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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

26. Paris Accommodation

As I'm now having four nights in Paris instead of seven, I thought it might be a good idea to find a place a bit closer to the tourist attractions. Remember, the main "sites" I really want to see are the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Galeries Lafayette and walk along the Champs-Élysées. With this in mind, I've been searching for something with a similar cost to the place I booked back in October. Huh! Had I been smart, I would have booked a few places back then and made a decision later. As it is, many of the cheaper places are booked out and what's left is slim pickings. Naturally if I had a bigger budget, I'd have a bigger choice, but ... we have to do the best we can with what we have. The other problem for me is I need something with a lift - having arthritis, walking up and down four or five flights stairs, especially lugging a suitcase would make it a bit difficult.

Left or Right Bank?
Of the two places I found, one is in the same area (Saint-Germain/Luxembourg) the other is on the other side of the river in the Louvre/Châtelet area. I wish I'd had the foresight to book something in the Marais area a couple of months ago - I just realised today, most of the "tourist" sites are north of the river and this would have been one of the best areas for seeing Paris tourist spots on foot. Unfortunately, the hotels available now are rather pricey - many of the cheaper places are fully booked.

Hôtel Saint Pierre
This one is in the St. Germaine/Luxembourg area, about 1 km north from the first place I booked, at 4 rue de l'Ecole de Medecine so it will be much quicker getting to the "other" side of the river. It's only 32 euro more, so the price difference isn't too great.

Above: Single room

According to the booking site, the room has as follows-
Room Facilities: Safe, Air conditioning, Desk, Heating, Carpeted, Soundproof, Shower, Hairdryer, Free toiletries, Toilet, Bathroom, Telephone, Satellite channels, Flat-screen TV
Room Size: 12 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 twin

This is what it looks like from outside.

Above: Hotel exterior

The hotel lift looks pretty ancient.

Above: An antiquated lift

Having checked google maps, I find it is 1.6 kms from the Louvre, whereas the first place I booked is 2.2 kms (from the Louvre) - so 600 metres closer! It's also closer to the RER B line which I will need to access when I arrive and depart.
The upside too is it has air conditioning, the downside is there isn't an outdoor area or terrace. (Being a smoker, I don't much fancy standing on the street at night)

Hôtel Flor Rivoli
This is the hotel I found north of the river and is in the Louvre/Châtelet area. The main metro lines are available at Châtelet Metro Station, which is only 220 metres away. The Louvre is 850 metres, Georges Pompidou Centre an 11 minute walk and the Latin Quarter, 10 minutes by foot, according to the booking site.

Above: Hôtel Flor Rivoli

It doesn't look very inviting, does it? Sort of cold, not welcoming.

This is the single room

Above: Single room

Provided with free Wi-Fi and a satellite TV, this soundproofed room has a private bathroom with free toiletries and hairdryer.
Room Facilities: Safety Deposit Box, Heating, Hairdryer, Toilet, Bath or Shower, TV,
Telephone, Satellite Channels, Wake Up Service/Alarm Clock
Room Size: 10 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 single bed

Free Wi-Fi for me isn't necessary, I don't need a hairdryer and it doesn't have air conditioning. It does have its own toilet though. Considering there's no air conditioning, (the fist place I booked doesn't have air con either), it probably isn't that much of an improvement. For 100 euro more, the only advantage I can see is it's a shorter walk to the tourist sites. Something I'll have to think about.

Taking things into account, now that I'm writing this up, I can better see the advantages between the three places and apart from a shorter walk, this last place doesn't really have much to offer, whereas the Hôtel Saint Pierre has the advantage of air con and a shorter walk - maybe not that much shorter, but a bit.

There is also the street itself to be considered. There are buses running along the street of the first place (Pension Residence du Palais) and it has a (small) balcony. I think the street itself looks a bit nicer too.

Actually, I just did a "google" walk with both places in the St. Germaine area, and the walk from the Hôtel Saint Pierre was much nicer.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

25. Accommodation in Venice

Well being on a budget, I'm somewhat limited as to my choice of accommodation places, but I've narrowed it down to a few. I can't help think had I started looking for accommodation earlier, there would have been a greater variety of cheaper places available. A friend who is going to Europe around the same time said she started looking in October but by the time December came, the prices had increased.

Venice is "divided" into different areas and I think the San Marco area is the one I'll go for. It's the most touristed area from what I've read, but it's the closest to the "sights".

Domus Ciliota
The first on the list is Domus Ciliota at Calle delle Muneghe, San Marco, 2976. A single room (with breakfast) is 126 euro. It has a lift and an outdoor garden.

Above: Domus Ciliota single room

Above: Outdoor garden

Above: Map showing water taxi stops

Features air conditioning, a small fridge and satellite TV. The private bathroom has a shower, toiletries and hairdryer.
Room Facilities: Air Conditioning, Desk, Heating, Tiled / Marble floor, Shower, Hairdryer, Free toiletries, Toilet, Bathroom, Telephone, Satellite Channels, Refrigerator, Wake Up Service/Alarm Clock
Room Size: 14 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 single bed

Locanda Silva
Then there's Locanda Silva in the Castello district - they have a terrace but no lift and it's four storeys high. A single room with shared bathroom is 120 euro, single room with own bathroom is 150 euro. If I could be guaranteed a room on the first floor, it maybe in the running, otherwise...

Above: Interior

Above: Exterior

The shared bathroom is located on the same floor. The room is air conditioned.
Room Facilities: Air Conditioning, Desk, Heating, Shared Bathroom, Free toiletries, Shared Toilet, Telephone, Wake Up Service/Alarm Clock
Room Facilities: 14 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 single bed

Hotel Malibran
This one is in the Cannaregio area, is 160 euro and as far as I can tell doesn't have a lift either, although on the hotel website it says "Lift" in the description for single room.

Above: Hotel Malibran single rooms

Above: Hotel Malibran exteriors

With satellite TV, minibar and private bathroom.
Room Facilities: Safety Deposit Box, Air Conditioning, Wooden / Parquet floor, Shower, Hairdryer, Free toiletries, Toilet, Bathroom, Telephone, Satellite Channels, Minibar, Wake Up Service/Alarm Clock
Room Size: 10 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 single bed

The reviews of this place aren't very good and I'm wary of hotels which supply photos which bear little resemblance to the real thing as the photo below shows. As you can see, the single room is a far cry from that which is advertised.

The above photo of Hotel Malibran is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Hotel Commercio & Pellegrino
The last one in the Castello district, I like mainly for the position near the water taxi stop, there are no steps to climb, therefor making it a lot easier when you're dragging a heavy suitcase. Even if you pack light, you're still going to be pulling at least 12 kgs! Downside is at 200 euro, the price is almost 80 euro higher and they don't have any outside area.

Above: Hotel Commercio & Pellegrino

This air-conditioned room comes with satellite TV, a minibar and private bathroom.
Room Facilities: Safety Deposit Box, Air Conditioning, Heating, Shower, Hairdryer, Toilet, Bathroom, TV, Telephone, Satellite Channels, Minibar
Room Size: 11 m²
Bed Size(s): 1 single bed

Saturday, 7 December 2013

24. Train Ieper to Cologne

Pre-booking international trains online

When pre-booking international trains online, I found the transfer time was 5 minutes. Now 5 minutes isn't enough time to get your luggage, get off the train, race down the platform, find the platform you need for your connecting train and get on that platform in time for your next train.
So - what to do? first I thought i'd have to make two separate bookings (this bumped the price up), then I found the little "Adjust the transfer time". I put in 25 minutes and the timetable page refreshes itself. I now would have just over an hour between trains (65 minutes actually). Below is an example of the journey. Trains can be booked up to around 92 days before date of travel.

Ieper to Coclogne
I put in the date Tuesday 25 February as I will be making this trip on a Tuesday.
Depart Ieper 07:38 from Platform 1 Train IC 2307, Intercity
Arrive Bruxelles-Nord 09:28 Platform 1
Transfer time 1:05 h
Depart Bruxelles-Nord 10:33 Platform Train 3 ICE 15, Intercity-Express
Arrive Köln Hbf 12:15 Platform 5 (Bordbistro?)

