Nicole sees Europe by train

Staff member: Nicole // Trip date: Sep 2011

NICOLE'S EUROPE TRIP - SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

Departed Australia

I last visited Europe in 2008 and I was looking forward to going backing and seeing some places I had not previously seen. Although I did revisit some places I loved like Berlin, Paris and Laturbrunnen.
I departed Melbourne at 15:00 flew to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Zurich, Zürich to Lisbon.
It was a long journey and with 3 hours between flights in Zurich it worked out perfectly that I could utilize the shower facilities in the day room at Zurich airport. I located the day rooms and they were about a 15 minute walk from my arrival gate. I think this shower saved me as I still had the flight from Zurich to Lisbon. It was worth the 15CHF for the shower. After I arrived at my hostel I calculated that I travelled 27 hours.

I arrived at the hostel around 14:00 Lisbon time and that night at 19:00 I did the Tapas and Fado Sunset tour by Urban Adventures, booked via Rail Plus. This is an evening walking tour for about 3 hours. It starts in the square and you get taken through neighborhoods that you may not have even know exist. Halfway through we stopped for an included beer overlooking Lisbon while the sun was setting. It includes a dinner where you share plates of meats, cheese, cod dishes. The Portuguese know how to do cod in many different ways. The fado music is a big part of Portuguese culture especially in Lisbon. While dining you listen to people singing fado. The tour finished about 11pm and we went out to sample some nightlife and thanks to the tour guide we did not end up in a "tourist bar" Overall this tour gives you a great overview of Lisbon and you get to discover areas and a cultural side to Lisbon that you would never had even found if you were wondering around yourself.

Lisbon to Sintra to Cascais to Lisbon

Sintra is only 54mins train ride away from Lisbon. I did not use my rail pass on this section as I wanted to save a day. Instead I paid €1.90 for a one way ticket. The train to Sintra is a local suburban train. Rail passes are valid. You simply show your rail pass to the security guard and they will let you through the gate. You must validate the day.

Lisbon has 5 train stations. Different trains to various locations depart from different stations. Trains to Sintra depart from Lisbon Entrecampos station.

Sintra has many castles and palaces to visit. The highlight of the area is the Pena Place. To reach the Pena Place and 3 other castles you take a bus from the train station. A day ticket can be purchased for £5 this will allow you to get off at the few stops enroute to the Pena Palace such as the Morrosish Castle ruins. The bus ride is about 10 minutes to get to the Pena Palace.

We purchased a day ticket for £10 that allowed us to use the bus network in the area as we had decided to also try to squeeze in the beach town of Cacrais. After spending the morning visiting the Pena palace and Moorish palace and spending the afternoon in Sintra eating lunch and sampling many different pastries such as the famous Portuguese custard tarts we headed to the bus stop to get a bus to Cacrais The bus to Cacrais is just over 1 hour; the bus makes a stop at the western most point in Europe then it continues to Cacrais. Cascrais was Portugal's first beach resort. The beach was nice, but its nothing compared to the beaches in Australia. It made a great place to have a seafood dinner before heading back to Lisbon

Trains form Cacrais to Lisbon take 29minutes and this train is also part of the suburban rail network for Lisbon. Your rail pass can also be used on this line. We arrived back in Lisbon about 1am.

Lisbon to Porto return and then the overnight train to Madrid
AP67 Lisbon to Porto
AP34 Port to Lisbon
HOT855 Lisbon to Madrid

I wanted to visit Porto in Portugal. This is where port wine was invented and many distilleries can be visited for taste testing. I would have loved to spend weeks just travelling around Portugal however I had a lot more of Europe to explore so I did a day trip. To maximize my time I took the 0600 train from Lisbon Santa Apolonia. Trains to and form Porto depart from Lisbon Oriente and Lisbon Santa Apolonia. We took the Alpha Pendicular which is the Portuguese high speed train. The Alpha Pendicular runs from Lisbon up to Braga or from Lisbon to Faro. Its alot faster than the Intercity trains. The Alpha Pendicular requires a compulsory seat reservation. Reservations can only be made inside Portugal. These cost €3.

