As far as I'm concerned the most civilised, cheap and time-efficient way to get to the Netherlands is overnight on the ferry. I left home at 7.15pm and was at Amsterdam Centraal by 10am the following morning. No queuing - I walked straight onto the ferry, enjoyed some food, a bottle of wine and had breakfast the following morning after a good night's sleep in an en-suite cabin.
If you get a rail/sail ticket, you can travel from the Hook of Holland to any Dutch station for just over £100 for two of you, which is excellent value.
Because of this ferry service, the Netherlands have now become my place for a quick getaway. Much easier than travelling there by Eurostar.
We have just arrived back in the UK from Spain having travelled entirely by trains and busses. On our return trip we paid the extra fare and went Grand Clase on an Elipsos Trenhotel.
We found that there are shortcomings to the promised service that spoiled the experience. These included no answer on the internal phones, very slow restaurant table service and an air conditioning system that didn’t work in our cabin.
But the real issues were to follow:
The overnight service from Madrid to Paris stopped en route during the night, the power went off and back on several times.
The breakfast table service was chaotic, only two waiters were struggling to cope with passengers demands. We decided that this may be due to the impending arrival in Paris and so abandoned the restaurant.
Confused about the lack of information we found (with the assistance of another passenger’s sat nav) that we were still 100 miles from Paris. No one from the company had bothered to let any of us know the train was running more than two hours late!
No staff from the so-called first class train hotel made their faces seen until our passports were returned at 10:00am; the train finally arrived at 10:30am. Some passengers also missed their Eurostar connections.
I have looked at the Elipsos.com website and cannot find any ‘contact us’ or ‘feedback’ links for me to use to complain about their failed service and communication standards.
If you only have a few days and are starting in New York City, I might suggest following US 1, a highway which goes from Maine to Florida Where available, you can choose to take US 1A (also known as Alternate US 1 - it's not a contiguous highway) for a more scenic coastal route. From New York, you can head north into New England (cool days, chilly nights in April). Or, for warm weather, head south from New York along the Mid-Atlantic coast into the South and all the way to Key West, if time permits.
Some of the best American regional cuisine is located along the East Coast. Most of the seasonal diners, crab shacks and lobster pounds will be open by April, but not yet crowded. My personal favorites include: the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine; Essex Seafood in Essex, Massachusetts; Durgin Park in Boston, Massachusetts; Mrs. Wilke's Dining Room in Savannah, Georgia; the Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, Florida; and Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House in Miami Beach, Florida. There are simply too many to list; you need to get the Roadfood book or see their website. Happy travels and happy eating.
The west of America has some of the most awe-inspiring scenery I've ever seen. If time is very limited, fly into Vegas and drive down to the Grand Canyon, north rim, via Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park. Not only will you get a taste of life on the road here, I guarantee you'll be blown away by the landscape. You can find motels or lodges on National Park land for little money ($50 (£25) a night will get you a decent place) and all the crappy diner food you could ever want.
It's tough to beat driving up the Pacific Coast highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Stop in Big Sur on the way and glory in the scenery. Otherwise, if you want to stay on the Eastern edge, it's worth a trip down at least part of the Blue Ridge parkway. The actual parkway has a 30 mph speed limit (if I remember correctly), so it gives you time to take it easy and enjoy your classic car!
One thing I would definitely recommend is the book (and website) Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern. They're a husband and wife team who specialise in writing about food and travel. They also file regular reports for the radio show 'The Splendid Table' broadcast by Los Angeles-based public radio station KCRW (which you can podcast from kcrw.com). They're constantly in search of wonderful holes-in-the-wall, diners, shacks or anywhere else that serves good American "classics" - from clam chowder to hot dogs to meatloaf to pecan pie, and everything in-between. The book is organised geographically, so wherever you end up driving, it's likely that they'll have covered the area and will offer some good choices.
I live in Girona, a Ryanair hub (with flights to and from Bristol) which many people use to get down to Barcelona. However it is a great town with plenty going on, top class restaurants, easy access to Barcelona by train (€12 return) or if you hire a car, to the foothills of the Pyrenees and the nicer bits of the Costa Brava. Not necessarily a huge amount warmer than the UK, but generally a lot brighter! The only downside is that it is a bit short on hotels, so you need to book early.
To reach Ibo independently you will have to get a chapa ride from Pemba (or even more demandingly by changing rides on the rough road from Macomia), from where you will reach Quissanga. From there it is a short ride down to the ocean at Tandanhangue. Usually the chapa runs to meet the high tide and an unforgettable dhow ride to Ibo Island. Be aware that other islands are served from the same departure point. If you do get stuck - perhaps at the low spring tides - there is a shelter to sleep overnight, or perhaps you will find a bed in the village itself.
Any trip on a dhow is rewarding, but approaching the dilapidated fortifications of Ibo is especially memorable. The price locals pay for the one-way trip is NMT 40.