Fare: 19,00 EUR (Savings fare) Standard fare 57,30 EUR

Sunday, 1 December 2013

23. Paris to Florence

The itinerary has changed yet again. Forget Milan, forget Venice, forget Rome - Florence or Firenze as it is called in Italian is the place I'll be going to if I do the train journeys thing. Having spoken with some Italian friends, one said "Roma!", one said, "Venice" and another said, "Florence!. Forget Milan, forget Venice, Rome? go to Florence". Having done a bit of research, Florence seems like my kind of place. And I've seen Venice anyway - well sort of. When I was in Macao last year, I went to Cotai primarily to go to the Hard Rock Hotel and get a pin (I collect the pins, you can see where I wrote about them in this blog) and saw this wonderful hotel the Venetian and the surrounding areas with canals and gondolas and I thought gee it looks like Venice. When I got back after my trip, I set about finding out and yes there's St. Mark's Campanile, the Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Square complete with gondolas and all. You can see what it looks like HERE. Even the street lamps are the same! (Well almost)

With this in mind, I've written down the different ways of doing this, including fare costs, always bearing in min that the fares are "from" prices! Gotta do some serious thinking about this, weigh up cost and justification.

Option 1: Eurostar & TGV daytime train...
Day 1: London to Turin
Depart London 09:17 arrive Paris Gare du Nord 12:47 Eurostar £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris Gare de Lyon 14:41 arrive Turin Porta Susa 20:18 (high-speed TGV train) £25 ($45)
Overnight in Turin.

Day 2: Turin to Florence €29 ($44)
Depart Turin Porta Susa at 08:14 arrive Florence SMN at 10:55 (Frecciarossa high-speed train)
Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $159.10

Option 2 Thello sleeper
Day 1: London to Paris. £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris 19:59 to Milan (Thello sleeper) €35 ($53)

Day 2: Milan to Florence
Milan Centrale arrive 6:00
Depart Milan Centrale 07:15 (Frecciarossa) €19.00 ($29)
Arrive Florence SMN 08:55

Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $153.10

Option 3 via the Swiss Alps...
Day 1: London to Zurich.
Depart London 13:31 arrive Paris 16:47 £39 ($70.10)
Paris to Zurich. Depart Paris 18:23 arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 22:26 TGV-Lyria From £21 ($38)

Day 1: Depart London St Pancras 07:55, arrive Paris Nord 11:17
Paris Gare de Lyon depart 12:22, arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 16:26

Day 2: Zurich to Florence
Depart Zurich 07:09 arrive Milan Centrale 10:50. CHF 40.00 ($49)
Depart Milan Centrale 12:15 arrive Florence SMN 13:55 (Frecciarossa) €19.00 ($29)

Day 3: Florence
Day 4: Florence to Paris
Fare cost: $186.10

Option 4 via Munich
Day 1: London to Paris to Munich
Depart London St Pancras 15:31 arrive Paris Gare du Nord 18:47 £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris Gare de l'Est 20:05 (City Night Line sleeper train) 4 berth couchette 69.00 EUR ($103) 6 berth €59.00

Day 2: Munich to Florence
Arrive Munich 07:10.
Depart Munich 09:38 arrive Bologna Centrale at 16:20. (Austrian EuroCity train) 39.00 EUR ($59)
Depart Bologna Centrale 17:20 arrive Florence 17:55 €15.00 ($23)

Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $255.10

Option 5, the super-scenic Bernina Express

Step 1, London & Paris to Zurich
Day 1: London to Paris by Eurostar, depart London at 13:31 (14:01 on Saturdays) arriving Paris at 16:47 (17:17 on Saturdays). Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon.

Day 1, travel from Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria train, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 18:23 and arriving Zurich at 22:26. (double-deck TGV-Duplex, book upper deck)

Or catch an earlier service from London to Zurich to arrive in Zurich in time for dinner.
Depart London 07:55 ( 08:01 or 09:22 Saturdays, 09:22 Sundays) arrive Paris 11:17 (12:47 Sunday)
Depart Paris 12:22 arrive Zurich 16:26 (Depart Paris 14:23 and arrive 18:35 Sundays)

Overnight in Zurich

Step 2, Zurich to Milan via the Bernina Express
Day 2, travel from Zurich to Chur by Swiss InterCity train. In summer when the Bernina Express leaves Chur at 08:32, you'll need to leave Zurich by InterCity train at 06:37, arriving Chur at 07:52. This is a scenic trip in itself, along the Zürichsee & Walensee lakes and into the mountains. In Chur, you'll find the Bernina Express waiting for you on the other side of the platform, a quick and easy interchange.

Day 2: travel from Chur to Tirano on the famous Bernina Express.
In summer from 10 May to 26 Oct 2014, the Bernina Express consists exclusively of panoramic sightseeing cars, seat reservation is obligatory, departing Chur every day at 08:32 and arriving at Tirano in northern Italy at 12:36.
You should check times at the official Rhätische Bahn website Rhätische Bahn as it varies on certain dates. A refreshment trolley comes down the train selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and souvenirs.

Tip 1: Going South, the best views are on the right hand side of the train, including the best views of the Landwasser Viaduct the Ospizio Bernina area and Brusio spiral, although unfortunately you cannot reserve a seat on a specific side.

Tip 2: The Bernina Express panoramic carriages have a small luggage vestibule at the opposite end to the entrance door, this has a small opening window, ideal for taking photographs without reflections.

Day 2, travel from Tirano to Milan by regional train. In summer when the Bernina arrives at 12:38, you can leave Tirano at 13:10 and arrive in Milan Centrale at 15:40. In Tirano, the Trenitalia and Rhätische Bahn stations are right next door to each other, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants near the stations. You may have time for a beer at Margy's bar across the road, or you could catch a later train to Milan and have lunch. You can use Trenord to find schedules, but pick a date within the next 7 days to see prices. Bring your own food and drink if you want any, as there is no catering on board the train. No reservation necessary or even possible for Tirano-Milan trains, just buy a ticket at the station and hop on, remembering to validate your ticket in the little yellow machine at the platform entrance. This is a pretty run, through more mountains and along the shores of Lake Como via Lecco.

Day 2, change in Milan for inter-city trains to Florence, Rome, Verona & Venice - use Trenitalia to find trains departing Milan any time after 16:20 (summer) or 18:20 (winter), to allow time for any delay to the train from Tirano.

How much does it cost?
• London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £39 one-way ($70.10)
• Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria starts at £23 (€25) each way if booked in advance. Book early for the cheapest fare ($43)
• Zurich to Chur costs CHF 38 (about £28) each way in 2nd class. Fixed price, no reservation necessary, can be bought at the station. ($46.10)
• Chur to Tirano by Bernina Express costs CHF 58 (£43) ($70.25) in 2nd class for the basic ticket, plus a reservation fee for the Bernina Express of CHF 12 (£9) ($14.55) in summer. Reservation is required for the Bernina Express itself, although other trains on the same route do not require reservations. ($70.25) plus ($14.55)
• Tirano to Milan by Trenord regional train costs €10.75 (£9) in 2nd class or €16.15 (£14) in 1st class. Fixed price, no reservation necessary, can easily be bought at the station. Check times at ($16.10) (First class $24.10)
• Milan to Florence €19.00 ($29)

Fare cost: $289.10

Information from The Man in Seat Sixty One

Thursday, 28 November 2013

22. London to Italy via Munich through the scenic Brenner Pass.

The other way of getting from London to Italy is via Munich and the Brenner Pass.

There are two ways to do this route:
(1) Depart London by Eurostar in mid-afternoon and use German-run City Night Line sleeper train to Munich then a day train next morning through the scenic Brenner Pass to Verona.

(2) Depart London by mid-morning Eurostar and afternoon TGV to Munich, stay overnight in Munich, then take a morning train to Italy through the scenic Brenner Pass next day.

Option 1: Using the Paris-Munich City Night Line sleeper train...

1. London St Pancras depart 15:31 arrive Paris Gare du Nord at 18:47.
2. Walk from Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est - 10 minutes. (Instructions given below.)

