Marion's First European Holiday

Staff member: Marion // Trip date: Dec 2014

 

 

The excitement began when I was on my way to the Melbourne International Airport to begin my big adventure to the other side of the world. As I contemplated on how I would survive a long 24 hour flight to London, I arrived at the check-in counter and I was lucky enough to have been given an upgrade into Business Class for the first leg of the flight. Little did I know I would end up travelling Business Class all the way through and back across to Melbourne. This was complete bliss and such an amazing start to the adventure I was about to endure.

 

LONDON
After a long flight I finally arrived on a Saturday Night at London Heathrow Airport 30 minutes ahead of time and within half an hour I had collected my baggage, gone through customs and made my way to the bus that dropped me off at the door of my airport hotel. The following morning my best friend arrived from New Zealand. We decided to spend that day catching up with each other over food and drinks at the hotel restaurant and bar to shake off the jet lag. Overall we had lots of fun exploring London and a few of its sights, watching the Lion King Musical at the Lyceum Theatre. We also made sure to down a few beers at the local pubs while we buzz out on the English accent. It was total amazement.

Heathrow Express - bookable with Rail Plus
The platform is located outside Terminal 4 and was easy to find with large signs that directed you where to go. We were seated in First Class no seats allocated, we could board any train in First Class carriages and sit anywhere. The luggage storage is located at the front and rear of the carriages. The seats are double and back to back both forward and backwards facing with pull out tables stored in the back of the seats. The journey to London Paddington was certainly comfortable and big with good leg room space and Free WIFI available.

 

London Eye - bookable with Rail Plus
After visiting Trafalgar Square we walked to the London Eye enjoying every view we received from the tall buildings to the River Thames. Once we arrived the queue was ridiculously long. We went into the Ticket Office to exchange our vouchers for the ticket and waited in line for half an hour before we got inside the observatory. Once we were in, the views all around were amazing.

 

Madame Tussauds - bookable with Rail Plus
We had taken the tube from Paddington to Baker Street one morning and arrived to see a long queue already waiting outside to enter Madame Tussauds. We stood in line for half an hour before we were inside. Once we got in, it felt like we were at the Grammy Awards. So we went through admiring our favourite celebrity wax figures before making our way pass the "Scream Tour" and up to the Marvel Super Heroes Room where we got to see some of our favourite superheroes. Hulk was my favourite of course and the 4D show was just as cool.

 

The View from the Shard - bookable with Rail Plus
We had booked our time slot for 1830 that day and when we arrived we waited with a group and made our way into the "Kaleidoscopic" lift that took us up to level 68 within seconds. We walked all the way up to level 72 where we found ourselves completely speechless. The view was just amazing and to have seen it all at night was just as beautiful.

 

London to Paris
My friend and I took a taxi to London St Pancras Station to meet our Eurostar train to Paris. I was booked to depart on the 10.25am service as my friend departed on the earlier service. The station is quite big and really easy to navigate. 30 minutes prior to departure I went through check in where my ticket was scanned, through to customs where my baggage and passport were checked and stamped then off to the waiting area. Screens would update regularly and made it easy to locate the platform we needed to go to board the train. I was seated in first class and was seated in the middle of the carriage with another traveller seated in front facing me with a table between us. The luggage storage was located at the end of the carriage near the bathroom facilities. The left side of the carriage were double seats back to back with only very few seats facing each other with a table in the middle of them and the right was the same layout but only single seating. Complimentary breakfast was also served in First Class.

 

PARIS
The train journey was over 2 hours arriving at the Paris Nord Station late that morning. Taking a taxi to our hotel located in the 9th district was the most expensive 5 minute drive ever. We spent 5 days in Paris exploring the popular sights, locking in our locks at the Locks of Love Bridge, trying snails, eating good food and indulging in lots and lots of fresh tasting croissants, pastries and baguettes.