The 11 route takes commuters through the tourist heartland every 10 minutes or so. The route takes in Ludgate Hill, St Pauls, Bank of England, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Victoria Street, the Strand and much more. The cost is 90 pence (with an Oystercard) so is far better value than the tour companies.
The 11 route runs between Liverpool street Street and Victoria Station. You can get hop on from the Strand, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament Square and Ludgate Hill.
Reached via cable-car, this mountain at the edge of Tirana gives an attractive break from the bustle (and traffic) of the city. There are some restaurants and amenities up here but it’s mainly about the view along the route and the scenery atop the mountain. Costs about 500 Lek for the trip.
I've used them for transfers in both the winter and the summer and I've always found them to be very reliable. Its about the same price as the public bus, but it's much quicker and they take you straight to your door - much easier than dragging all of your luggage around a resort!
The community narrowboat called Angel II takes either community groups or private groups on tours of the canal. You can sleep up to twelve but it's nicer with less. It's based in Angel, near the tube. The skipper will take you either west through the Islington tunnel up to Camden and through London Zoo and Little Venice, or east to Broadway Market, Victoria Park, The Palm Tree pub in Bow and so on. You can turn up the Hertford Canal and go up to Hackney Marshes too.
There is a great wealth of history in terms of the industrial revolution and the various types of architecture but also the canal provides a welcome corridor of nature right through the centre of London. At 2mph it's an easy pace and you will learn how to do the locks and steer the boat. You can do an evening, a day or a week. It's self-catering.
Along the way is the London Canal Museum and various lovely old pubs. The Islington tunnel is 886 metres long - it's very impressive. Bring a nice bottle of wine and cruise through some of London's finest history. It's so peaceful.
just off Graham Street N1, by the City Road Basin, it's just down from Angel Tube.
The best way to view London is from the river and the Thames Clippers river taxi does the job. For £8 you can buy a River Roamer (after 10am weekdays and anytime weekends), and get on and off the boats all day. There is no garbled commentary (that's so common on the leisure boats) and it runs from Millbank (Tate Britain) to O2 at Greenwich stopping at all the usual sights (Tower of London, London Eye, The Globe, Greenwich etc).
The seats are comfortable, all seats have good views and there is a bar serving snacks, coffee, soft drinks, wine and beer at reasonable prices. The boats get busy towards the end of the day, especially travelling east. You may have to wait for the next boat, or make your way home by bus or tube. Even so, if you start early, the River Roamer ticket is good value.
This is a great service that acts as a booking agent for transfer companies in the Chamonix Valley from Geneva Airport. The best thing is that they will find a transfer that is closest to your arrival time and also the cheapest.
This website offers a web-based cycle route planner you can use to search cycle routes anywhere in Europe. The planner combines several existing, described routes to make your cycle route complete. It's a Dutch site originally, but with the English translation you can use it anyway.
We travelled from Casablanca to Marrakech on second class tickets. Very crowded and some people had to stand in corridors during the three-hour jouney.
In hindsight we should have booked first class tickets a day or two before. First class does not cost that much more (Train fares are very cheap compared to UK fares). When we bought our tickets on the day of travel, the first class tickets were sold out.
Casablanca Voyageurs station
We don't normally go for city tour buses but this was definitely worth it. We paid 260 dirhams (about £18) for two tickets valid for 24 hours that allowed us to jump off/on the tour bus along the route.
The main reason why we recommend it was that one of the routes took us out to the Palmeraie area (palm trees, camels etc) which we would not otherwise have seen.
Red bus just off the Jemma El Fna square on Av. Mohamed V.
Unusually – only London and New York share the virtue – Japan’s capital has two major airports – Narita and Haneda. It is almost certain, if you’re flying from the US or Europe, that you’ll arrive at the former but remember to check your ticket especially when you’re leaving the city. They are very (very, very) far from one another so, arrive at the wrong one, and you’ll be in trouble.
Narita may be accessible but Tokyo’s city centre is anything but from Narita. A little known gem of trivia is that the two are almost 2 hours apart (!); and a taxi (of any kind) is ruinously expensive (over £200). Important tip then: if you’re not a CEO, take the train. It’s quicker, infinitely cheaper and unsusceptible to the horrors of Tokyo traffic.
Take the remarkable bullet train to Kyoto and sample the wonders of ancient Japan. Kyoto’s city centre may not seem like much, but you’ll be charmed by the extraordinarily preserved Buddhist temples and the warm, simple hospitality of the traditional ryokan (an old-school Japanese inn).
Depending on where you are staying, it may actually take you longer to take the 'airport express' train than the coach. The coach takes from 70-90 minutes but saves you travelling to the train station (particularly during rush hour) and can often pick you up from the hotel.
Ask at your hotel
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