Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Planes, trains and automobiles

One of the many highlights of this journey was using different kinds of public transportation and mass transit in Europe. That, and the "interesting" roads, should one choose to drive a car!
Airplanes - This was pretty easy - planes are the same the world over. Airports, however, are another story. We flew from MSP to Heathrow in London. Heathrow has few, if any, signs to direct us to the bus stops, thank goodness Dan knew the we, or we'd probably still be looking for a bus! The Amsterdam airport is HUGE. Once our plane landed, it taxied for 15 to 20 minutes - over freeways and rivers - and finally dropped us off at a bus outside the cargo terminal. Then we took the bus for another 10 minutes to get to the passenger terminal.
Trains - The Eurail Pass is a great way to travel. Trains vary in age and amenities, but we were comfortable and got to see lots of the countryside. The overnight train between Florence and Munich was a new train. We had sleeping cabins with bunk beds and even had a small toilet and shower in ours. Obviously you didn't see much and sleeping was a little rough going through the mountains. The train from Luxembourg to Paris was a "fast" train, the kind you see in the movies. After a couple of stops at the beginning of the trip it started really moving - Lowell figured it was probably going 160 mph or more. Didn't gaze out the window much with that one!
Subways/Underground trains - every city we were in had them and they were great. You just need to be sure that you get on the train traveling in the right direction! Some trains were really crowded - like going to Oktoberfest! But it was an easy and efficient way to get places.
Streets in the cities are narrow!! I mean really, really narrow! I couldn't believe that you could drive 2 cars on some of these streets - but they do. And usually there are pedestrians, bikes and motorcycles on the street too! I really didn't get very many pictures of traffic - I guess when we were walking we had to pay attention to staying out of the way! The autobahns are busy and much like our freeways, except faster. Thanks to Dan, Tom and Laura for their wonderful driving skills.
Buses are usually crowded but another pretty quick way to get through the traffic and to your destination.
Everyone - young and old - rides bikes! We saw 70 or 80 year old men & women, young kids, women in business suits, pedaling down the streets with a basket of groceries, wine, books, etc. In France (and Italy and Germany too, I think) there are bike stands on every other block where you check out a bike and return it to another bike rack somewhere else in the city. The only problem is, you have to have the courage to share the narrow streets with French drivers!
We never got into a boat or used horse carts - both were options at one point or another.
Driving was truly an adventure. Both Dan and Tom had Garmin navigators which we used when while driving and sometimes walking. If you've followed Luara's blog, you'll know her as Miss B. We usually listened to her directions and always ended up where we wanted to be. Do you know that Miss B can find a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg? And if you follow her directions for pedestrians, well, we found a really cute little area with no street lights! She also guided us through some wonderful French vineyard areas, there we shared the roads with the tractors.

We used all kinds of transportation, but our most frequent and most reliable was walking! It was a great way to see and feel the cities. We walked and climbed to the top of domes, mountains, castles, & hills. We used a pedometer for a couple of days (until we lost it on a bus!). One day we clocked over 27,000 steps - that was not our biggest day of walking either. Figuring about 2000 steps per mile......

No comments: