Trains, Planes, or Automobiles – Traveling through Europe

There is something so endearing about taking a train across Europe, sailing through farms, small towns, or scenic views of the coast.  Sometimes its like that, but if you’ve traveled around you know that sometimes its overcrowded, overpriced, and not always the most efficient mode of transportation.  Have you ever taken a night train?  I imagined it was like the movie, White Christmas the first time I took it, with comfortable sleeping quarters, and a lively diner car with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney belting out adorable diddies.  It was not that at all.  I’m not telling you that it was horrible and avoid it at all costs, because there are some benefits.  I love the idea of going to bed in Paris and waking up in Madrid.  Unfortunately, when I did that, I picked up some sort of flu and was in bed (with little memory of it) for 3 days.

A great train experience is taking the train along the French Riviera.  It takes a few hours from Marseille to get to Nice and beyond, and much of the journey has great views—-mountain cliffs on one side, and the Mediterranean on the other.   Also any train in Germany is going to be sleek, modern and efficient.  And I still love taking trains when I’m in Europe….to me, its all part of the experience.

Most of the time though, its faster and less expensive to fly.  One time we got overambitious and decided to start in France where I was, go to Germany, Italy, Spain, and end back in France.  We got online and booked our flights through RyanAir for less than 100 Euros total.  It was great, and so easy.   We decided to take a train from Barcelona back to Avignon that way we could spend as much or as little time there as we wanted (which turned out perfectly as we decided to go back early after a guy at the hostel mistook evelyn sleeping in her bed for a toilet).  After that trip though, I’ll never recommend trying to fit in that much in such a short amount of time (2 weeks or so).  In scheduling, we didn’t realize that Frankfurt actually meant a small airport an hour outside of Frankfurt.  Most of the less expensive airlines use smaller airports and then you take a bus into town.  We hadn’t factored in the extra costs, and also didn’t occur to us that if we had a 6:30 a.m. out of Frankfurt, we should double-check to make sure a bus ran that early–which it didn’t.

Although I’ve never driven in Europe, I have been lucky enough to meet people with cars.  Once we loaded in a van and drove up into the mountains about an hour outside Avignon.  We spent the day playing boules and eating great food.  It definitely wasn’t something I could have done without a car to get us there.  Leslie and I have decided to rent a car next year when we take our much-anticipated (don’t laugh…you already know we’re nerdy) Jane Austen tour.  Leslie, don’t kill me for spilling the beans, but I’m just too excited.  We’ll see how the driving turns out though, as it will be great to see things at our own pace and to get to drive through the English countryside….however, I don’t know how we’ll come back in one piece with us driving.  Watch out England, here we come.

Whatever your traveling preference, you are sure to remember the time fondly.  And the more adventurous, the better is what I say.  So the next time a one-eyed man offers you a lift on his motorcycle for a spin around the city (my hat tips off to you, Allison), say….why not.

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