3. Travel from Paris to Munich overnight by the City Night Line sleeper train Cassiopeia.
Departs Paris Gare de l'Est 20:05 and arriving in Munich at 07:10 next morning.

4. Travel from Munich to Verona or Bologna on air-conditioned Austrian EuroCity train.
Departing Munich at 09:38 and arriving in Verona at 14:58 or Bologna at 16:20. For the best views find an unreserved seat on the right hand side of the train

5. Change in Verona for Venice, change in Bologna for Florence or Rome. Use Trenitalia to find am onward connection. Allow at least 45 minutes for connections in Verona or Bologna.

Option 2: Using daytime trains with overnight hotel in Munich.

Day 1: Travel from London to Munich by Eurostar to Paris and TGV to Munich, leaving London St Pancras at 10:25 (11:01 on Saturdays), changing trains and stations in Paris and arriving Munich at 21:36.
Depart London St Pancras at 10:25 (11:01 on Saturdays) arrive Paris Gare du Nord 13:47
Walk to Gare de l'Est.
Depart Gare de l'Est 15:25 arrive Munich 21:36.

Day 2: Depart Munich 09:38 arrive Verona at 14:58 and Bologna at 16:20.
Change in Verona for Venice, change in Bologna for Florence or Rome

Alternatively, have a look round Munich, then take a direct EuroCity train from Munich at 11:38 to Venice arriving 18:10, also travelling via the scenic Brenner Pass - this direct train may be cheaper, too, as one ticket gets you all the way from Munich to Venice from as little as €39. This train also features a full-service restaurant car

NOTE: Travel from Verona to Milan either on a fast train or a regional train. (Takes about 1 hr 25 mins and costs from 19 euro)

Gare du Nord ▶ Gare de l'Est
a) Walk out of the Gare du Nord onto the street in front of the station.
b) Turn left along the front of the station, and keep going straight ahead of you up the Rue de Dunkerque until the tracks leading into the Gare de l'Est stop you going any further.
c) Turn right into the Rue d'Alsace along the tracks, descending the long flight of pedestrian steps to the side entrance of the Gare de l'Est.

Note: This is the quickest and shortest route, but to avoid the long flight of steps, walk out of the Gare du Nord and across the road into the Boulevard de Denain straight ahead of you, turn left into the Boulevard de Magenta, then left again into the Rue du 8 Mai 1945. This route is a bit longer, but gives level access from one station to the other.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

21. London to Italy via the Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps...

I am thinking of doing this trip instead of the seven nights in Paris. There is a map further down showing the different routes and also in the "Maps" tab. There's also the Brenner Pass which I'm considering. At the moment, I'm running through them seeing how it could work, how many day's I'd need. I've already determined for the Gotthard Pass, I'd have to get the early train from London so as to reach Zurich at a reasonable time which will give me a few hours to stroll around and see something of the place.

1. Travel from London to Paris by Eurostar

2. Travel from Paris to Zurich by 198mph Lyria TGV, departing Paris Gare de Lyon and arriving in Zurich Hauptbahnhof.

3. Spend the night in Zurich.

4. Travel from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to Como and Milan by air-conditioned EuroCity train,

London St Pancras depart 13:31, arrive Paris Gare du Nord 16:47

How to Cross Paris by metro from Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon,
a) At Paris Nord, walk to the end of platform
b) Turn left. Look for the steps down to RER (Express Metro and Metro)
c) Follow the signs to RER Line 'D'
d) Buy a metro ticket from the machines
e) They have a touch screen and English button...Cash and cards are accepted
f) Enter the ticket gates to RER D
g) Head for Platform 44 (Trains run every 3 to 6 minutes) All southbound RER D stop at Gare de Lyon but always check screens. It's two stops, only six minutes.
h) Follow the sign to 'SNCF - Grandes Lignes'...
i) Exit the RER and head upstairs to the SNCF main line concourse.
j) The Gare de Lyon has two concourses - Hall 1 (Platfomrs A to N) and Hall 2 (platforms 5 to 23)

Travel from Paris to Zurich by 198mph Lyria TGV,
Depart Paris Gare de Lyon 18:23 arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 22:26. (Book an upper deck seat for the best views.) (catch an earlier service from London to Zurich if you want to reach Zurich earlier in the evening)

Day 1: London St Pancras depart 07:55, arrive Paris Nord 11:17
Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon for the TGV-Lyria train to Switzerland..
Paris Gare de Lyon depart 12:22, arrive Zurich 16:26

Day 2: Depart Zurich 11:09 arrive Milan (MILANO CENTRALE) 14:50

What does it cost?
London to Paris by Eurostar: (From) £39 approx $69
Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria: train: From £21 (Book-ahead fare) approx $37
Zurich to Milan by EuroCity: From €32 approx $47
All up around $153. Not including Eurostar, $84.

Eurostar and Europe train map


Reservations for Paris-Switzerland trains open 90 days before departure. Eurostar reservations open 120 days ahead. The Man in Seat 61 "strongly recommend waiting so you can book all your trains together and double-check the Paris arrival/departure times before booking a non-refundable non-changeable Eurostar ticket."

How to buy tickets in Australia
If you live in Australia or NZ, Asia or Africa, you can buy tickets for Eurostar, the Paris-Zurich TGV Lyria and the Zurich-Milan train online at RAIL EUROPE. They sell print-at-home tickets in many cases or they will send tickets to any country worldwide except the USA for a small fee.

Finally, the absolute cheapest way to book is direct with the relevant train operators, though this means splitting the journey and booking in two stages. First use capitainetrain to book from Paris to Switzerland or the Swiss Railways site SBB to book from anywhere in Switzerland to Paris. Then use Eurostar to book a London-Paris Eurostar connection, allowing at least 60 minutes southbound or 90 minutes northbound to change trains & stations in Paris. (Information from The Man in Seat Sixty-One.

20. When Something Isn't Working - Change It

It's all been a bit mundane working out this trip. While I am pleased to be going to Europe, (I was so excited when my son gave as a mother's day present two Lonely Planet books, Great Britain and Discover Ireland, (he said I know you've always wanted to go there (meaning Ireland) and a hand drawn voucher with "Exchange for return trip to London" on it; I find the planning isn't the same as my previous trips. It's different, I really enjoyed working out all the places I wanted to go (my last trip was to Viet Nam, China, Hong Kong and Macau) and trying to fit in all the places I wanted to see, shopping and changing, adding a day here, dropping a day there so it fitted within the time frame - I knew had had a certain number of nights and it took a lot of work and effort to be able to see the things I wanted to see and stay in the places I wanted to stay in. It was exciting doing all that, and then comes the part where you have to check and re-check transport times so they link up, work out travel distance and time, checking fares, cost of accommodation, cost of tours etc.

I've done this before for all my other trips, but this time wasn't the same. Something was missing. It was not exactly boring but rather like a glass of lemonade that had lost its fizz. It was flat. Yes, I'll be in London and yes, I'll get the Eurostar to Paris and yes, I'll fly to Dublin and go around Ireland but it was just frankly dull and boring. There's really very little planning involved - the only "planning" at all, was working out the Ireland bit, but even that wasn't really exciting. Perhaps because I've been to "exotic" places experienced cultures very different from my own, the sights, sounds and smells are far removed from suburban Melbourne.

On Remembrance Day this year, I started thinking about WWI and realised I'd be in a part of the world where those battles took place - I decided I'd like to see the WWI batlefields. It was quite pleasing researching that, tours, where to stay. I had to be in Paris on the 10th so had to work it all in with that. But ..... I found I was really only going through the motions. I thought right - go London to Lille, then Lille to Ypres for two nights, Amiens for two nights then on to Paris. But, it meant I had to leave London on the Sunday - I realised I didn't want to leave London on Sunday, I wanted to spend first full the weekend with family. I suddenly realised cutting down the number of nights in Paris wasn't such a big deal. When I was only going to be seeing Paris when in France, a week seemed like a good idea at the time, but if I'm going to be seeing other places, I don't need seven nights there.