This was the first day I was using my rail pass so I arrived at the station at 5:30 to get my pass validated and purchase the seat reservation for my journey. I showed my rail pass and passport, got the pass validated and purchased my seat reservations for the day.

The Alpha Pendicular travels at 220+km per hour for most of the trip and there is a screen in each carriage to show the speed of the train. There is no announcement of stops in English however the screen in each carriage is in English and Portuguese and advises you of the next stop.

Lisbon to Porto

The trip to Porto on the Alpha Pendicular takes only 2.35 minutes so I was able to arrive in Porto by 8:44am allowing me to do the city sightseeing bus around Porto which was a great way to see a city if you only had one day. I managed to visit a few port cellars to sample a few different types of port before having to head back to Lisbon to take the overnight train to Madrid that night I travelled in 2nd class from Lisbon to Porto as I travelled with a friend who already had a 2nd class ticket. 2nd class has chairs 2x2 on each side, plenty of space for luggage at the end of the carriages. There is also for €2 luggage restraints that can be purchased. On the 6am service a hostess come around and you can purchase a breakfast for €5. This was omelettes and croissant etc. There are also TVs along the roof of the carriage and headphones can be purchased however TV is only in Portuguese. There is also access to music stations

Return Journey Porto to Lisbon

On the return journey I was in first class. First class has an aisle one side of the carriage with a single chair and an aisle with 2 chairs. The seats are slightly bigger in 1st class, refreshments are complementary and were offered 3 times throughout the journey. Newspapers are commentary as are the head phones for the tv or music system.

Lisbon to Madrid Night Train.

Lisbon Oriente is the biggest station in Lisbon. The overnight train departs from both Lisbon Apolonia and also Lisbon Oriente. The starting point for the train is Lisbon Santa Apolonia. Santa Apolonia station is relatively small and old compared to Lisbon Oriente. Lisbon Oreinte has various levels, shops and the CP lounge. Santa Apolonia does not have a CP lounge, it has a small waiting area and a few cafes. Holders of a first class seat reservation for an Alpha Pendicular service or the Lisbon to Madrid night train are entitled to use the CP lounge at Lisbon Oreinte. The lounge has free wifi and water and nice comfortable chairs to wait for the train. It took me 15 minutes just to locate the CP lounge.

The Lusitania is the only train that operates directly from Lisbon to Madrid and it only runs at night. I had a first class single sleeper. It did not have a toilet or shower as only Gran class has a toilet and shower. There is no shower in the carriage just a shared toilet. The next morning I had an included breakfast. This train is basic, but it was great to have a bed for the night and not have to sit in a chair for the night. I arrived in Madrid at 9:30 am the next morning refreshed.

Madrid to Granada - ART 9324 Madrid to Granada

After arriving in Madrid at 09:30 at Madrid Chartmain station I had missed the morning direct train to Granada and the next direct train was at 17:05. I made my way to Madrid Atocha station instead of taking the metro that would involve changing metro lines with my luggage which would have taken nearly 50mins and would have also meant paying for a ticket for the metro. I instead took the regional suburban service from Madrid Chartmain station to Marid Atocha station which takes only 15 minutes. The regional service is called the Cercanías and the location of this service can be identified in the train station when you see a sign that has a red circle and a white c. Rail passes are valid on all Cercanías services. The next train can be found by checking the departure board for the train destination that says P-Atocha. There seemed to be one every 10 mins. Line C7 amongst others will take you to Madrid Atocha station that is only 3 stops away.. The regional suburban train has ticket barriers so I simply showed my rail pass to the security and they opened the barriers to let me through.

