Slow Travel Through Europe

In just over a week we will be embarking on a family holiday to mainland Europe. We will be visiting/passing through six countries – and all by rail. We won’t be driving a car for three weeks and I can’t wait!

A couple of years ago we enjoyed  a Eurocamp holiday in the South of France and travelled by train to get there. This was such a memorable experience that we have decided to branch out and visit Lake Garda in Italy by rail. One of the main criteria for booking the Eurocamp site was that it was close to a train station and we could get around by foot, bike, boat and rail – without the need for a car.

We will be away for three weeks and have extended our rail plans to include a visit to Germany and then the Netherlands, to stay with friends. We used the excellent Loco2 website to book all the tickets

Our itinerary is something like this:

Ashford International (UK) to Paris on Eurostar

Overnight in Paris 

Paris to Milan

This is a seven and half hour TGV service. Having taken the TGV in 2013 we know how comfortable they are. The kids can read, play games and go to the toilet whenever they want! We get to sit back, enjoy the scenery and have a glass of wine! Overnight in Milan

Milan to Lake Garda

On our way back from Lake Garda we will be travelling:

Lake Garda to Munich

We will be travelling through Austria on this one . I’m looking forward to the beautiful scenery.Two nights in Munich

Munich to Colgone

Overnight in Colgone

Cologne to Leiden, The Netherlands

Staying with friends

Leiden to Ashford, via Brussels

This is a four and half hour hour train trip, including 50 mins in Brussels

When we’ve told friends and family about our rail trip they have been surprised and curious. Many have asked about luggage for the five of us. We will be hiring linen and towels at the campsite. We will be staying in a ready erected tent and don’t need any camping equipment as it is supplied for us. I will talk a little more in detail about our packing in another post but, suffice to say, we will be taking two backpacks (adults), one wheelie suitcase (oldest daughter) and day packs for our younger children.

People have also asked about the cost of travelling by train versus flying. For me, flying isn’t even a consideration. For a start, I hate flying. It is not an enjoyable experience and I can’t bear to think about the emissions. On the Loco2 website it details how much CO2 you have saved on a journey, as compared with flying. I also don’t want to travel by car all the way, and then get stuck in traffic jams around Lake Garda, which we have been warned about.

For us, travelling slowly by train is part of the holiday. It allows us time to sit back, talk to each other, play games and enjoy the changing scenery. We will also be stopping at some major European cities where we will have time to visit and explore the sights, rather than flying to an anonymous airport or driving on a motorway.

When we had a quick look at pricing a flight home from Amsterdam to Bristol, as opposed to taking the Eurostar home, it was £50 cheaper. This included parking fees, petrol costs etc. But we didn’t factor in the things you can’t pay for: the ease of checking in and less security restrictions; the thrill of actually arriving in a city rather than some tarmacked terminal on the outskirts; travelling through six countries and seeing the scenery change; listening to different languages being spoken on the train; letting someone else do the driving etc etc.

It may be a cliche but, for us, the journey is part of the holiday.