And then I couldn't get the dates to gel, the two cheaper accommodation places in Ypres didn't have the dates I wanted. I went through different ways of doing it, like having three nights there and doing both the Ieper and Somme tours from Ypres and not staying in Amiens at all. I've wasted so much time on trying to get it to fit and found myself wasting so much time on it yet I wasn't really enjoying it. I toyed with the idea of going instead to Nice and the French Riviera and popping over to Monaco and Italy. That didn't last long I can tell you - after a day and a half, I knew I didn't rally want to do that. Not really interested in seeing the Riviera - it doesn't call to me or tug at the heart strings.

I think I've found something I really would enjoy and I'm currently working on it. I can do a train journey. I was looking at the Man in Seat 61 for something (forget what it was now), but found something I think would be great and I'm sure I'll enjoy it a heck of a lot more than seven nights in Paris or looking at battlefields. Don;t get me wrong, I would really enjoy seeing the battlefields, but when I weigh it up, I think I will enjoy the now, more so than the before. I could go to Italy by train from London via the Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps. Spend a night in Zurich and well I haven't worked the rest out yet. But I like trains and holidays and experiences aren't just about being in a place, it's all about the journey. I forgot one of the most important things - it is not the stars, or the moon, the towns or many roads you travel...the journey is the destination. This was what was missing - the journey.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

19. Great War Battlefield sites - Ypres, Flanders and the Somme

With tomorrow being Remembrance Day, I would like to see the WWI Battlefields of the Somme and Flanders Fields in Belgium and being in Paris next year gives me the opportunity to do this. With this in mind, I have been searching for day tours from Paris. I found one company that does this but they aren't cheap.

Cityrama have day tours to both the Somme and Flanders departing from Paris. The one to Flanders is (from) $292.13 and only runs on Thursdays. Although Cityrama offer two tours to the Somme, only this tour would be suitable because it includes the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux whereas the other one doesn't. It runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and costs (from) $257.01. They aren't cheap and adding them together, I'd be looking at $549.14 at least. I have an idea the price quoted is US dollars which equates to $585.37 Australian. A lot of money, plus I'd have to alter my accommodation and stay extra nights in Paris. Add an extra 65 euro per night with two nights extra, that's 130 euro - $185.25 plus the tours is $734.19. Way too much for someone on a budget.

The alternative is to either skip one of the tours and do just one, or get the Eurostar to Amiens, stay two nights and do a local tour. Alternatively I could go from London to Bruges, stay two nights and do a local Flanders tour. I found a tour company based in Bruges which offer a Flanders tour and a tour of the Somme as well. I'll have to find that website again and look into it.

Tours to WWI Battlefields
Some of the websites I found do tours from Flanders and Lille. I am putting them here for future reference as it's easier to just click on the links than go searching again.

Flanders Fields Tours
In Flanders Fields - The battlefields of the Great War
Flanders Fields Battlefield Daytours
Salient Tours
Travel advice on visiting the battlefields - Battlefield Guide Books
True Blue Digger Tours
Battlefield Tours - Visit Ypres, Somme and Flanders (expensive 810 euro, around $1100)
Battlefield Tours From Paris | Paris Insiders Guide
Flanders Battlefield Tour
Visit Flanders

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

18. Ireland Itinerary

Well after many different scenarios and workings out, I've finally worked out the Ireland leg of my trip. I'll be flying from Paris to Dublin on the 17th (July) and getting the shuttle from the airport to Galway. I had initially planned on getting the shuttle bus to Dublin then going to Galway the next day for three nights and doing two day tours with the Galway Tour Company. I discovered the Dublin Tour Company which offers the same tours starting from Dublin and considered starting the tour from there (Dublin) because they make a stop on the way at Applegreen Athlone and thought it would be nice to see something of the area on the way, but when I looked it up I find it is just a petrol station - see photo below.

With this in mind plus the fact that it would be a very long day starting out at 7.00pm and I would need to be up earlier than that to get there by 6.45am, it really didn't seem worth it hence going straight to Galway from the airport.

Cork and Kilkenny?
I'd like to visit Cork to see Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone plus go to the Blarney Woollen Mills, but this would mean an overnight stop between Killarney and Dublin and I've been asking myself how important is it to stop there. Will I be disappointed if I don't and will I regret it? I'm not sure, from past experience, if you don't go to something you often have regrets and if you have gone to something you might think along the lines of, 'Had I known it was like that I wouldn't have wasted my time.'

Having seen a picture of Kilkenny, it is just the sort of place I'd love to stay but again, it means another overnight stop before Dublin. After leaving Killarney, I have the choice of one night Cork, one night Kilkenny, then three nights in Dublin. I will be doing a Glendalough day tour from Dublin, some companies include Avoca with Glendaglough, others include Kilkenny. I can also do a day tour from Dublin to Cork/Blarney/Rock of Cashel. This would be a very long day and it seems a bit silly in one way to go all the way to Cork when you have to change buses anyway at Cork on the way to Dublin. I really would like to see the Rock of Cashel and apart from the day trip from Dublin with Daytours IE, so far I haven't found any other tours that go there.

This is what I've settled on for my Dublin leg.

Thursday 17: Paris - Dublin - Galway
Friday 18 - Cliffs of Moher and the Burren tour
Saturday 19 - Connemara and Cong tour

Sunday 20 - Galway to Killarney
Monday 21 - Dingle Peninsula tour
Tuesday 22 - Gap of Dunloe tour

Wednesday 23 - Killarney to Dublin
Thursday 24 - walk around the city
Friday 25 - Glendalough and Kilkenny day tour
Saturday 26 - Rock of Cashel and Blarney Castle day tour?

Sunday 27 Dublin to London
Undecided whether to go by ferry and train or fly. I'm leaning towards the ferry/train option as I think this would be a different experience and I'd get to see a lot of scenery in England.

If I decide not to do the Rock of Cashel/Cork tour, I will probably leave Dublin a day earlier, but this is something I will decided a little later.

Killarney tours
Another change I made is in the choice of day tours. At first I was going to do just the Ring of Kerry and stay two nights, then decided I'd like to see the Dingle Peninsula as well which meant another night. Someone mentioned the Gap of Dunloe. I had a look at that tour and felt this is a tour I really would like as it included a ride in one of the jaunting cars which is one of the things I badly want to do while in Killarney so I've scrapped the Ring of Kerry and settled on Dingle and the Gap. Of course, if time and budget allowed I would stay four nights and do all three tours, but this really isn't an option. The hardest decision was choosing which two tours. I hope I've made the "right" decision. From the many travel posts I've read, it seem Dingle Peninsula is rated better than the Ring of Kerry. But like everything in life, what one person likes, someone else will like something different. With Dingle, that is around the beach, with the Ring and the Gap, both are around mountains and greenery and the Gap tour has a boat trip across three lakes which will be very scenic. I just hope the boat doesn't capsize as I can't swim!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

17. Paris Accomodation

I've been spending a lot of time looking for a hotel in Paris and they are pretty pricey. For someone who's used to going around SEA where you're paying around $30 for a nice room in a guesthouse or hotel, it's a bit of a shock looking for accommodation in Europe. Asian prices they aint! As I wrote in a previous post, it's either $30 to $40 a night for a dorm bed in a hostel, or you're looking at nearly a thousand dollars or more for a week in a hotel. A few nice budget hotels I found are booked out. I've decided after all, not to go for a place in the Marais area.

I did find a place in the 6th arrondissement in the Saint Germaine area, the
Pension - Résidence du Palais on Rue d'Assas, opposite the Luxembourg Gardens. The photos below are from their website. I thought the courtyard garden sounded and looked pretty and asked when I booked for a balcony overlooking the courtyard. I reasoned it would be more private sitting there than facing the street. Plus, it would be nice looking at a garden courtyard. This decision was based on their pictures.

Above: Room at hotel
This is the photo shown for a single room - the strange thing with this photo is the information says single bed, yet clearly this is a double bed. According to the hotel information, the room size is 15 m² - the same as a double. Room Facilities, Balcony, View, Cable Channels, Flat-screen TV, Desk, Wardrobe/Closet, Shower, Hairdryer, Bathroom, Shared Toilet. All the toilets are in the hallway. That's nice - the telly is in the room but the toilet is outside!