On arrival at Atocha station. I located the storage lockers that cost €3 for 24 hours. I put my bags in the locker as my next train wasn't until 17:05. I then went to the make my seat reservation for that 17:05 train. I would recommend pre booking your seat reservation prior to the day as the queue at the station was quite long. I waited about 40mins. After I had my seat reservation for later that day I headed into the city of Madrid. Once again I took the suburban Cercanías train 2 stops to SOL which is the centre of Madrid. This was free with the rail pass and it saved having to pay for the metro. I had already been to Madrid on numerous occasions where I had done the tourist sights, so this time I shopped as Madrid is great for shopping and headed back in time for my 17:00 direct train to Granada. Once again I took the suburban service back from SOL to Atocha station.

Train stations in Spain have a high security. When taking the train in Spain you must arrive in plenty of time to go thought the security check where your bags are scanned and then when you board the train your ticket is checked. Only ticket holders are allowed on the platforms. It is best to allow time to get through security. The train opens up for boarding around 30 minutes before departure
The train had plenty of space for baggage at the end of the carriage and also overhead. First class included a meal that was serviced about 1.5 hours before arriving in Granada. When the train first departed free drinks and nuts were served. After the meal a hot towel and a chocolate was offered. There was also a TV and free head phones were offered, but the movie was only in Spanish
I spent the next day visiting the Alahambra and enjoying the tapas and nightlife of Granada.

Granada to Madrid to Barcelona then the night train to Zurich

This was one of my longest days of travel. Train from Granada to Madrid
A meal was included on this train about 1 hour after departing, free refreshments were served. A hot towel and chocolate after the meal was offered.

I had previously reserved this train in Australia to save time and I made my seat reservation for my next journey from Madrid to Barcelona also in Granada.

I arrived at Madrid Atocha with 1 hour between my trains to Barcelona. I went through security and headed to the Salsa Club lounge. If you hold a first class seat reservation or ticket you can use the lounge. Here you can get free soft drink, beer, and snacks.

Madrid to Barcelona

The AVE is the Spanish high speed train. It takes only 2.43 minutes to travel a distance that if you drive is over 650km. After having worked as a tour guide in Europe and having sat many hours on a tour bus along this route I was excited to travel this route in such as short amount of time in maximum comfort and minimal time 1st class on the AVE is spacious the carriage has an aisle with 1 chair and an aisle with double chairs. The AVE has a free meal and free refreshments. Multiple TV screens are attached to the roof of the carriage, head sets are fee, however there is no English, but there are music channels. The train arrives into Barcelona Sants station.

Barcelona Sants station to Barcelona Franca StationThe Elipsos night train departed at 19:58 from Barcelona Franca station. Getting from Barcelona Sants to Barcelona Franca is simple and quick if you take the Cercanías suburban train. This is the same as what I took in Madrid. Taking suburban regional train is quick and easy. It takes approximately 15 minutes and Line R2 will take you directly to Franca station. If you take the metro this can take nearly 1 hour and involves having to go on the metro with luggage and having to pay for a metro ticket. If you take the local suburban train it is free with the rail pass. To get through the ticket barriers I showed the security guard my pass and they opened the barrier.

I arrived at Barcelona Franca station with 1. 5 hours between trains. This station is not the best station. There are no lockers. There are also many undesirables that frequent this station. The luggage lockers have been closed down, the restaurant was currently closed and it did not look like it was going to reopen anytime soon. Outside of the station there are many restaurants and hotels. I went to the information at the station asked if they had a left baggage service (they do not have any service and they don't know if they lockers will reopen). They advised that I could leave my bags at one of the hotels across the road. I did this and paid €3 for the 1.5 hours and walked around and took in Barcelona in the early evening.

Elipsos from Barcelona Franca to Zurich

This night train is amazing. I was in Gran class. Gran class has a toilet and shower in the cabin, there is proper pillows and doona on the bed. The bed even had a chocolate on the pillow. When you board they check your ticket and give you your room key and take your passport off you and it is kept for the entire journey for border crossing purposes. As Gran class includes a 3 course meal and breakfast the next day just after boarding you are asked what time you would like to eat dinner in the early sitting or late sitting. On arrival you are given a glass of champagne and it includes all your drinks with dinner, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. On return from dinner you discover that your bed has been made up. It's perfect after eating so much you can't move anymore you can head to the cabin and relax in the comfort or your "mini hotel". By the time I had finished dinner I was exhausted after all the travel done so I slept well.