 

Eiffel Tower
We purchased a 3 day Hop On Hop Off Bus tour for 40 Euros which we used quite a lot to get around and visit the sights during the day and night. We arrived at the Eiffel tower to a long queue of people waiting to purchase their tickets without even realising we had pushed in the queue but people behind us didn't seem to mind so I guess we were lucky as we were only waiting 15 minutes till we purchased our tickets to level 2 for €5 and began the climb up the Eiffel Tower. We walked all the way up to Level 2 and purchased another ticket to go right to the top for another €6. Upon our arrival to the summit we witnessed 2 men proposing to their lovers over the amazing views of Paris. It was simply mind blowing.

 

Bateaux Mouche - bookable with Rail Plus
On our final day in Paris we decided to do the Cruise along the River Seine on a cold and wet day. Again we took the tour bus to the Eiffel Tower and walked for about 10 minutes to Pont de l'Alma to exchange our vouchers for the ticket. Once we arrived the next boat cruise was scheduled to leave within 15 minutes, 5 minutes before departure we were called to board the boat. It was definitely another great experience to see the sights we had already visited on land from along the river.

 

Paris to Munich
My friend and I parted ways, as she headed to the airport I made my way to the Paris EST Station where I validated my Global Pass and waited for the City Night Line train. After an hour we were finally able to board the train. The coach numbers were located on each front and rear door of the carriages that made it easy to locate. I had booked a Single Deluxe that contained a bed with pillow and duvet, toilet, shower facilities and a complimentary breakfast. There was plenty space for luggage inside an air conditioned coach. In the morning I was able to stow the bed away and turn it into a 3 seater. The seats as well as the bed were quite firm but comfortable.

 

MUNICH
After a 45 minute delay I arrived in Munich the following morning. My hotel was located 5 minutes away from the station and central to everything. After settling into my hotel I went for a stroll around Munich in the sun, admiring the lanes of retail stores, architecture and gardens before meeting up with friends at one of the local beer gardens. We purchased a Hop on Hop Off bus ticket to visit the sights of Munich. I found Munich to be such a pretty and peaceful city. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the friendly locals.

 

Munich to Berlin
The following morning I met my friends at Munich's main station where we made our way to the station the next morning to take the ICE train to Berlin. I purchased my seat reservation once I arrived at the station and was scheduled to depart on the 09.16am service. I was seated in First Class in a single seater. The luggage storage was located at the rear of the carriage near the bathroom facilities. There is single and double seating in carriages with overhead storage and snacks and drinks are also offered on board to purchase.

 

BERLIN
After a 6 hour journey we arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof just in time for the 4 day Rail Strike. We spent 2 and a half days in Berlin visiting the sights, shopping along Alexanderplatz, experiencing and learning the history of one of Germany's first concentration camps and eating lots of good food. Germany was one of my favourite experiences.

 

Hop On Hop Off Berlin

 

I had a complimentary 24 hour bus ticket which I exchanged prior to getting on the bus. There were 2 routes on this tour. My friends and I spent this day hopping on and off at nearly every sight. The Berlin Dom, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, The Berlin TV Tower, The Memorial of The Jews and The Berlin Wall were only a few of the sights. The atmosphere was amazing yet some places I visited really saddened me due to the darkest days of history endured by a city I found absolutely beautiful and peaceful.

 

Sachenhausen Concentration Camp

 

After a visit to the Berlin Wall we made our way to the Brandenburg Gate where the tour scheduled to depart at 11am. This tour was approximately 5-6 hours. As there were rail strikes the tour company had booked a coach bus which we only had to pay a little bit more extra. After a 45 minute drive out of Berlin to Oranienburg we arrived at the Memorial and Museum of Sachenhausen. Prior to taking this tour I had watched documentaries and movies leading up to World War 2 and as soon as I arrived I was completely overwhelmed. One of the most emotional experiences I have ever had.

 

Berlin to Salzburg

 

As my friends stayed on in Berlin and due to the rail strikes I ended up flying to Salzburg with Air Berlin, which meant trading an 8 hour train ride for a 1 hour plane ride instead.