Above: Dining room and breakfast
Doesn't this look lovely? Lovely furniture, fresh rolls/croissants and glasses of orange juice. Yet when reading the reviews, you only get a croissant/bread and coffee or tea, no juice. One has to wonder why the hotel shows breakfast as having orange juice if you don't get any. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm complaining, it's the principle of the thing. If it is shown as breakfast, then it should be part of breakfast. If for example, it was written breakfast includes bread or croissant and tea or coffee, then okay, fine. You know. Clever people who run this place, they don't actually say what breakfast consists of, they just show photos!

Above: Front of hotel and courtyard
The hotel is above/next to a cafe on the corner and the courtyard is somewhere behind. Based on these photos, I asked for a balcony overlooking the courtyard. However...I came across an independent photo of the courtyard and it looks nothing like this.

Guest photos
Above: Courtyard
This is the photo I found of the courtyard. As you can see, it bears little or no resemblance to the courtyard photos supplied by the hotel. Perhaps after all a balcony overlooking the street would be preferable. The view wouldn't be of a courtyard or greenery - you'd be seeing ugly hotel walls. You'd have to be actually standing on the balcony looking down. And still, it isn't a pretty sight is it?

Above: Stairs!
Another thing I learned today, according to one guest review, they had to climb two flights of stairs as the lift doesn't go all the way which wasn't advertised. I'm going to have to email them asking for a room on a floor which the lift does got to.

I used to make my reservation as don't have to pay until you arrive and they offer free cancellation. There were two prices, € 409.50 ($587) and € 455 ($652). The lower price is the non-refundable figure, so I chose the higher price. Better to pay a bit more in case you do cancel. I'm looking around on airbnb and have found a number of studios/apartments for similar prices. If I find something I really like then I'll go for one of them. The thing to remember about booking a place with airbnb, when you click on the "Book it" button, it doesn't mean you've got it - you have to wait for the owner to accept your booking. Another thing to know is they have three standardised cancellation policies. Strict, Moderate and Flexible. The host chooses which one.
Strict - For a 50% refund, cancellation must be made seven full days prior to listing's local check in time,
Moderate - For a full refund, cancellation must be made five full days prior to listing's local check in time and
Flexible - For a full refund, cancellation must be made a full 24 hours prior to listing's local check in time.
The Airbnb service fee is non-refundable. I will discuss this fully in a later post with information about Airbnb.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

16. Souvenirs from Paris or What to Bring Back

Shoes made/manufactured in France would be far cheaper than buying them here. Brands? Arche, Mephisto.

Is it true French perfume bought in France is a fraction of the cost of buying it at home?

Where to go fro Plus size clothing? Well like all good little computer literate girls of the 21st century, I went to Mr. Google. Typed in "plus size clothing in paris" and what was the first website that showed? Paris Plus Size Shopping for Women Size 10 Plus I did a double take - Size 10 Plus? Size 10 is big? It's a plus size? You gotta be kidding me, size 10 is tiny. Boobs the size of pinheads. Really! Whoever in their right mind thinks of Size 10 Plus? No no no no no - Plus sizes are 16 plus. Size 16 - 24/26 that's plus sizes.

So .. it was back for another search and the consensus seems to be [;us size clothes in France are big things made from yards and yards of fabric which make you look like the side of a house. The thing with plus sizing is not to have big, baggy, loose pieces, but normal clothes made for larger people. Something nice, something elegant, something flattering... something which is in fashion ...instead of which the French manufacturers haven't yet caught on that larger ladies want nice clothes, not something baggy and frumpy.

I have found a few brands
Elena Mirò
The website says, "Elena Mirò is one of the historic label of Miroglio Fashion, the clothing division of the Miroglio Group which was set up in 1985 to cater for the need to give a positive response in terms of style and taste to all the women with Mediterranean-style fuller figures."
Just how this equates with plus sizes, I don't know and won't know until I'm in Paris.

The languages (on the website) offered are Italian, English, French, Spanish and Russian. If you select English, the website takes you to stores in the UK, so I had to choose French to see the names and addresses of their French shops. I selected Paris for the location.
ELENA MIRÒ (White Collection in Boutique) - 14 AV.VICTOR HUGO; Tél 0145007762
ELENA MIRÒ (White Collection in Boutique) - 16 RUE ST ROCH ANGLE RUE ST. HONOR. Tél: 0142600390
LOLK S.A.R.L. - 4 RUE DE MARIGNAN. Tél: 0147203100

After a bit more searching, I have been able to ascertain the size range is 12 - 28 or European sizing 42 - 58. AS I said earlier, I don't class size 12, 14 and 16 as plus sizes. The clothing is expensive - $225 for a long sleeved t-shirt.

Anyway, back to brand names -
Marina Rinaldi
Un Jour Ailleurs
Jean Marc Philippe

Another list for similar will be coming shortly.

Friday, 11 October 2013

15. Accommodation in Paris

Well so far I don't seem to be much further advanced in working out my itinerary than I was the last time I did one. (I have the "bones" of where I'll be, but the actual details are still up in the air.) One of the reasons for this is the cost - it's much more expensive than Asia or China and when you're used to accommodation for $30 or less for a room in a guesthouse or small hotel, you're up for $300 for ten nights.

Paris will be the most expensive, not only because it is an expensive city, but most of the hostels I've looked at don't seem to be that good. They're either in dodgey areas and/or have no lift, bad reviews and a long way from the city centre which means instead of being able to walk everywhere, or nearly everywhere, I'll have to take public transport every day and this I would prefer not to do.

Do you know something? I had visions a long time ago of staying in a little apartment somewhere in Montmartre with a little balcony, sitting on it watching the world below while drinking coffee or wine. But Montmartre it seems is a bit of a risky place or so I've been told as it's very near Pigalle, the "red light" district. Someone I know, said she stayed at the Regent Hostel and, in her words, " The biggest problem was the area, in that I didn't feel terribly safe at night which was a shame. There were literally hundreds of north African men standing around in gangs in front of every cafe, on every corner and by all the benches." She also said although they didn't cause her direct problems, it was intimidating even just walking from the metro to the hostel.

Now, I could be wrong, if anyone reading this blog disagrees, please feel free to leave a comment and give your views.

Le Marais
A French chap I know when I asked him where to stay in Paris, said "Le Marais or the Bastille" When I said a friend who had been to Paris this year said the best place to stay was either in the 5th or 6th arrondissement, he told me they are too touristy.

When I mentioned this to my friend, she said she didn't feel safe there, she thought it was dodgy and full of people she didn't like the look of.

Latin Quarter
This is the area where Vee stayed - she said it was the safest part of Paris. From the many hours I've spent, eyes glued to the computer screen, there is a shortage of budget places to stay.

Now this would be a great area in which to stay. Alas, there is a an ever greater shortage of budget accommodation here. I guess this is where the well-heel stay.

If I am to go with a hostel, it looks like either the furthest part of the Latin Quarter or up around Montmartre.
If however, I don't go for a hostel, then it'll be an apartment. From what I've seen on airbnb, there are some apartments for the same price as a small hotel. And if I'm very lucky, I might be able to snag one in the Saint Germaine area. There were only one or two, but who knows, I could be lucky. It all comes down to this -
Do I spend around 220 - 280 euros, about AUD$330 for a dorm bed in a hostel, or do I stay in an apartment/hotel and pay twice the money - $660?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

14. Flights Are Booked

Well the return flight Australia to London has been booked. The flights were a present so I suppose I shouldn't complain about the choice of airline - but China Southern?! Having flown with them last year Hanoi to Xi'an I did not want to fly with them again. They cancelled the flight, put me on an early morning flight, then had me waiting eight hours in Guangzhou for the connecting flight, and asked was that alright. Well no, it wasn't alright - put me on the earlier flight so I only have to hang around the airport for three and a half hours please. Then they changed it again - this time they had me flying out of Hanoi on the 7th June, then getting the connecting flight on the 6th June. It's like What! Are you serious? After yet more emails, finally, finally they fixed it, but not after a lot of messing around. And - you can't select your seat - you have to have one they pick. That's a real pain. I always like to arrive at the airport early, and it was lucky I do because when I checked my bag in, the person at the counter gave me a ticket with a seat number that I hadn't chosen, and didn't like so I asked very nicely and very politely would they be able to give me an seat and one that was closer to the front. NO aisle seats, they were gone. Fortunately there was one a little closer to the front of the plane. On short flight durations of two hours or so, it may not be so important if you can't get a good seat, but if you're on a long haul flight sitting in the same ruddy seat for 12 hours it will not be a happy experience if you have a rotten seat. Me? I always choose an aisle seat, I feel claustrophobic otherwise. And I loathe being down the back, I feel closed in.

