Letting the train take the strain – Summer Holiday 2014

As I am on my summer holiday this is one of my lazy blogs; mainly pictures, no science and written in the hope of inspiring more people to give up flying and take the train instead. For those of you who don’t know I try to keep my time in the air to a minimum; years go by without me encasing myself in those uncomfortable sardine tins with the disconcerting habit of dropping several hundred feet every now and then. Yes, you guessed it; I hate flying, both on a personal level and also on an ecological level. Thus for the last twenty-five years or so have taken our car with us on holiday, and when possible, kept the carbon footprint as small as possible by putting the car on the train. In the old days this was remarkably easy, as French MotorRail ran a great service from Calais, but unfortunately that was axed a few years ago and this now means we have the choice of either driving to Paris to catch the AutoTrain from Bercy or driving across to Den Bosch in The Netherlands to catch the Autoslaap Trein. You can actually travel pretty much anywhere in the world by train and ferry; The Man in Seat Sixty-One is our personal hero, do check him out.
We left Bracknell at 1715 on Thursday 17th July to catch the car ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland. Due to the awful traffic around and in the vicinity of London, we didn’t arrive at Harwich until 2120 but despite that, got parked and into our cabin fairly quickly and in time for a late supper and glass of wine accompanied by a pretty good sunset as the ferry set sail.
Sunset Harwich

We had a very comfortable night (unlike our experience going to Bilbao eight years ago) and after a quick breakfast were able to start on our journey from Hook of Holland to Den Bosch, a drive of just over an hour. I drove the car on to the train and as we were first there apart from some motorcyclists, was at the front end of the transporter carriages.

Car on train

 

We then had a few hours of sight-seeing in Den Bosch in glorious sunshine before making our way back to the train and getting into our cabin, which came with hot and cold running water, two bunks and a complimentary glass of champagne courtesy of our stewardess.

Bedroom

We departed Den Bosch at 1315 and spent the next few hours travelling down through the Netherlands and on into Germany, much of it beside the Rhine which is very scenic at this time of the year.

 Along the Rhine compressed3  Along the Rhine compressed2  Along the Rhine compressed

At about 1745, we had a fifteen minute stop in Darmstadt, ostensibly to let us stretch our legs but as far as I could see it was really to let

Darmstadt station

the train staff indulge in a cigarette break! I did however mange to find a bit of nature on the platform although much to my disappointment,  it was not infested with aphids 😉

Darmstadt vegetation

For those train buffs among you here are the engines.  We were on our way again by 1800 and at 2030 we repaired (I find that travelling in style by train brings back the language style of a more relaxed age)

Engine

to the Dining Car for a very nice three course meal with a bottle red wine – very civilized indeed and so much more comfortable than flying 😉

  Dinner reservation Eating in style

We then retired to bed and despite the fact that we were rattling through the Alps at a fair old rate, slept very soundly until breakfast arrived at 0730 accompanied with a cup of coffee each.

Breakfast

 

Not quite as good as dinner but enough to keep us going as we hurtled through Italy.  By mid-morning we were running along the stunning Italian coastline and arrived at Livorno in blazing sunshine at lunchtime.

Italian coast Italian coast1 Italian coast2

The car was soon unloaded despite some problems with the motorcycles in front of which had been rather too securely attached to the train! We then set off on our drive to Castel Dell’Aquila in Umbria (incidentally the village features in a brief film Finding Marilyn in Castel Dell’Aquila).

It was as we were leaving Livorno that I had to make a choice between the two women in my life. Gill (Mrs (Dr) Leather) and Mrs Garmin (as we affectionately (?) call our SatNav) got into dispute.  Gill is great believer in navigating by the sun and as I was about to follow Mrs Garmin’s instruction on how to leave Livorno was told by Gill that it couldn’t possibly be right as we should be heading in the other direction – I couldn’t possibly say who was right but our estimated Mrs Garmin time of 1530 turned into an actual arrival time of 1820 😉 Still it was worth it

House front2 House front Holiday house

 

Post script

The villa comes with a kitten and also a dog!  Just as well that we don’t suffer from allergies 😉

Kitten  Dog

Post post script

And of course as well as reducing your carbon footprint, taking your own car means that you are able to bring back a lot of local produce, including the bottled variety 😉

 

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Letting the train take the strain – Summer Holiday 2014

  1. HHGeek

    And that is called travelling. Looks wonderful. Enjoy the local plonk & processed pig product on my behalf. 🙂

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  2. We’ve never put our car on a train. Anything would be better than sitting in a car, however, I was under the impression it was an expensive alternative. Financially, putting carbon footprints aside, is this the case. Amelia

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    • HHGeek

      Simon’s evidently too relaxed to reply as rapidly as normal. I tend to get the Eurostar & then pick up a hire car, as when I’ve compared the prices it’s worked out slightly cheaper than taking the car on the train. But that’s only been for France, and does rather depend on where you’re starting from. Record for bringing back wine on the train = 14 standard bottles + 5 l high quality bag in box.

      Of course, if you’re a wine geek, you could actually take your own car & then offset the entire cost of the trip by careful buying en route in the country/ies of production.

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    • not as expensive as might think considering you would have to hire a car if you flew and not be able to bring anything back with you – plus we are willing to pay to reduce carbon footprint, hence buy organic when possible etc.etc and it is such a great way to travel. And if you drove down you would need to stay overnight somewhere and buy dinner so…

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      • This is obviously something I must check out. I am remembering years ago when we enquired about using the train to take the car from Scotland to London. The economics of travelling changes constantly. Amelia

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      • UK train fares incredibly high compared with rest of Europe – took train from Berlin to Prague a few years ago for only £15 and still only 29 Euros today – equivalent length journey in UK would be several hundred quid and considerably less comfortable

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      • Thanks, I had not realised that.

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  3. I enjoyed reading about your holiday travel. I also like travelling around Europe by train and much prefer it to flying. I have very fond memories of travelling from London to Rome by train in the pre-Eurostar days – very romantic.

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  4. Pingback: Post card from Catalunya Nord – Summer Holiday 2015 | Don't Forget the Roundabouts

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