Tales on Rail: Teresa’s Advice for Future 1st-time European Travelers

Tales on Rail Birmingham

Teresa standing over a canal in Birmingham, England

Traveling to Europe for the first time was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I had the opportunity to see so many cities in a fairly short amount of time, something I had only daydreamed about. I traveled by train from city to city in England, which was great because short trips give you a chance to get off your feet for a little without feeling bad about taking a break and missing out on exploring.

I was also able to take a train all the way from Paris to Barcelona thanks to the new high speed train between France and Spain. This allowed me to travel in 2 countries in a day, having breakfast in France, lunch in Spain and dinner back in France!

After leaving Barcelona, the trains through the countryside in France offered such beautiful views, it made me realize that taking a train from city to city was sightseeing in itself.

I was able to experience many high-speed trains in England, France & Spain, such as Virgin trains, TGVs, the new France-Spain High-Speed train and even the AVE. It was great to experience these trains first-hand.

The Best of England from my Travel Experiences

It’s incredible how much you can do in a day if you really have your heart set on seeing a lot of places. One day on our trip, we woke up in Birmingham, visited Warwick Castle, then went to Oxford, and ended the day in Manchester. All of the train rides were fairly short, so aside from some delays we experienced due to weather, it was a smooth experience.

Having delays or cancellations can be frustrating, but they tend to be out of your control so it’s important to not let it put a damper on the trip. The train stations were so accommodating and everything had a way of working itself out where we didn’t skip a beat on any of our plans.

It’s hard to say what I loved most about the UK because there is so much. Aside from the overall feeling that everywhere I went had so much going on that I wanted to explore, each city had something I loved about it.

Tales on Rail Liverpool

Teresa outside the Beatles Story in Liverpool, England

Manchester had so much to do and I loved how it felt like you could take a lot of day trips on the train from there. That was how we ended up in Liverpool and on the Beatles Tour, which I absolutely loved. Liverpool had such a great energy, and if you enjoy seeing live music, which is something I love doing, then this is a city you must visit.

London was also amazing and if you’ve never been, it is definitely somewhere I would recommend going. I was overwhelmed getting to see all of these major sightseeing spots that I had always heard so much about, like Buckingham Palace & Big Ben. London is on the list of cities that I have to go back to and spend more time getting to know.

Tales on Rail Eurostar

Teresa & Rail Europe colleagues ready to board Eurostar train to Paris

Crossing the gap between London and Paris was a very comfortable trip through the chunnel on Eurostar. It was so great how you could literally eat a 3 course meal on the train. This helps make good use of your time so when you arrive in Paris you can start sightseeing immediately, on a full stomach!

The Best of France (and Spain) from my Travel Experiences

From Paris, I was so excited that we got to travel to Barcelona. Even though we spent a very short amount of time in the city, I know that this is a place I am set on returning to. Barcelona was so beautiful and vibrant, I can’t wait to have more time to really immerse myself in the culture.

Tales on Rail Dijon

Teresa trying Escargot, for the very first time at La Dame d’Aquitaine, Dijon France

Dijon was another city that I loved, located south of Paris. It was so beautiful to walk around as there are so many small shops, surrounded by beautiful architecture. I even had my first taste of escargot, which I was pleasantly surprised I enjoyed as much as I did. One of our tour guides mentioned that Dijon is not far from the vineyards of Burgundy, and since I love wine tasting, I am sold on making another trip back!

Of course, what I saw of Paris was absolutely amazing. We only spent a short time here, but just being in the presence of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night was breathtaking. Aside from the overall magic of Paris, I now officially crave crepes all the time since I had my first taste there, so I am always on the lookout for where I can get one! I really can’t wait to return to this city and explore more of what it offers.

tales on rail eiffel tower paris

A very sparkly Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The train rides from city to city in France on TGVs were a bit longer than those in England, but they all seemed to go by fairly quickly.

