Tracey's Europe tour and visit to the nuns in Austria

Staff member: Tracey // Trip date: Jan 2009


Dot 2 Dot (Product no longer available)

Arrived into Heathrow mid afternoon, collected my luggage and headed into the main hall. The Dot2Dot service booth was easily spotted and I made my way over. I was greeted by name and welcomed to London by a very friendly staff member. She took me over to the waiting area and I only had to wait for about 10 minutes for the next bus to arrive. The lady escorted me out to the bus, where the driver also welcomed me and loaded my bag into the van.

The van was very comfortable and spacious. Once we arrived to the hotel, the driver carried my bags into the hotel foyer.

After such a long flight, I found this to be a very easy and stress-less and a great way to start my holiday.

Oyster Card

As a first time consumer, I found this card to be brilliant. It was so easy to use. Upon entry to the platform, lightly touch the card to the yellow pad and away you go. At the destination station, you do the same, and this time, the screen will light up with the value remaining on the card, so you always know just how much you've used. It's a great way to see when the balance is getting low, so you can top the card up when needed.

All stations and many shops have the ability to top oyster cards up. Every station I went to was surprisingly clean and the efficiency of staff and the rail network was excellent.

Not only is the oyster card great for rail/buses etc, but many 'touristy' things are offered at discounted rates by simply showing your card. Example, I did a Thames river cruise and saved almost 50% off by simply showing my card.

Hop on Hop off

Using the oyster card again, I caught the tube to Embankment and made my way to Charing Cross for the Hop on Hop off bus. With a map and camera in hand, I had a great day at all the famous landmarks and hot spots. The open top double decker bus, conveniently stops right out front or within very close walking distance to all London's treasures. And with buses running every 10-15 minutes, it's a great way to visit the city. Headsets are given to each passenger on boarding, and commentary is available in most languages.

London Eye

A short stroll from the hop on hop off bus stop, I found myself at the Eye. I had pre purchased (from Rail Plus) a fast track ticket, queued up and within moments, was overlooking the city with a birds eye view.

With an extreme fear of heights, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy this, but I can honestly say, that there was nothing to worry about. It takes about half an hour to complete a ride and with 360 degree views, it's well worth the experience.

Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath

This full day tour began with hotel pick up and I was transported to the main office where I boarded another bus that was to take me on my tour.

The tour guide and driver were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. About 1 ½ hrs after we first set out , we arrived at Windsor castle. Our guide, Ruth, was with us for about 30 minutes and then we had our own time to wander the grounds of the castle and gift shop.

It is very important to make sure that you are back on the bus at the time stated by the guide, as it has been known that the bus will depart without you if you are not back on time.

From there, we headed to Stonehenge. Again, headsets were handed to all visitors for commentary in all different languages. Plenty of time was allotted for strolling around, taking photo's and enjoying the scenery, before we headed off to a local pub for lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the beautiful city of Bath for the remainder for of the day.
At about 5pm, we boarded the bus for the 3 hour journey back to the city, where we were dropped off at Victoria Station (just by the main tour office).

Eurostar

Time to leave London and head to Paris on the Eurostar. St Pancras station is so easy to navigate. Found where to check in, got my bag x-rayed, and there is an airport style customs procedure also.

Made my way to the lounge and relaxed before it was time to board. 30 minutes before departure, I made my way up the escalator and my carriage was easily spotted thanks to the painted numbers on the platform floor that the train was aligned with.

Plenty of room for storing luggage at the rear of each carriage, along with overhead storage for smaller bags and jackets etc.

We departed on time and within 10 minutes, welcome drinks were served for first class passengers. A meal soon followed and after the meal, we got hot refresher towels. All throughout the journey, hot and cold beverages were offered.

Arrived into Paris a few minutes later than scheduled, however, this was not a major issue. Paris Gare du Nord station is a large busy station and not as 'user friendly' as London St Pancras, although, there are information booths and helpful staff throughout the terminal.