The next morning breakfast is also included. There were a few options to choose from, hot or cold. I arrived in Zurich refreshed and ready for my Swiss adventures with my Swiss rail pass.

Zurich to Lucerne

I arrived at Zurich HB at 10:30 and I decided to check out the SBB first class lounge. The SBB first class lounge can be used if you hold a first class Eurail or Swiss pass. It has free wifi, computers to print, fax machines free non alcoholic drinks and biscuits. I decided to have a morning coffee and biscuit before heading to Lucerne. There is a big departures board in the lounge so you know when and where the next train is. I had a Swiss pass, but the queue was too long to validate it so I decided to use a day from my Eurail pass to get to Lucerne.

Zurich to Lucerne


Trains in Switzerland do not require seat reservations (apart from the scenic trains) so I boarded the train to Lucerne with my pass and sat anywhere in first class. This was a double decker train. Plenty of space for luggage and wifi hot spots in first class. However you have to pay for the wifi. A drinks trolley comes around to purchase drinks and snacks. There is also a snack bar car. The journey is just 50 minutes direct from Zurich to Lucerne.

After arriving in Lucerne and checking into the hotel. I spent the day wondering around Lucerne, seeing the highlights such as the famous lion monument and chapel bridge I decided the next day that I would do the Swiss Scenic train The William Tell. This train requires a compulsory seat reservation. I had a Swiss pass and I had to get it validated and I needed to make the seat reservation for the William Tell so I headed to the train station. I walked past the boat terminal which is in front of the train station where the ferry leaves from which is part of the William Tell. I made my reservation for the William Tell and got my pass validated at the ferry ticket office. This saved me having to line up in the train station to get my pass validated. The Swiss pass is valid on all trains, boats, buses in Switzerland it even allows entry into many museums.

Lucerne to St Moritz via the William Tell and a Swiss Post bus.

Today I was doing multiple trains and buses so I took advantage of the Swiss Express Baggage Service that is offered in Switzerland. You check your bag in before 9am at the train station and for 20 Swiss francs you can collect it the same day after 6pm at your final destination. This worked out perfectly. I checked my bag in at 8am at Lucerne train station and headed for the 9am ferry to Fluelen that is part of the William Tell. The boat trip is across Lake Lucerne. When you make a seat reservation for the William Tell you get a bonus Swiss army knife, a voucher for 19 Swiss francs to be used on the ferry.. The ferry had 2 levels. 1st class is up stairs and 2nd class downstairs. I enjoyed my meal while cruising along the lake. An information booklet is given to you when you make a booking and it describes various points of interests around the lake and things to do at each stop it makes.

At Fluelen I had to wait approximately 20 minutes for the train to Bellinzona. The train is a normal passenger train and intercity train. First class has large panoramic windows and a seat was reserved for me. The information brochure describes various points of interest along the train route. The train goes all the way through to Locarno. I disembarked the train at Bellinzona.

Post bus from Bellinzona to Thusis

As I had to get to St Mortiz in one day the easiest way was to get off the William Tell in Bellinzona and take the yellow Post bus from Bellinzona to Thusis. This bus continued onto Chur. This bus requires a reservation and is open until 1 hour prior to departure. The reservation is free and is done directly online. I had done this previously. I had made my reservation for the 15:30 service. I arrived in Bellinzona about 13:50 and rather than waiting around for the 15:30 service I decided to try my luck and ask if I could travel on the 14:30 service instead. The ticket office advised me that reservations for the 14:30 had closed as it was less than 1 hour before, but to ask the driver if I could get on. The bus departs from outside the train station. I found the 14:30 service that had destination Chur and asked the driver if there were any seats and there were, so I showed my Swiss pass and boarded the bus with no problems at all.
The Post bus journey from Bellinzona to Thusis is a stunning journey. It travels right over the San Bernadatto pass. The bus travels high up the mountains. . The bus goes where no train can go. I thoroughly enjoyed this bus journey and in my opinion it was far more stunning than the William Tell train as you are travelling high up in the mountains. If the bus had panoramic windows it would be one spectacular journey.

