The Railway Centre in Bickleigh, near Tiverton is everything you would want from a steam engine centre - plenty to put your hands on, working engines, rides, models, etc - but on a delightfully small scale. It is perfect for small people. They even provide steps to stand upon for the smallest to see the model railways housed inside original carriages. Thoughtful and helpful staff, a nice (inexpensive) shop and beautiful scenery around make for a place we shall be returning to for a few years yet.
A guesthouse in the midi-Pyrenees and the base for Jonathan's tours - walking holidays in the beautiful Ariege region of France. The village manor house has been restored with sympathy and flair. The garden - where Jonathan grows organic fruit and veg - a hidden oasis of terraces and lawns, provides a delightful lunch setting for Myriam's wonderful meals - all food is sourced locally and where possible, is organic. Jonathan is passionate about the area and an enthusiastic guide. When not based at home he's running similar walking tours in Crete.
If this sounds like an advertisement, well I'll come clean - I run creative writing holidays at Le Clos Enchante - also painting holidays, but we first met Jonathan and Myriam in Crete and have the greatest respect for his style of guiding - always taking his clients to meet local people, putting money into the local economy wherever possible (meals taken with shepherds) - both in France and in Crete.
And to save on those polluting airmiles why not travel to Le Clos Enchante by train on the excellent French rail service - as we did last year when our camper van broke down. After a B&B in Toulouse, we took an early morning train - changed in Bordeaux and Paris and got to Roscoff in plenty of time for our overnight crossing to Plymouth.
Visit the Roman arena in Cimiez in spring and see the wild orchids growing among the remains of a villa.
Take the "train des merveilles" to Tende passing across perilous viaducts and through helicoidal tunnels, and visit this very unspoilt village way up in the mountains near the Italian border.
Avoid going to Nice before 2008 - all the main street (Avenue Jean Medecin) and the Place Masséna are in chaos - works for the future tramway - with dust everywhere, traffic problems, uneven footpaths etc.
It is a very lovely train ride along the River Plate (Río de la Plata). In San Isidro Station there is a nice shopping centre with cafes etc.
From Retiro Station, take the train that ends in Bartolome Mitre, then cross the bridge and take the Tren de la Costa to Tigre.
Alongside the fast but expensive CAT train, there is an ordinary stopping train to the centre of Vienna (same station as the CAT) that costs far far less. Ideal unless you're in a real hurry, but you have to look for it at the airport (follow blue signs to trains, not the CAT green ones).
Vienna International Airport
Rapid transit rail service with double decker trains from Schwechat airport to the city air terminal (near the Hilton and the Wien Mitte station where you have the U3 and U4 underground lines). Costs 9 Euros single and 16 Euros return; journey takes 16 minutes and trains leave the airport twice an hour at .05 and .35.
If you're in Calvi or Ile Rousse on the west coast you can't miss the rickety old train running between the two towns.
You don't see trains like this very often anymore. Noisy as hell, sweltering hot in the summer but the views are stunning as you rattle along the coast with all doors and windows open.
It's basically a Beach Transporter. Helping you get out of the two towns to find lesser populated beaches along the coast.
8 euros for the return trip. Cheaper if you hop off at a beach. Pay at the station or on the train. Calvi to Ile Rousse takes about 45 minutes.
The best way to get there from Stuttgart is by car. It will only take about 40 minutes via the B27 heading south. Or take the train from
Stuttgart's Main Station (Hauptbahnhof - Hbf). Standard adult return is about 18 euro, but get a Baden-Württemburg ticket allowing 5 people to travel all day for about 25 euro or so. Check
www.bahn.de for details. Journey time is one hour maximum - it takes so long because
the train has to travel around the edge of the Schonbuch Nature Park - well worth visiting itself if you have the time - don't get lost however, it's pretty big.
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