 

SALZBURG
After arriving at Salzburg Mozart Airport I took a taxi to my hotel which was only 1km away from the Salzburg main train station. I spent 2 days in Salzburg exploring the beauty of the city itself and experiencing the Sound Of Music Tour. Without a doubt it felt like my hometown. Such a small musical town surrounded by mountains and lakes, it was very pretty.

 

Sound Of Music Tour - bookable with Rail Plus
The day I arrived it was warm sunny weather with clear blue skies. However the day of the tour was a complete different story. The clouds were so low you could barely see the mountains and it was the 2nd coldest place I was in during my whole trip. I had a complimentary ticket for the morning tour which departed Mirabellplatz Bus Stop at 0930. The sights from the movie I got to see was the lake and the Front and back of the Von Trapp house, the outside of Maria's abbey, the Rotunda and the Wedding Church. I definitely had lots of fun singing along and experiencing the musical side of Salzburg, it was bliss.

 

Salzburg to Venice
I walked from my hotel to the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof Station where I boarded the Eurocity train to Villach to catch the connecting train to Venice. The Eurocity train from Venice to Villach had no luggage storage only the overhead storage for smaller or carry-on luggage. I just stored my luggage wherever there was space. The seatings were singles to doubles facing each other with a fold out table in the middle of seats. Snacks and Drinks were also offered on board to purchase. I then arrived in Villach to board the Trenitalia train to Venice where the carriages contained cabins. There were 4 comfortable seats per cabin facing each other with pull out tables and lots of leg room space. The cabin had overhead luggage storage and bathroom facilities were located at the end of the carriages.

 

VENICE
After a 6 hour journey I arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia. I was completely blown away by the view once I exited the station. I spent one and half days in Venice where I became sick and to make it worse the smell of the canal did not sit right with my senses. However the weather was warm and sunny and after a much needed rest I ended up taking the boat all the way out to Lido and back taking in some of the views of Venice via the Grand Canal as the sun was about to set.

 

Venice to Rome
I walked to the Venezia Santa Lucia Station to meet my train to Rome. I travelled for 4 hours on board the Trenitalia Frecciargento train. I was seated in First Class with single and double seatings facing each other with tables in the middle. Luggage storage stands throughout the carriage and overhead storage for carryon luggage. Bathroom facilities located at the end of the carriages and complimentary biscuits and drink served on board.

 

ROME
I arrived early afternoon at Roma Termini and took a taxi to my hotel. I spent 2 days in Rome experiencing the ancient history of this city, hopping on and off the tour buses, visiting the Colosseum and The Vatican using the OMNIA Vatican Pass (bookable via Rail Plus) and eating lots of delicious pizzas and pasta

 

Rome to Florence
I took the Trenitalia Frecciargento Train from Rome to Florence. I was seated in First Class carriage located next to the snack bar carriage. The carriage had single and double seatings facing each other with tables in between and power sockets. Overhead luggage storage and bathroom facilities located at the end of the carriage. Complimentary biscuits and drinks were also served on board.

 

FLORENCE
I arrived at the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station in the mix of a street full of protesters and police. Again I was surprised at how completely different this city was compared to Rome and Venice. I found it to be a pretty cool city. I spent 2 days here and decided to take a break from the hotel and spend 2 nights in a hostel full of mainly party goers who played pool and drank at the bar during the night. One of the easiest ways to socialise with people from all walks of the world. While I was in Florence I did the Hop on hop off bus tours my favourite stops were the Piazza Michelangelo and Fiesole both offering amazing views of the city and town.

 

Florence - Lucerne
I made my way to the station where I travelled on the Frecciarosa train to Milan to meet my connecting train to Bern. The platforms at Firenze S.M.N station had screens locating carriage numbers so travellers knew where to board their carriage. I was seated in First Class. The carriage had single and double seating facing each other with tables in the middle. Luggage storage located above and in between seats with bathroom facilities located at the end of the carriages. The train from Milan to Bern had similar layout to the above but with luggage storage at rear end of carriage near bathroom facilities. I then boarded a regional train in Bern to travel to Lucerne.