Thusis to St Mortiz

This train is know as the Rhaetic Railway. The train is the regional train that runs from Chur to Tirano. Every now and then they play a bit of information about the train line, that its UNESCO world heritage site listed and that it has so many tunnels and twists and turns. It also plays promotions for the Bernina Express.

After arriving in St Moritz at 18:00 I picked up my bags from the train station. It was great not having to take my bags with me with all the changes of trains I was doing.

St Mortiz to Zermatt - The Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is amazing. It is worth doing the whole 7 hour journey. There is always something to look at. Head phones are provided and a map with numbers and when the train has arrived at a number on the map a bell rings and then you put on the head phones and listen to the commentary. There is plenty of space at the end in both 1st and 2nd class carriages for luggage. 1st class even have somewhere to hang coats and jackets. There is a snack car on-board and at the start of the journey they come around to see if you would like to have the 3 course meal or any meal from the menu and it is served at your seat.

Zermatt to Lauterbrunnen

This morning I took the Gornergrat Railway from Zermatt to Gornergrat to view the Matterhorn. From Gornergrat you can not only view the Matterhorn, but 29 mountain peaks can also be viewed. This cost me 39 francs as it was half price when you have a Swiss passs. The train ride is spectacular and I was fortunate enough it was a clear day. The train ride is about 30 minutes to reach Gornergrat.
After coming back down from Gornergrat I headed to Lauterburenn taking the regional train R250 at 14:39 from Zermatt to Visp. The regional train from Zermat to Visp is a private line and it is referred to as the Matterhorn Gottard Bahn. If you do not have a Swiss pass you must pay a supplement for this train. I had a swiss pass so I just boarded the train to Visp. This train allowed the windows to slide open which made for a great opportunity for photographs.

All of the trains did not require any seat reservations and I boarded each train and sat anywhere. I did not have any problems finding a seat. The ICE train from Spiez to Interlaken had an on board music system where there were numerous radio and CDs playing, you just need to plug in your head phones. All ICE have timetables on board that show connecting trains at arrival train stations
After arriving in Lauterbrunnen I decide to take a trip up to Murren. The gondola to Murren is located across the road from the Luatterbrunn train station. It is free with the Swiss pass and also the Jungfrau pass. You take the cable car up to the top of the mountain and then you change over to a train that runs along the edge of the mountain and it takes you to the village of Murren. This takes about 20minutes.

Lauterbrunnen and the Golden Pass

Today was the day I was planning to do the First Flyer. This is Zip Line that runs down a mountain travelling at 86km per hour. I had a Jungfrau VIP pass that covers all the trains and cable cars in the Jungfrau region also allowing me to visit the top of Jungfrau for free. Overnight and that morning Switzerland was experiencing snow, usually there is no snow at this time of the year. Therefore the First Flyer was closed due to bad weather so I decided I would take the train to Singagette Platte which is part of the Jungfrau pass however this was also closed due to ice. Normally this train operates until the end of October, but due to the bad weather they were experiencing it was closed. There was no visibility at the top of Jungfrau and/or First so I decided to try the Harder Kulm.. This was open and I showed my Jungfrau pass and boarded the cable car. I had got to the top and it started snowing. I came back down into Interlaken and it was pouring with rain so I decided rather than not doing anything because of the rain I decided to take the Golden pass from Interlaken to Montreux. The Golden pass does not require compulsory seat reservations, however some sections it is recommended such as between Zweisimmen and Montreux. The further west I went the weather cleared. The Golden Pass requires a change of trains. From Interlaken to Spiez and Spiez to Zweisimmen and then Zweisimmen to Montruex. The trains that run from Interlaken to Spiez did not have big panaromic windows, but the windows slide open so you could take photos. The train from Zweisimmen to Montreux had large panoramic windows. After arriving at Montreux at 16:05 I then took 4 trains back to Lauterbrunnen to arrive back in Lauterbrunnen at 19:30. I took a train from Montreux to Lausanne to Bern to Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen.