Hop on Hop off Paris

Very similar to using the Hop on Hop off in London. A local city map and headset are given to each passenger upon boarding for the first time. Buses depart every 10-15 minutes and a full circuit takes about 2 hours without stopping. The bus stops at all major landmarks including Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, The Lourve , Notre Dame and many more. I think this is one of the best, most effective ways to see Paris. Again I got the ticket from Rail Plus.

Paris Disneyland

Using the RATP Disney ticket (from Rail Plus) which includes the rail and entry to the park, I caught a train from Nord station and needed to change at Les Halles for a connecting train to Marne Le Valle. Changing for a connecting train was simple and the system is really efficient. I just needed to scan my train ticket which was attached to my Disneyland ticket and off I went. Once at Disneyland, my ticket was checked and I gained entry to the park.

Paris Disney was great fun and using the RATP ticket, made everything so easy. My return train ticket was also attached to my Disney ticket and having everything as one ticket made it convenient as I only had one ticket to hold instead of three. By also having pre purchased my ticket before leaving Australia, I avoided any queue's at the park as it allowed me fast track entry.

Paris - Rome Overnight Train

This service departed from Paris Bercy station in the evening. Bercy station was a lot smaller than I imagined, making it very simple and easy to find my way around. There are 2 waiting area's, one area is enclosed with ticket sales, vending machine's and toilets, while the other waiting area is open aired with a small kiosk.

I boarded the train about 20 minutes prior to departure and needed to give my tickets and passport to the carriage attendant. The carriage was set up as seating and was very compact. A small wash basin complete with toothbrush/paste, towels and drinking cup were neatly hidden in a corner pocket of the compartment.

Shortly after departure, Peter, the attendant went to all the compartments and introduced himself and offered assistance if required. Peter had also asked what time I would like breakfast served the following morning. Shortly after, another host come along and advised that the dining car was open and meals would be available for purchase.

The heated dining car was set up like a little restaurant, complete with table cloth and candle. Attention to detail was really nice to see. The waiter was great and the meal was surprisingly tasty. All passengers mixed in together and it made for a really nice evening.

Once dinner was over, I went back to the room and found the seats had now been converted into my bed. I settled in for the night but couldn't sleep because, even though it was dark out, the view was still amazing. Eventually, the gentle swaying of the train lulled me into a peaceful nights sleep and I woke up feeling refreshed and rested.

Breakfast was soon served in my room and consisted of juice, tea, and croissant. I was pleasantly surprised with the service and standard.

Hop on Hop off Rome

Again, this is the same as London and Paris. Excellent way to see the city and enjoy all Rome has to offer.

Open top buses that run regularly around Rome and stopping at all famous landmarks including Trevi Fountain, Colloseum and Vatican City.

Rome - Venice

Boarded the Italian Eurostar from Termini station to Venice SL. There wasn't a lot of luggage storage, so I think it's advisable to get there early and board first.

Seats were comfy and like all trains that I had so far been on, this too was also equipped with tray table, overhead storage, power supply, and reclining seats. Once we departed, newspapers, beverages and snacks were provided.

Dining car was cosy and snacks were available for purchase and there was ample room for wheelchairs and walking aides.

Train was excellent, very clean, comfortable and staff were great. Both Rome Termini and Venice SL stations are very easy to navigate and sign posted in both Italian and English.

Venice-Verona
Departed Venice SL on time and headed for Verona. There wasn't a lot of luggage storage, however small bags could go behind some seats or in the overhead racks. Train was very comfortable, with adjustable head rest, foot rest, tray tables, power points, reading lights and coat hooks.

Snacks were available for purchase.

Verona - Innsbruck

Verona station was a lot bigger that expected. Café's, chemist, gift shops, etc were all part of the station and this is one station that actually had lifts provided as well as stairs.

Once on board, I found my seat, which was in a 6 seat compartment, very old art deco style. Even though this train was very old, it was still comfortable and relaxing. Again, not a lot of room for luggage.