 

LUCERNE
I arrived at the main train station in Lucerne which was located directly across the road from my hotel. I spent 1 full day in Lucerne where I experienced snow for the very first time up at Mt Pilatus and off course made sure to eat my favourite Lindt chocolates. Mt Titlis was one of my favourite experiences from beginning to end. Thoroughly enjoyed my time in Lucerne and wish I could have stayed longer.

 

Mt. Titlis
I travelled on the regional train from Lucerne to Engleberg and walked 5 minutes to where the tour up Mt. Titlis began. Upon arrival I exchanged my voucher for a ticket and boarded the gondola which travelled up to the Trubsee where I then boarded a larger gondola to Stand then boarded the new 360 degree cable car and travelled up to Titlis. I was able to access the Glacier Cove, walk the bridge and take in some amazing views of the peaks, have lunch at one of the few restaurants and grab some souvenirs before heading back down to the bottom of Mt.Titlis.

 

Lucerne to Paris
I was up and out of bed before sunrise ready to take the Golden Pass train from Interlaken to Montreux. I took the regional express train from Luzern to Interlaken then changed trains and boarded the Golden Pass Line. Seated in First Class the seating were single and double facing each other. The luggage storage was located above your seats. My bag was too heavy to lift so I just kept it in front of me as there were no other passengers on board. I arrived in Zweissemen and boarded the Panoramic Car to Montreux. I was seated in First Class where the carriage had single and double seats facing each other with a table in between, large panoramic windows and snacks and drinks on board to purchase. Luggage storage was located at the end of the carriage near the bathroom facilities. From Montreux I boarded a regional train to Geneva to meet my TGV Lyria train to Paris.
The TGV Lyria had luggage storage at the end of the carriage and overhead for carryon luggage. I was seated in 2nd Class. The carriage had double seating with pull out tables and power socket. Some seats were facing each other with tables in the middle. The bathroom facilities were also located at the front of the carriage.

 

Paris to Barcelona
I travelled on the France - Spain TGV train to Barcelona on board a dual train. Luggage storage was located at the end of carriage near bathroom facilities. The carriage contained Single and double seating with pull out tables and some seats facing each other with tables in the middle.

 

BARCELONA
I arrived at Barcelona Sants station and walked across to my hotel. I had a complimentary Barcelona Hop On Hop Off pass which I used to visit sights such as the National Museum, Sagrada Familia, Gothic Quarter and many more of the cities beautiful sights. My time spent in Barcelona was not long enough but I thoroughly enjoyed the locals, the music, the Magic Fountain Night Show and of course the food.

 

Barcelona to Madrid
From my hotel I made my way to the train station in time to check in for my AVE train travelling to Madrid. Upon arrival at the station my passport and tickets were checked 30 minutes prior to departure before making my way down to the platform to wait to board the AVE train. I was seated in First Class, the carriage contained single and double seating facing each other with a table in the middle. Luggage storage was also located at the end of the carriage near the bathroom facilities and also overhead luggage storage for your carry on luggage.

 

MADRID
I arrived 2 hours later at the Madrid Puerta de Atocha Station where I only spent the night before returning to Melbourne. I didn't prepare myself well enough so I didn't get too see much of Madrid before making my way to the airport. Having being my last stop I spent an hour or two shopping for the last bit of gifts on the list and trying to get rid of the last of my Euros.

 

CONCLUSION
As this was my first time to Europe I found travelling by train between countries super easy. Having the Global Flexi Pass was great especially when using a few regional trains without additional costs. There were also lots of bonuses and discounts included with the pass. I found everything to be pretty straight forward and easy to navigate. If you felt lost there were always points of contacts available at all times to help you find your way.

 

The reality of just taking a train from one county to another was such a buzz for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every train experience regardless of the train delays, rail strike or the failed attempted robbery I experienced on the train in Rome. Every bit of my European experience was perfect.

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