Page 30 - PIC Magazine Autumn Issue 16
P. 30

When planning a trip start at the Seat 61 website. There
you will find all you need to know on a Country by Country basis. Timetables, routes, seat plans, the works: it is a labour of love.
I buy tickets from 2 providers, Rail Europe and the Trainline.
The latter works better for me because it accepts American Express and because it holds tickets for longer. When I escaped
to Turin, an astonishing City in Northern Italy. I entered the dates and both sites came up with identical itineraries at the same
price. However, Rail Europe would only hold my seats for 2 hours. The Trainline set them aside for a week. That breathing space is really helpful when you want to ensure that hotels (see below) are available on your proposed dates. For the 5-hour direct trip from Paris to Turin I paid £80 each way First Class. Prices rise as you get closer to departure. All major train services include a reservation so you are guaranteed a seat.
ather than trying to jet off somewhere in the near future, you might just be pleased to try out rail instead.
The first escape route to the continent is
Le Shuttle. This service conveys
your car on a train between Folkestone and Calais.
When you drive off in
France you are 5 minutes from a vast Motorway network that can take you to Paris but also the whole of France, Belgium and beyond. My first family journey was
to Venice which culminated in
putting our car on the ferry that
sails from the edge of the City out to the Lido opposite the mainland, cruising down the Grand Canal.
Those worried about going away, travel in the security of their own vehicle. The price of travel is per vehicle including up to 9 passengers. This works in favour of a family or friends off
en masse. The journey takes 35 minutes and is smooth. There are up to 4 departures an hour. You book your slot on a specified departure. Pay a hefty premium and you can get a Flexiplus ticket which allows you to jump the queue and get straight onto the first service departing. I have made many crossings and have found it faultless.
Top tip; just off Junction 12 of the M20 Motorway is a Tesco Superstore with
a petrol station. Fill up here as fuel is much more expensive in France.
The real treat for me is doing my entire trip by train. Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras which whizzes over to central Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes. There are tremendous onward connections across mainland Europe. Before describing a few favourites, there is one piece of advice I urge you to consider! Go first class. In this Country one pays a massive premium. On the continent, the difference in price on a 5-hour journey might just be a tenner! Always check. The luxury of more space and very comfortable seating is worth it.
Of my many journeys, the ride from Paris to both Strasbourg and Barcelona is special because double - decker trains operate! Being upstairs makes for a much more interesting journey. Both providers I mention allow you to request upper deck seats.
Forgive me for repeating earlier advice but always contact any hotel direct. I use Tripadvisor to get a sense of what a hotel is like. Those online hotel suppliers charge a fat commission on every room sold. Your hotel will get more income if you book direct. The hotelier knows who paid what and I assure you that you will benefit from a direct booking. In Turin, I stayed at the superb Turin Palace Hotel for €125 a night including a lavish breakfast. That price matches the online cost but the hotel guaranteed an upgraded room so I was better off!
Here is a short list of hotels I adore. None are silly money.
PARIS - HOTEL K AND K CAYRE. This is in the smart St. Germain district and it has a metro opposite but is absolutely calm. Highest levels of housekeeping and immaculate rooms.
VENICE - HOTEL COMMEDIA - a block in from the Rialto Bridge. It has a rooftop sunbathing terrace and Bar. Dead central yet one could hear the proverbial pin drop.
BARCELONA - GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL with a staggering infinity pool and sunbeds on the roof.
AMSTERDAM - THE HILTON. This is one stop on the tram from the Museum District. Built in the 1960s, this has real style and lots of space. Trust me!
Partners In Costs
The real treat for me is doing my entire trip by train. Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras which whizzes over to central Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes.

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