Food wasn't very good on this train but I was assured it isn't always the case.

The scenery on this journey was magnificent and at times I felt like I was inside a postcard.
Arrived into Innsbruck on time and had a great trip.

Innsbruck - Salzburg

Innsbruck station was small but easy to navigate and clean.

Train arrived and departed on time and finding my seat was easy. I had a leather reclining seat, foot rest, tray table, coat hooks and power supply for PC's or any electronic device.

It was a very large open carriage, with lots of space for luggage. Meals and beverages were available for purchase from your seat. Reading material was offered free. On approach into Salzburg, passengers were given a baci chocolate served on a silver platter which made for a really lovely effect.

Sound Of Music

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamt of going to Salzburg and doing this tour. Well, my dream had finally come true and from start to finish it was everything I imagined and more!

I got picked up from my hotel in the little red van, along with the 6 other passengers, and had a brief tour of the city as we made our way along all the wonderful sights, scene's and set's used for this movie.

In this 3.5-4 hour tour, places such as the convent, the gazebo and the beautiful lake were all spectacular. Our guide, Peter, was a lot of fun and knew all the words to all the songs. (and lets face it, don't we all know the words?)

I think my biggest highlight was going into the breathtaking church in Mondsee where Maria and Captain Von Trapp married. The small township on Mondsee is picturesque and all the locals are very friendly. The tour stops here for around an hour for free time and a bite to eat at one of the many café's or pubs.

After lunch, we headed back into Salzburg and were dropped off in the heart of the city where, just a short distance from the tour office, is the fountain that Maria and the children danced around whilst singing DO-RE-MI.

This tour is not only great for fans of the movie, but for everyone, as the scenery alone is magnificent.

Salzburg - Vienna

This was by far the best train of my journey in my opinion. There were 3 different classes on board. Premium, First class and Economy.

Premium- 4,3 or individual seats in a private glassed in section. Reclining seats, very similar to a sky bed and adjustable reading lights.

First class- 2 carriages on board. One carriage was a full open carriage with reclining seats and the other carriage had 11 seats in slightly private carriage. This was a brand new train and each carriage had a screen each end, showing a route and speed of train. It also had the distance to the next stop.

Economy- equivalent to first class on other trains I had been on.

Dining car- standing option only but very classy. First class passengers had to go to the dining car and order food, however, the food was then brought to your chair on china plates and fancy napkins.

A welcome drink was offered to first class passengers in the first 10 minutes of departure and shortly after, cheese biscuits were also offered.

Staff were very friendly and nothing was too much trouble for them. This was an exceptional train and thoroughly enjoyable.

Final Comment

Using the Eurail pass was so easy to use. Just fill the dates of travel in the boxes provided, and board the train, in conjunction with my seat reservations. Soon after departure on all services, the conductor asked to check my tickets and then he stamped them and handed them back. Stress free and easy.

There was one journey that couldn't be confirmed before I left Australia,(Verona-Innsbruck) so on arrival into Rome, I had simply gone to the ticket window and pre-arranged this a few days before travel. The staff were very helpful and again, this was very easy to do.

Overall, I had a fantastic time on all the trains and using all the different products including oyster card, Stonehenge tour and Hop on hop off buses.

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MAP OF JOURNEY
Tracey's Europe tour and visit to the nuns in Austria map

Photos

Dot 2 Dot transfer bus
Dot 2 Dot transfer bus

London Eye
London Eye

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

Hop on Hop Off bus
Hop on Hop Off bus

Boarding the Eurostar
Boarding the Eurostar

Tracey and Donald Duck at Paris Disney
Tracey and Donald Duck at Paris Disney

Maria and captian Von Trapps house
Maria and captian Von Trapps house

Rolf and Liesle, I am 16 going on 17
Rolf and Liesle, I am 16 going on 17

1st class from Salzburg to Vienna
1st class from Salzburg to Vienna

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