China Southern has the worst website I have ever encountered. Their website really is the pits. Under "Online Services" they have Seat Reservation and says after booking go to Seat Reservation and choose your seat.

Yeah right. You try doing this - put in your flight details, name and mobile only to have a message in red say "Wrong mobile number" Eh? Excuse me, how can that be the wrong mobile? It's not! It's the correct mobile.

After contacting the China Southern office in Melbourne, I am told you can only make a seat reservation if you are in China - you need a Chinese mobile number. You can only do online checkin if you are in China and have a Chinese mobile. Being in a seat not of your choosing on a short flight is one thing but being stuck in it for 12 hours or 8 hours would be terrible.

How dumb is that? I don't know of any other airline that is so ridiculous in it's stupidity - we have people world wide booking international flights and they can't even select a bloody seat? That is just so pathetic. The airline need to get with it and move themselves into the 21st century - stop discriminating against anyone who is not a Chinese national, treat all passenger the same. If they want to attract overseas customers, you need to treat them with respect and not like a bunch of second class citizens.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

13. Itinerary 3rd draft


Cliffs of Moher and The Burren - €25
Connemara and Cong ........... - €25 (Both with Galway Tour Company)

Ring of Kerry - €18.70
Dingle Peninsula - €20.00
Special offer both tours €37.75
Gap of Dunloe - €27.00 (Wild Kerry Tours)

Glendalough/Kilkenny €30 (Daytours IE)
Cork/Blarney - €55 (Daytours IE)

Medieval Kilkenny and Wicklow €28 (€25) (
Cork/Blarney - €55 (Senior €50) (



Cheaper to book through An Óige, then Hi.
3 nights 6 bed mixed dorm, €60 - $86
4 nights 80 - $115
Sleepzone from €19.99 - $30.23

3 nights, 51.00 EUR - $73 (approx)$24.23 per night
4 nights 68.00 EUR - $98


50.00 Galway 2
37.75 Killarney 2
30.00 Dublin 1
137.75 euro - $198.00
055.00 euro Dublin 2
182.75 euro - $263.00

Galway 3 nights 60 euro - $86.00
Killarney 3 nts 51 euro - $76.00
Dublin 4 nights 72 euro - $104.00 8 bed female YHA

Hostels $260
Tours $263
Total - $523
Buses - 090
Shuttle 22
Total - $655

125 euro - $180 includes 2 nights accommodation
90 euro - $130 without accommodation (8o euro - $115)

Thur 17 Arrive Dublin. Bus to Galway 15 euro
Fri 18 Connemara Tour 20 euro
Sat 19 Cliffs of Moher 20 euro
Three nights hostel 60 euro
Sub total - 115 euro

Sun 20 Bus to Killarney 26 euro
Mon 21 Ring of Kerry Tour 18.70 euro
Tue 22 Gap of Dunloe Tour 27.00 euro
Three nights hostel 51.00 euro
Sub total - 121.70 euro

Wed 23 Train to Dublin 24.99 euro
Killarney to Dublin Heuston
dep 09:36 arr 12:55 or dep 11:36 arr 14:55

Thur 24 Glendalough/Kilkenny Tour 30 euro
Fri 25 Dublin walking tour
Taylor's Irish Night 6.30pm 59 euro (Paddywagon tours)

Sat 26 Depart
Three nights hostel 75 euro? approx

Total: 425.69 euro - $610.94

Monday, 7 October 2013

12. Things to do in Dublin - Pubs

The Greenhouse  for steaks

The Bull & Castle, O'Neill's (Suffolk St), L. Mulligan Grocer and The Black Sheep for Irish beer.  Dark Arts is a decent porter.

Chester Beatty Library has a Lebanese café Day trip to Glendalough. Howth or Dalkey for seafood.
The Greenhouse and Dax (Fine Dining)
Gastro-pubs: Chop House, 37 Dawson Street and Waterloo Bar & Grill.
The Exchequer and O'Neil's on Suffolk Street.
Pig's Ear and Camden Kitchen - Both serve traditional Irish food with a modern twist

House of Ireland, Magee and Kilkenny Design for wool and tweed clothing. 3fe, Fallon & Byrne, Tamp & Stitch and Brother Hubbard, Badger and Dodo for coffee/snacks.
 Cheap, good quality Italian food in San Lorenzo's.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

11. Getting to Gare du Nord

If staying at Jules Ferry hostel -

Walk to République
About 7 mins (500 m)
1. Head north-west on Bd Jules Ferry toward Rue du Faub. du Temple/Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple 200 m

2. Turn left onto Rue du Faub. du Temple/Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple 220 m

3. Slight right to stay on Rue du Faub. du Temple/Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple 19 m
Destination will be on the right
4. Take entrance 4. Faubourg du Temple 74 m

République M5
Subway towards Bobigny - Pablo Picasso
5:43am - 5:47am (4 mins, 3 stops)
Get off at Gare de l'Est station

Gare du Nord
Walk to Gare du Nord - About 3 mins (200 m)
Use caution when walking from Gare de l'Est to Gare de Nord.

RER Train from Paris to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport
Line => RER B (Blue)

Trains to CDG
Note that not all trains stop at Charles de Gaulle airport, do not board on trains bound for Mitry-Claye (wrong way)!
Always check the overhead panel on platform.

Journey time is about 35 minutes to/from Paris-Gare du Nord,
you shouldn't have to wait longer than 15 minutes for a train

Charles de Gaulle airport has two train stations
• "Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 1" for terminal 1 and terminal 3.
• "Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2-TGV" for terminal 2 (A, B, C, D, E, F, G).

Trains to/from Paris
 From CDG all trains call at central Paris.
Stations with metro + RER B connections  are Gare du Nord, Châtelet-les Halles, Saint Michel-Notre Dame and Denfert-Rochereau.

Cost => 9,50€ (as of January 2013, Zone 1 -> Zone 5)
Passes Accepted => Pass Navigo (5+ Zone), Paris Visite (5 Zone)

Transport cost

Gare du Nord to Airport 9.50€
Republique to Gare de l'Est 1.70 euro
Total: 11.20 euro - $16.26.

(A single ticket is 1.70 Euro. 2013 price)

Saturday, 28 September 2013

10. Itinerary 2nd draft

Saturday 28 June: Depart Melbourne

Sunday 29 June: Arrive London
Monday 30:

Tuesday 1 July:
Wednesday 2
Thursday 3
Friday 4
Saturday 5
Sunday 6
Monday 7
Tuesday 8
Wednesday 9

Thursday 10: London to Paris
Friday 11
Saturday 12
Sunday 13
Monday 14
Tuesday 15
Wednesday 16

Thursday 17: Paris to Dublin

Friday 18: Dublin to Galway
Saturday 19:
Sunday 20:

Monday 21: Galway to Killarney
Tuesday 22: Ring of Kerry tour?

Wednesday 23: Killarney to Kilkenny
Early start from 8.00am, arrive at 14.10pm
Thursday 24: Kilkenny

Friday 25: Kilkenny to Dublin
Train departing 11.41am
Arrive Heuston Station 13.10pm
Catch a LUAS 13.26
Arrive Dublin City Centre 13.51pm. Fare €17.59

Saturday 26:
Sunday 27:
Monday 28
Tuesday 29

Wednesday 30: Dublin to London
Thursday 31:

Friday 1 August:
Saturday 2
Sunday 3
Monday 4
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 6
Thursday 7
Friday 8: Depart?
Saturday 9: Depart?
Sunday 10

Saturday, 21 September 2013

9. Tours


Cliffs of Moher and The Burren - €25
Connemara and Cong ........... - €25

Ring of Kerry €19.00 (online price) Deros Coach Tours
€24.00 or 15% off €20.40 if booked online Wild Kerry Day Tours
€22.00 less 15% = €18.70 (online price)
Gap of Dunloe Day Tour €30.00 (bus & boat) less 10% online €27.00

Wild Kerry Tours offer Complimentary pick up from Killarney town B&Bs, hotels, hostels and bus/rail stations on request - email them for details.

