Exploring Europe


When I was 19 I spent a wonderful year studying in France....
I was there with 2 friends who are still my best friends to this day, we all still agree that we had the time of our lives.

We had many adventures....one of which involved a Friday night dash to the south of France, leaving our university in Grenoble at 11pm & driving through the night to Cannes in the south....an 8 hour trip I should think.
We had an older friend driving us, luckily....
we (four girls) arrived in Juan-les-Pins just as the sun was coming up on Saturday morning slightly bleary eyed & armed only with handfuls of underwear & 3 hairdryers!!
But we survived & had what must be one of my best weekends ever.

About a month later we had a 10 day mid-term break & set off on a much more organised train trip to Italy....spending 3 days each in Rome, Venice & Florence.
We had very little money but then - as now - train travel on the Continent was really good value & our Italian lire went a very long way.

We stayed in a fabulous pensione in Rome, explored St Peter's piazza late at night when we were the only people there & had what is still the best gelato that I've ever eaten.

In Florence & Venice we stayed in youth hostels....
a stunning & huge villa in Florence a short distance from the town centre & a hostel in Venice which emerged out of the mist as we took a water taxi from the train station....we were so lucky.

In Florence we got chatted up by Italian carabinieri who took us around the city in their police cars late at night when they were off duty, that was quite the adventure!

Train travel was really easy, we travelled mostly at night which was slightly cheaper, we had a couchette for part of our journey & it all seemed very easy, even though we ran out of money with 24 hours to go & I seem to remember us travelling all the way home to France on just a large bottle of water & a family sized Mars bar....good times!!

We are heading back to France in August for our summer holiday this year....
and I have decided that the children & I, (my husband will join us later), are going to travel down by train.

This announcement has been greeted with huge excitement by my children....
their experience of French trains so far has only been very short trips on the clean & efficient double-decker trains that run along the French Riviera & which they love....
so the thought of a night-time train trip through France in which they get to sleep in a couchette & then wake up in their destination has made them want to leave tomorrow!!

My decision was made partly because I was late in deciding what we were going to do this summer & by the time we did make a decision, flight prices had really increased....
the less we spend on travel, the more we get to spend at the beach.
This year, I'm definitely more budget conscious....we have a lot of house to work on!

The train is simply much cheaper than flying....half the price in fact, I was amazed.
We will travel to Paris, have a few hours to spare before we cross from one station to another & take the night train to Nice = exciting!

Having made the decision to go by train however, I then wasn't sure where to start with my booking since I would be travelling on trains in two different countries & also needed to co-ordinate arrival & departure times....
I might only be in France but getting stranded anywhere with 2 children plus luggage would not be fun!

A friend recommended the GoEuro website which enables you to type in your planned route/s & then choose from 1-4 different options....car/coach/rail/train, cheapest-fastest.

I had read that "split-ticketing" ie, dividing your journey up makes the cost cheaper & using the website, I found this to be true - I booked London - Paris & then Paris - Nice.

The website was introduced just last year & I have to say that I found it very user-friendly ie, simple, quick & flexible & actually it made me consider a few options that previously I wouldn't have done.

And now that I've been browsing the train schedules, I'm really tempted to consider taking the train slightly further afield next year....online booking is super-easy.
it's been some years since I backpacked but my children are old enough now to enjoy train travel & to be able to carry their own bags etc.

My children have flown to Europe many times, that's not to say that they're complacent about it but it's very familiar to them....
the train will be a brand new adventure for them....and for me too, and I love that.

5 comments:

  1. Fabulous post, I've said it before, but your optimism and energy is so refreshing. Your annual trip to France sounds great, especially travelling by train, I love train travel, it always seems like a less frenzied way to journey, plus you see so much on the way.

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    1. Oh, thank you for the nice words, that's a lovely thing to say! I do love a train journey, I always take reading matter with me but invariably spend the whole journey gazing out of the window!! I agree that there is always such a lot to see & it's a very relaxed way to travel....at least I hope it is with 2 children & a 24 hr trip to France!!

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  2. That sounds like a perfect trip, Simone. I love train travel too and always come equipped with plenty to read but spend hours looking out the windows instead, just like you. We will be taking the train to Paris this year, but I would love to travel further on it too. xxoo

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  4. Wow I'm incredibly jealous. I hate driving so I've always wondered how easy it would be to get around Europe by train. Thanks for the link! x

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