Lauterbrunnen to Munich

This morning I decided to try again to see if the First Flyer was open. It still was not open and either was the Schynige Platte train. Having heard that they had had a lot of snow up the mountain overnight I decided to go up as I had seen the region in October many times and not seen snow before and I had always wanted to see it in winter, now I got my wish. Heading up the mountain from Lauterbrunnen towards Wengen which is the first stop it was covered in snow and it started to snow at Wengen. Further up it was almost a blizzard! After coming down from the mountain I was headed to Munich for the next 3 nights

I took many types of trains on this journey. From the Swiss Intercity and Regional trains. The Swiss trains all announce major connecting trains in English, German and French of what time and what platform they leave from this is why I was able to make some changes in a very short amount of time. The Swiss Intercity which is a double decker train, to German ICE train from Basel to Karlsruhe. The German ICE trains provide timetables which list connecting trains for stops enroute and they also announce the trains. German ICE trains also offer chocolates at various times throughout the trip. In seat service is also offered. No food or drink is free, but it is served in your seat.

I arrived in Munich at 21: 36 and stayed the next 3 nights in Munich. I was staying with a friend who lives in the suburbs of Munich so I used my rail pass on the Sbhan to get into the city centre.

Munich to Hamburg

The ICE are one of my favourite kind of trains, they are efficient and comfortable. The do not have compulsory seat reservations they are optional. I did not have a seat reservation but as this train was a long journey there were sections of the train that were reserved for portions of the journey. I found a seat that was not reserved. Above the seat on the luggage rack is a little electronic screen on that displays the cities that the seat is reserved to such as Munich to Bamberg.
After arriving in Hamburg I was meeting a friend. Whilst I was waiting for my friend to finish work I put my bags in the locker at the station for €3 and took the Hop On Hop Off Bus. As I was staying at a friends house they live in the suburbs of Hamburg, I used my rail pass on the Sbhan train to get to there.

Hamburg to Berlin

Normally the journey from Hamburg to Berlin on the ICE train is 1hour and 39 minutes. However this journey took over 5 hours due to fire bombs that were placed on the high speed train lines between Hamburg and Berlin and Berlin and Leipzig. These fire bombs were placed there due to protestors protesting against the war in Afghanistan. All ICE high speed train had to re route and take the long scenic route along the train lines that is normally used by the regional trains, therefore the ICE trains could not travel at high speeds. I had planned to stay in berlin 3 nights, however due to not arriving early I stayed an extra night to do things I did not get a chance to do before such as visit WW2 bunkers and cold war bunkers. Once I eventually arrived at Berlin HBF this station was one of the biggest I have seen with trains departing from various levels, shops and restaurants. I found the S bhan train to take me to my hostel and I used my rail pass on the Sbhan.

Berlin to Nuremburg

Originally I had planned to go to Prague after Berlin. However I had been to Prague a few times so I decided just to pick a place I had not been to before so I decided Nuremburg as I wanted to visit the Nazi Rally Grounds and also I had heard Nuremburg had some of the best gingerbread and well preserved gothic architecture. As I had the freedom of having a rail pass I boarded a ICE train from Berlin to Nuremburg. This train was a Berlin to Munich Direct train. I was getting off in Nuremburg. As I was travelling at the spur of the moment I boarded the ICE train as ICE do not have compulsory seat reservations and up until now I had taken quite a few ICE trains and not had a problem finding a seat. However if you are taking this train I would recommend making an optional seat reservation as I did find it difficult to find a seat that was not reserved. I did find one of the few seats in the carriage that was not reserved for the entire journey. In peak season I could imagine the Berlin to Munich train being quite full.