Cork and Blarney - €55 (Love or
Blarney Castle, Cork City, Rock of Cashel

Wicklow Mountains, Valleys and Lakes Tour - €26
Glencree Valley, Sally Gap, Glendalough, Avoca Village (Love or Irish City Tours.

Irish City Tours offer a Meal Deal - Special 2 course meal and tea or coffee for €10 at Avoca Handweavers.

Galway - 50.00
Killarney - 18.70
Dublin - 81.00
Total - 149.70, ($216.00)

Galway 4 nights: 76.00 ($108.34) Not sure of figure, approx.
Killarney 2 : 34.00 ($48.46)
Kilkenny 1 : 15.00 ($22.47)
Dublin 5 : 118.00 ($170.00) Approx. depends on which hostel.
Total for accommodation (349.27)


Galway to Killarney - 26.00
Killarney to Kilkenny - 24.70
Kilkenny to Dublin - 11.88
Total in euros - 62.58, ($90.00)

Hostels: 349.27
Tours : 216.00
Buses : 90.00
Total : $655.72

Friday, 20 September 2013

8. Dublin Accommodation

I had planned on staying at the YHA which is in Mountjoy Street - I'm a YHA member (life membership) and nearly always choose the YHA over other hostel. Looking at a map of Dublin in the Lonely Planet guide book, the YHA seems to be a bit further out, most of the accommodation shown was on the south side of the river (Liffey) and the ones listed in the northern section were a lot closer to the river than the YHA, so I was toying with the idea of staying somewhere else - perhaps around the Temple Bar are, but it was when I read this, that I received a bit of a nasty shock -
Petty crime of the bag-snatching, pickpocketing and car-break-in variety is a low to mid-level irritant.
Hired and foreign-registered cars are favourite targets - they seem to have a smash-my-window sign splayed across their bonnets. Take sensible precautions; supervised car parks for overnight parking aren't a bad idea. Remember also that insurance policies often don't cover losses from cars.
The area north or Gardner St, O'Connell St and Mountjoy Sq is not especially salubrious, and is afflicted with drug addiction, crime and occasional violence. Phoenix Park is a no-go area after dark; camping there is not only illegal, but also an invitation to trouble.

No other areas were mentioned, only this section. I do think it might behoove me to not stay at the YHA after all. Pity, it's certainly a lot cheaper than the few I was interested in the Temple Bar area.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

7. Buses from Dublin Airport

My initial plan was to stay in Dublin the first night then go to Galway the next day with Dublin Bus Company incorporating a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren on the same day. It would mean being at the bus stop by 6.45am. I then had the bright idea of why not head straight to Galway from the airport. Instead of getting off the plane, getting transport to Dublin city, what could be easier than heading to the bus pickup point and travelling to Galway? Makes sense as it cuts down on time making things smoother.

There are a number of companies that do the Dublin airport to Galway run and it is a matter of finding which is the cheapest and what times they run. There are four I have found:
Citylink, Gobus, Bus Éireann and the new kid on the block - Eireagle


Eireagle - €16.50 online or €18 bought on board

Departure time from Dublin Airport is as follows:
6.15, 7.15, 9.15, 11.15, 12.15, 13.45, 14.15, 15.15, 16.15, 17.15, 18.15, 19.15, 20.15, 21.15, 22.15, 23.15, 00.30.

The buses travel on the Citylink Express and take 3 hours to reach Galway with the exception of the 11.15, 14.15, 16.15, 18.15 and 00.30 buses which travel eireagle Galway direct and take 2 and a half hours.

You get the bus at Zone 11, Bus stops 5 & 6

Above: Get the Eireagle bus at Zone 11

Above: Galway New Coach Station

Gobus - €15.00
This is the fare price online, it didn't say whether it cost more to buy onboard. Buses depart at 6.45, 8.45am then on an hourly basis until 19.45, then 21.45 and 23.45. Journey takes 3 hours.

Above: Where to catch the bus Dublin Airport to Galway: Zone 13

Above: Arrives Galway: At new coach station

Citylink - €16.50, Dublin Airport Express (via Dublin City)


It should perhaps be noted that Citylink operate Eireagle.

Bus Éireann - €13.78

Does not have as many buses from the airport to Galway, with only 6 per day at 8.20, 10.20, 12.20, 14.20, 16.20 and 20.20. Buses arrive at Galway Bus Station in 2 hours 50 minutes.

Buses depart Dublin Airport (Atrium Road). Airport bus is Bus 20. There were no maps on their website showing the location of Atrium Road.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

6. Directions to Dublin YHA

There's nothing worse than arriving at your destination, you've just got off the train or bus and you're completely lost. You did write down the hostel/hotel address and where's that piece of paper gone with the instructions on how to get there? You look around like a beleaguered beast in the wilderness, everything in front of you a blur while you struggle with your luggage and try to get your bearings. Of course if you've arrived by plane, it's a tad easier - just make your way to the pick-up point for the shuttle bus which you had the foresight to pre-book.

So...with this in mind I thought it might be a good idea to write down how to get to where you're going. The first in this "series" is instructions to the YHA in Dublin which is where I'll be stayin. If you're staying at any other hostel you're plum out of luck. These posts will be labelled under 'Transport' and 'Directions' - transport covers a myriad of other information whereas Directions is just getting to accommodation.

Dublin International (YHA)

61 Mountjoy Street
Dublin, Ireland

From Dublin Airport > Hostel: (BY BUS)
Public Buses 16 or 41 - (E2.65pp - Exact Change needed)
Travel time approximately 20 to 30 minutes to Upper Dorset Street � (Bus Stop No. 52)
Look for a pub on the left side called 'Temple Pub' and push the bell to alight at the upcoming stop.

Alight from public bus near the Corner of Nth Frederick St and Upper Dorset St � (Bus Stop No. 52)
Cross to the right hand side of Upper Dorset St to the �Punto Oro Shop� and take the one way street to the left of the shop called �Blessington St� walk to the end of this street and take a left at the orange an black shop 'Deli Suz' on to Mountjoy St.
The Dublin International Hostel is 100metres on the right hand side of the street, number 61 Mountjoy Street, with the green door and hanging baskets.
Push the buzzer to the side of the door and come on in.

Aircoach - Costs E7.00 and runs 24 hours alight at the Gresham Hotel on O�Connell Street
Airlink - Costs E7.00 alight at Bus Aras (Bus Station)
Taxi � Costs between - E15 to E25 per taxi

From O'Connell Street > Hostel (ON FOOT)
Walk north up O'Connell St towards Parnell St and the Ambassador Theater
Continue north past Parnell Square Garden of Remembrance and Mayes Pub (Nth.Frederick St). Cross over Upper Dorset St to the Punto Oro Shop and continue up Blessington St (The Street between Punto Oro and Gala )
At the end of Blessington Street, turn left at Deli Suz onto Mountjoy St.
The Dublin International Hostel is 100metres on the right hand side of the street, number 61 Mountjoy Street, with the green door and hanging baskets.
Push the buzzer to the side of the door and come on in.

From O'Connell Street by bus:
Catch the bus number 46a towards Phoenix Park Bus stop 274 outside the �Subway� nearest to the Dublin Spire (E0.75c City Centre fare) (Alight at Bus Stop 192 � 2nd bus stop)
The bus will take a sharp right past the Black Church onto Mountjoy Street. Push the buzzer and the bus will stop next door to the hostel outside the Mountjoy Street Centra.

From Bus Aras (bus station) by foot:
Go out the main doors of the bus station, either follow the Luas tram lines to the left or follow the signage to O'Connell Street. Follow directions from O'Connell Street above.

From Connolly Train Station on foot:
Go out and down the stairs to the main street. Cross at the cross walk and continue in the same direction down Talbot Street. This will take you all the way to the Spire on O'Connell Street. Follow directions from O'Connell Street above.

