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Paris Gare De Nord

Paris Gare De Nord

Michael Portillo’s TV programme made rail journeys look enormously enjoyable and much more fun than flying. I hankered after a train adventure of my own – all be it a short one.
Studying the Inter Rail Pass leaflet, showing smiling fresh young faces – surely aimed at backpackers and not for the likes of the more mature traveller. But, yes – they do a senior discount for over 60s as well as reduced Eurostar rates. This offered me major savings on long journeys plus the chance to be flexible, change plans and stay longer.
So, setting off from my local station, armed with a tablet and InterRail app in lieu of Michael’s old crusty Baedeker timetable I started my adventure. One week later, after twelve train journeys, staying in three capital cities I returned from an amazing, if exhausting, holiday. It gave me a feeling of being a traveller as well as a tourist, a greater sense of connection with the city than if I had arrived at an out of town airport.
The itinerary took in a journey to the romantic delights of Paris, fascinating and intriguing Berlin, viewing castles and monasteries along the Rhine, on to Cologne and then finally to Brussels to catch the Eurostar back to London. Phew!
It may be advertised as relaxing way to travel, however, it takes planning – the more you put in the more you get out. Your reward is the journey you make and the people that you meet on the way. I enjoy the buzz and excitement of arriving at a new destination – the different food aromas, the hustle and bustles of arrivals and departures.
To quote Hemmingway; “it’s good to have an end journey: but it’s the journey that matters in the end”
The convenience of having a pass allowed a flexible itinerary to give me freedom to change routes and journey times. Some of the main city centre hotels were booked in advance, some on a whim. Fellow travellers were keen to share their local knowledge and some had tales of their own adventure.
If you can’t face the planning, I met people on organised rail tours who were having a wonderful time. They enjoyed the security of travelling with a group especially as a single person.
I am already organising next year’s journey to southern Germany, Austria and maybe even Croatia – who knows, the rail tracks are waiting……
5 days travel in a 10 day period the Global InterRail passes start at £201 per person for seniors.
For more information and helpful advice visit http://www.voyages-sncf.com or call 0844 5848.
Top tips
• Ensure you get a window seat on scenic routes and fast intercity trains by booking seats in advance.
• Consider travelling on overnight trains for a long journey saving on accommodation and minimising perceived travelling time.
• Buy your favourite picnic food for long journeys as the food available on trains is often poor and overpriced.
• Pack the minimum – remember you need to be able to lift the case onto the luggage rack. Staff are often not allowed to help.
• If the station doesn’t have a left luggage facility – ask at the Tourist Information they will often store luggage while you explore towns during the day.
• Hotels will often allow you to leave luggage during the day before or after checking in or out.
• Always be aware of document and wallet security in busy stations. Crowds boarding trains are a haven for pick pockets.
• Don’t be afraid to use the information desks at stations – always very helpful and will usually speak excellent English.
• Access boarding the train is not always easy, however with prior arrangement there is assistance available at the station. If you are in a wheelchair, advance arrangements can be made and concessionary fares are available for a companion
• InterRail has a good website and planning app which is great for checking times of trains

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