Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

30th June 2013

Ich möchte mit dem Zug fahren
Posted by at 8.57pm | Trains | 1 response

DB locoI’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.

26th June 2011

New York, Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made, Oh
Posted by at 8.00pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Congratulations to New York, which is the sixth US state to legalise same-sex marriage. Because New York is so populous, the change in the law should double the number of gay couples who can legally wed. Unlike many US states, New York does not require a couple to be resident in the state for a marriage to take place there, meaning that people from other parts of America can take advantage of the law.

It’s not all good news of course: anti-gay groups are certain to try and get this decision reversed, as happened in California. The Defence of Marriage Act means that the marriages are not recognised by America at a federal level, which affects issues such as tax benefits and immigration rights. But this is a huge step forward for a country which is generally very slow to recognise gay equality.

Never forget that this decision affects real people – here are some of those people, celebrating outside the Stonewall Inn, generally considered to be the birthplace of America’s modern gay rights movement.

29th March 2011

The Odd Couple
Posted by at 1.15pm | Fun | No responses

I found this article a while back. I was going to Tweet a link to it, but thought that it was worthy of inclusion here on the blog proper. The headline is “The Scariest (True) NYC Sublet Story You’ve Ever Heard”:-

After living with Jack for a few months, Doug was running home through the middle of a raging rainstorm, and noticed that Jack’s window was wide open, water pouring into the room. He rushed up the stairs, still dripping wet, and knocked on Jack’s door … Neatly piled into stacks were Chinese food containers, some 10 boxes high, some already toppled, with their half-eaten contents strewn on the floor. The cartons covered all the available area on the floor except for a narrow walkway to the bed and the desk.

Please note, the above is NOT the horrifying part. Read the rest of the story if you dare.