From Heuston Train Station by tram:
Go out of the station and to the LUAS tram station, a ticket will cost E2.00 Take tram to O'Connell St (Connelly Station direction). On O'Connell street follow directions from O'Connell Street above.

From Heuston Train Station by bus:
Go out of the station and cross over the tram bridge to your left. At the lights, cross over and head left up towards Phoenix Park. Continue 300 metres up this road until you get to an intersection or road called Infirmary Road on your right. Walk up Infirmary Road until you see the Bus number 46A bus stop 200metres. From here catch the bus to Blessington Street � (Bus stop 819) (E1.85pp)

From Dublin Ferry Port by bus #53:
This goes straight to the city centre main bus station (Busaras). Walk to O'Connell St and either follow the walking directions from O'Connell St.
Take the Dublin bus 46A (€0.50) from outside the McDonald's to the right of the GPO. Push buzzer after you turn right at a large church in the middle of the road (The Black Church) the bus stops outside Mountjoy St Centra, the hostel is next door to the left. walk North up the length of O'Connell St, continue up Parnell Square East, Nth.Frederick St., Blessington St. and turn left at Deli Suz into Mountjoy St, we are number 61.

From Dublin Ferry Port by car:
Head west on Alexandra Rd towards 1st Branch Rd N. Take the 1st right onto 1st Branch Rd N. Take the 1st left onto Tolka Quary Rd. Slight right at East Wall Rd/R131. Turn left at Lower Drumcondra Rd/N1. Continue south towards the city centre along Drumcondra Road through until you get onto Dorset St Lower then Upper Dorset St. At the intersection of Upper Dorset St and Blessington St you need to go straight through this junction as you cannot turn right on to Blessington St. Take the very next right onto Wellington St (at the Meeting Point pub). The Dublin International Hostel is at the top of this street. The hostel is at the end of the street on the corner of Mountjoy St and Wellington St.

The car park for the hostel is located off Wellington St behind the hostel, within the hostel grounds. (The key for the gate to get inside the car park, must be collected from the reception desk for a refundable deposit of €20)

From Dublin Airport by car:
Head East towards Swords Rd. At Airport roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto M1 heading to heading to áth Cliath/Dublin/Dublin/M50. At the roundabout take the 2nd exit onto M1 ramp to the M50. Merge onto the M1. At Junction 1, exit on N1. Continue south towards the city centre along Drumcondra Road through until you get onto Dorset St Lower then Upper Dorset St. At the intersection of Upper Dorset St and Blessington St you need to go straight through this junction as you cannot turn right on to Blessington St. Take the very next right onto Wellington St (at the Meeting Point pub). The Dublin International Hostel is at the top of this street. The hostel is at the end of the street on the Corner of Mountjoy St and Wellington St.

The car park for the hostel is located off Wellington St behind the hostel, within the hostel grounds. (The key for the gate to get inside the car park, must be collected from the reception desk for a refundable deposit of E20)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

5. Buses

Galway to Killarney
9.00am - Bus X51 from Eyre Square East Stop 6
10.20am - arrive Limerick
10.35am - Bus 14
12.35pm - arrive Killarney

Killarney to Cork
8.25am - Bus 40, (Rock Road Service Station)
8.30am - from Bus Station
10.05am - arrive Cork, (Bus Station - Parnell Place)
Take take Bus 8 to University. Hostel opposite uni.
9.25am - Bus 40
10.20 - from Bus Station
11.05am - arrive Cork, (Bus Station - Parnell Place)
Take Bus 8 to University.

Cork to Kilkenny
11.00am - Bus 7, (Bus Station - Parnell Place)
14:10pm - arrive Kilkenny (Railway Station)

Killarney to Kilkenny
8.25am - Bus 40, (Rock Road Service Station)
10.05am - arrive Cork Bus Station - Parnell Place)
Change buses
11.00am - Bus 7
14.10pm - arrive Kilkenny (Railway station)

Kilkenny to Dublin
11.15am - Bus 7 from Kilkenny railway station
13.30pm - arrive Dublin (Busáras)

From Busaras, get to 61 Mountjoy Street. Distance of 1.8kms. Need to check if there's a bus along that way, if not, will have to call a taxi. Too far to lug a suitcase behind.

Monday, 16 September 2013

4. Ireland Rail Network

Train Routes in Ireland


Dublin area


3. Itinerary - First draft.

This is the first draft, so looks rather bare at this stage. The problem I am having with the Ireland part is the section after Killarney. Do I stop overnight at Cork and Kilkenny, or just KIlkenny or just bus it straight to Dublin? Ah, the joys of planning eh? Half the fun is planning your trip, working out now will I go there and will I stay here, how many nights, is two enough or do I need three?

Then of course comes the computing - a good word that, "computing" innit? (it's really only a fancy word for saying working out) buses and timetables for you can be sure of one thing - the buses don't always go directly from A to B - there's sometimes a change of bus needed.

Saturday 28 June: Depart Melbourne

Sunday 29 June: Arrive London
Monday 30:

Tuesday 1 July:
Wednesday 2
Thursday 3
Friday 4
Saturday 5
Sunday 6
Monday 7
Tuesday 8
Wednesday 9

Thursday 10: London to Paris
Friday 11
Saturday 12
Sunday 13
Monday 14
Tuesday 15
Wednesday 16

Thursday 17: Paris to Dublin

Friday 18: Dublin to Galway
Saturday 19:
Sunday 20:

Monday 21: Galway to Killarney
Tuesday 22: Ring of Kerry tour?

Wednesday 23: Killarney to Cork

Thursday 24: Cork to Dublin
Friday 25:
Saturday 26:

Sunday 27:
Monday 28
Tuesday 29
Wednesday 30
Thursday 31

Friday 1 August
Saturday 2
Sunday 3
Monday 4
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 6
Thursday 7
Friday 8
Saturday 9
Sunday 10

2. Package tours from An Óige (Irish YHA)

Although these tours are for 2013 and I will be travelling next year (2014), I'm putting them here as a guideline and have contacted the company to see if they will be doing these tours in 2014. The itinerary information leaves a lot to be desired and it would be disappointing to book one of these packages only to find sights and attractions were missing. Optional extras are understandable, but there is nothing to state this.


3 nights total in Dublin International Hostel with continental breakfast
(two nights at start and one night at end of trip)

Welcome Pack on arrival Hop-on Hop-off tour for 48 hours travel around Dublin (usual cost €16 pp)
Includes free walking tour.
Guinness Storehouse visit with pint of Guinness (usual cost €13pp)

1 night in Cashel Holiday Hostel
2 nights in Cork International Hostel

Hop-on Hop-off tour for 24 hours travel around Cork (usual cost €14 pp)
Pass to Cork City Gaol (Jail) (usual cost €8pp)

2 nights in Killarney International Hostel
2 nights in Jamaica Inn in Sixmilebridge
2 nights in Sleepzone Galway City

Connemara Day tour (usual cost €20pp)

Option 1 - with transport
May - September Normally € 478.00 NOW - € 405.00

Option 2 - without transport
May - September € 324.00 Now € 275.00


3 nights total in Dublin International Hostel with continental breakfast included
(two nights at start and one night at end of trip)

Welcome Pack on arrival
Hop-on Hop-off tour for 48 hours travel around Dublin (usual cost €18pp) Includes free walking tour.
Guinness Storehouse visit with pint of Guinness (usual cost €16pp)

1 night in Cork International Hostel

Hop-on Hop-off tour for 24 hours travel around Cork (usual cost €14 pp)
Pass to Cork City Gaol (Jail) (usual cost €8pp)

2 nights in Killarney International Hostel
2 nights in Jamaica Inn in Sixmilebridge
2 nights in Sleepzone Galway City

Connemara Day tour (usual cost €20pp)

Option 1 - with transport
May to September, Was € 408.00 Now - € 347.00

Option 2 - without transport
May to September, Was € 291.00 Now € 247.00

Sunday, 15 September 2013

1. Paris Day Trips

Beyond Paris seems like a really good site for day trips. Can be done using public transport - chateaux, gardens, towns, churches.