Nuremberg to Wurzburg

I boarded the IC to Frankfurt enroute to Cologne. The IC trains in Germany are slower than the ICE trains and do not have the leather chairs in 1st class like the ICE. As I was approaching Wurzburg the area was surrounded in vineyards and Wurzburg looked interesting so I decided to get off the train in Wurzburg. I found a hostel near the station and visited Wurzburg for the day. I visited some wine cellars which Wurzburg is famous for and also the Residence which is the palace the bishops lived in when they used to control Wurzburg in the 1600s. It's a very small city, which can be explored on foot in one day.

Wurzburg to Brussels via Cologne

It was quicker to take a change of trains using 2 ICE trains to Cologne rather than taking a slower direct IC train directly from Wurzburg to Cologne. This saved me 1 hour. I had to change trains at Frankfurt airport. The ICE, when arriving at the airport, announced the connecting trains that were departing within the next 20 minutes and announced the platform they were departing on. This made connecting trains at the Frankfurt airport train station very quick and easy as by the time the train arrived at Frankfurt airport it was 10 minutes late and therefore I had just 4 minutes between trains, due to being informed of which platform my connection train was departing from it allowed me to make my connecting train in time.

At Cologne I put my bags in the lockers for a few hours and went to look around Cologne and the Cathedral which claims to be one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Europe. Then I got on the ICE train from Cologne to Brussels. I took the train at 15:45 and as it was an ICE it did not require compulsory seat reservation whereas the next direct train to Brussels after my 15:45 was the 16:00 Thayls train and requires a compulsory seat reservation. The ICE train originated in Frankfurt and as was bound for Brussels it was a train route that is used frequently by many international business travellers and therefore in first class they actually have English newspaper on board free for first class pass holders. Normally the newspapers on all the many other ICE services I took within Germany had German only newspapers.

I stayed in Brussels 2 nights, the next day saw the sights and did a bike tour of the city.

Brussels to Paris

The Thayls train is a luxury high speed train. The train journey from Brussels to Paris takes only 1hour and 20 minutes. The train in 1st class has large comfortable chairs. If you put your chair back the person behind still has a lot of space. I took the 10:37 service and in first class morning tea was included on the service with a coffee and cake. There is also free wifi on board in all first class carriages.

Paris to Hettanige Grande

I went to Hettanige Grande which is a village close to the French border with Luxemburg to visit a friend. The easiest way to get there was to take the TGV to Metz, my friend met me in Metz as it saved me having to change train in Metz and wait for a connecting train. The TGV from Paris to Metz takes just 1.5 hours travelling more than 200km per hour. There is wifi on board, but it's not free. The chairs are large and comfortable and there is plenty of room for luggage at the end of the carriage. On board there is a snack bar. I spent 2 days visiting the area and visited Luxembourg and a WW2 bunker. In Luxembourg I only had one day so I took the city sightseeing bus, which gave a great overview for the limited time I had there.

Hettanige Grande to London

I departed Hettanige Grande to eventually end up in London. The train from Hettanige Grande to Luxembourg is a regional service and I just boarded the train with my pass and sat anywhere as it does not do seat reservation. The train from Luxembourg to Brussels does not do seat reservations as it's in Benelux so I just boarded the train and sat anywhere. There was no problem finding a seat. I then took the Eurostar at 12:29. I went through immigration 40 minutes before the departure. The British and Belgium immigration is done on the Belgium side. First you pass through the Belgium immigration and then the British, when you get to London there is no pass immigration to clear.

Final Comment

I immensely enjoyed my time in Europe. Taking the train was an efficient and comfortable way to travel Europe. Having a rail pass allowed me to have some flexibility when travelling through Germany as seat reservations are not compulsory in Germany and it allowed me to select the destination I wanted to visit on the day and then jump on the next train to that destination. I found all conductors spoke English and making seat reservations for trains that were compulsory was also very easy.

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