I’ve become rather addicted to The Man in Seat Sixty-One, a comprehensive web site containing a phenomenal amount of info on train travel worldwide. A lot of the data has been gleaned through the author’s own personal experiences, so it contains advice that the official railway web sites do not reveal. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past week or so clicking through the various options available.
International train travel is, of course, slower and usually more expensive than getting on a plane, but much more environmentally friendly, infinitely more exciting and with less chance of being groped within an inch of your life by some burly security guard (which may or may not be a plus point). Of course, cheap flights have opened up new travel opportunities, and that’s not to be sniffed at, but there’s definitely something to be said for the journey being part of the experience.
I want to get out and see more of the world, and if I can indulge my rail enthusiast side as well, even better. Therefore, I’ve been reading through it and compiling a shopping list. So far, here’s what I have:-
Amsterdam by train and ferry
Greater Anglia, Stena Line and Nederlandse Spoorwegen offer a through ticket between London and Amsterdam via a ferry, with prices starting at just £45 one way. I’ve wanted to visit Amsterdam for ages, and throwing in an unusual train journey would add to the fun. Save a spacecake for me!
Berlin by sleeper train
Berlin is brilliant, as I discovered during my visit there last year. It’s easy to get to by train as well. I want to go there again, and I could get there by taking the Eurostar to Paris, then getting Deutsche Bahn’s City Night Line overnight sleeper service. This train, consisting of modern sleeping compartments, leaves Paris at 6.45pm each evening, arriving in the magnificent Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 8.30am the following morning. By booking in advance a sleeper compartment can cost as little as €104. Wunderbar.
Coast to Coast across the USA by train
This is the biggie. A four-day trip by Amtrak from New York to San Francisco via Chicago. It’s expensive (roughly $900 if I want a sleeper compartment), but looks like it would totally be worth it. I mean, just check out the scenery! Also, I could pretend to be Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote (she always seems to be taking Amtrak trains and encountering shady characters). And of course, the cities at each end (New York and San Francisco) have their attractions too.
I hope to do at least one of the European trips mentioned above some time in 2014. The American voyage is a more long-term plan – there would be a lot of planning (and saving of pennies) needed. I just hope I can get there before the Republicans close down Amtrak forever, as they keep threatening to.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next railway adventure – travelling to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper with my friend Ian. I can’t wait – although I’ll have to, because I’m not going until September.