while watching the Metro trains slide underneath

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A worthwhile first outing and something different which we all enjoyed. Not exactly a classic area of Paris or likely an area for nightlife, bars and fine dining but well worth a visit.

The Metro station beckoned and it was time to move on to the most iconic of Paris landmarks

Paris – First Impressions (and other stuff)   26 comments

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It felt rather strange starting a holiday by walking out of the house, with a pack, to the end of our road and waiting for a bus. Every holiday for us, even on the odd occasion we fly starts with a car journey. Standing at the bus stop felt strangely liberating, freed from the confines of the modern automobile.

I like this photo, plenty of smiles which is an abiding memory of the trip

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Bus to Hereford, train to Birmingham and on to London Euston. Playing the Advance Fares game means First Class travel is within reach so lapped up a bit of luxury on the London Train. A slightly strange experience as the attendant serving food was a little quirky. He practically threw boxes of sandwiches and crisps at us (in a nice way). It was all we could do to suppress the giggles as he moved on. It became a running joke on every train as to whether food would be served or chucked but sadly it was presented in the expected manner from here on

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Overnight at the Crestfield Hotel near St Pancras Station (pretty decent family room and prices by London standards) then up early next morning to catch our Eurostar to Paris. St Pancras really is one of the worlds most iconic stations

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Seeing as the UK is “special”, Eurostar is the only rail trip where we had to go through the airport style security checks and the like, creating some queues and small degree of chaos as well as a ratio of train seats to waiting area seats of about 5:1!

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We seemed to be on the one of the newer trains and even in second class the experience was pretty luxurious. Just as well seeing as Eurostar was by an order of magnitude the most expensive train journey we took when considering the relatively short distance. We were chuffed however to see the train get very close to its 300kmph top speed

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And so we arrived in Paris. I’ve only been once before on a business trip for about 24 hours so I was keen to see it properly. It wasn’t on the original itinerary but when I realised we would have to change both trains and stations I though we may as well stay for a couple of days. A sensible choice because Paris is wonderful

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We rented an apartment on the Rue de Rennes in Saint Germain (the photos above and below are from outside the front door. You can see the Tour Montparnasse at the end of the road (more on that in later post)

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The neighbourhood was wonderful. I went out for early morning walks to collect breakfast and explore. I wanted to live on every street. I loved these 5/6 storey buildings with their iron railings and balconies, typical of Paris it seems

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We had shops and restaurants a short walk away and the Seine and the Ile de France with Notre Dame a further 10 mins. What started here became a feature of our trip. Simply walking through the city and admiring the different architectural styles across five countries and eight cities

In each city there always seemed to be something new around each corner and it made walking and exploring a simple (albeit sometimes crowded) pleasure wherever we went

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Paris is however a very big city. Just as well it has a wonderful metro system to whisk you about

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On our first evening we came across the church of Saint Sulpice pretty much by chance, one of those corners I mentioned above

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In a city packed with elegant churches it was staggering to see this marvel I’ve never heard of while just walking around the streets. It was this endless pleasure that was a real highlight for me.

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Sometimes we ate in the apartment but there seemed little point spending your holiday in cities and not sample the city life of an evening. We dined out, frequently and enjoyed some superb food. Just people watching was great, sitting in a street side restaurant watching the world pass by with a beer. Another pleasure of not having car, being to take a cold glass or two of beer whenever we wanted without the drag of the “who’s driving home and drinking cola” discussion. I drank many beers on this trip

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Saint Germain is restaurant heaven. Another of the pleasures of city life is walking through the streets looking in at dozens of cosy restaurants and bars that you just ached to eat in or sit at the bar with a beer or glass of wine. I’d been in Paris a few hours when I decided I loved city life and I had over 3 weeks of it to come!

All that and we had Gregg Wallace from Masterchef playing the drums while we ate (no photo alas) and Paul Nuttall from UKIP on the table behind us. Does life get better than that 🙂

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A trip out the business district coming next

A Tale of Eight Cities   20 comments

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Kids and how to keep them happy on holidays. Both of mine have grown up with radically different interests especially when it comes to leisure time. TJS loves walking and backpacking through the mountains. TJF loves chilling and when encouraged some adventurous climbing and water based fun. Neither enjoys the others preferences. I was stuck for this years holiday, keen to keep the family trips going as long as possible as University years approach, without one or both of them looking bored.

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Several of my friends have been focusing more on cities than our traditional outdoor trips (Barcelona, Nice to name but two). I mentioned doing something similar more out of desperation than anything else, expecting a lukewarm response. I was taken aback when both of them (and TBF) were positively enthusiastic about the possibility of a summer trip to bag a few key European cities as it were. The idea was born and the holiday planner in me sprang into action.

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After much deliberation we centered the trip around Italy and Eastern Europe having never been to either. Train travel was our chosen transport method and we were all excited by the prospect of doing the whole thing by train (and bus) and being liberated from the cossetted world of the car and the endless tedium that is air travel. Thanks to the amazing website, The Man in Seat 61 (I lost hours trawling through its pages) that travel planning was easy and booking rail tickets was simple. It’s a mine of information, almost all of it helpful and unerringly accurate

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Rome and Venice were certainties as was a more modern city in Berlin. I wanted to see Budapest although that got a lukewarm reception (very misguided). As we had to travel through Paris it seemed prudent to spend a couple of days there. In addition long journeys from Paris to Venice and Berlin back home dictated a couple of stopovers in Turin and Cologne. That makes seven. City number eight came courtesy of one very delayed train and an unexpected chance of a couple of hours in Vienna.

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I wanted to spend at least a few days in each of our major stays so a 3.5 week trip was in order to take advantage of the Bank Holiday. We used Apartments for multi night stays and cheap quad room hotels for the single nights. Over the course of the planning, hotels were booked, rail tickets purchased (including several first class tickets – European rail travel is exceptionally cheap if you book ahead). A few key attractions and tours were reserved. We packed light, just one rucksack each.  We were ready.

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Never having done anything like this before I thought the trip could go two ways. It would be a disaster and we’d hate it, vowing to put it down to experience and never attempt such a thing again. Alternatively it would be an amazing, fantastic experience that we’d want to do again. I’m not giving too much away to say it was most definitely the latter! 🙂

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We saw and did a quite staggering amount of stuff. I took thousands – yes really – of photos so its going to take me a while to write all this up. I’m planning one general post about each city and the related journeys and some more specific posts about places or days that deserve them. It will take me a while

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I’ve dropped a photo from each city into this post as a taster to get you in the mood. There was plenty of sun, tons of great food, bucket loads of ice cream, amazing sights and experiences and a lot of laughter (much of it at TBF’s expense bless her!). First instalment tomorrow, hopefully.

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