Teresa’s European Travel Advice & Tips

We had our luggage with us a lot while going from place to place, so if you plan on moving around a lot, I would definitely recommend packing as light as possible. I had a medium sized suitcase and would even want to downsize for my next trip. I think that if you are going to spend a lot of time in one city, a larger bag would work out okay, but if you are constantly getting on and off trains and moving from track to track in stations then the last thing you want to think about is the burden of carrying a heavy bag.

tales on rail eurostar

Luggage storage on Eurostar from London to Paris

Because I was on a mission to travel light, I left my larger Canon camera at home, even though I have a habit of bringing it everywhere I think might contain a photo op! Instead, I used an iPhone 4s (the device used for my blogging as well). I found that I was able to take amazing pictures with the iPhone. It was great because it was so easy to have on hand at a moment’s notice, and since I wanted to capture every part of the trip, it ended up being a great option.

On the note of keeping in touch and saving battery, I kept my phone on airplane mode for most of the trip and used the Wi-Fi that most hotels we stayed at and some of the trains offered. I also kept my adapter and charger in my backpack which I always had accessible so if the trains had outlets, I could take advantage of them and charge my phone.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the trip was absolutely amazing, and given the chance, I would go back at a moment’s notice. People always say that once you get your first dose of traveling, it’s hard to turn your back on the idea of what a big world there is to see, and it is the absolute truth.

I would love to return to some of the places I experienced on my next trip, but I think I might add some new cities to my list. Prague is definitely on the list of places I would love to go next, along with Switzerland, The Netherlands, Ireland, and of course some vineyards! But then again, everywhere I haven’t gone is on that list, so hopefully my next adventure won’t be too far in the future…since I have a lot to see!

  • Pops & the over the hill gang

    We are three 60+ American couples who planning a European adventure in September. We are taking a Viking river cruise from Budapest to Nuremburg and then traveling by train to London for a few days, then to York by train for a couple of days and then to Edinburg by train for a few days where we will catch a flight back to the states. We are all new to train travel and would appreciate any tips on this particular route. Trying to decide between Hotels or VRBO for accommodations and a bit concerned about local transportation between train stations and accommodations and attractions. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated :-)

  • joeymegatron

    Local transportation is excellent between train stations, accommodations and attractions within London. Edinburgh is centralized enough that you can easily walk between everyplace you likely want to go. London has the Tube which makes a big circle around the main part of London for attractions, and can deposit you close to almost every place you’d want to see. We walked a lot because we love to see things up close, but you can get around rather easily on the Tube. Edinburgh is small enough that most things are within walking distance of the train–they have a bus system, but you can reach almost everywhere in less than 20 minutes of walking. EVERYWHERE is uphill from every other location; we haven’t figured out how they do that. Seriously, it’s a long climb up to the castle (slow but steady will get you there from the train station), then just work your way down the hill to Holyrood. Next time in Edinburgh, we’re going up Arthur’s Seat–nothing to see along the way, but I’ll bet the views are spectacular!

    • http://vrbo.com/445447 Pops & the over the hill gang

      Thanks :-)

  • joeymegatron

    Doesn’t look like you can get from central Edinburgh to the airport by train. From Edinburgh airport’s Transport Links page:

    Rail passengers can get between airport and station by taxi or by bus. The Airlink 100 service calls at Waverley and Haymarket stations. Journey times are 25 to 30 minutes in normal traffic.

    A night bus, the N22, also runs between Waverley station and the airport. Alternatively, the Jet 747 bus links the airport with Inverkeithing rail station in Fife.

    • http://vrbo.com/445447 Pops & the over the hill gang

      Thanks for the help :-)

  • Guest

    nice experience and very helpful blog. Happy to travel by train but we can not go where exactly we need to go. but good option and nice experience travel by train.
    once again love to read your blog

  • parisairporttransfer

    nice experience and very helpful blog. Happy to travel by train but we can not go where exactly we need to go. but good option and nice experience travel by train.
    once again love to read your blog
    http://www.transfer-private.com

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