Recently, my husband and I returned from a a rather spontaneous trip to Austria. I say spontaneous, because we planned it 2 days after I received my British passport (yes, there will be a post about that) for travel the following month. We originally planned for a long weekend away to one of our favourite places, the Zillertal area of Tirol, but then realised Tim’s week of Autumn leave happened to be right after his long weekend, so a 10-day trip was put into place!
We booked our plane tickets with Ryanair, and I was pleasantly surprised at the cheap fares. However, once we added in checked bags (1 going, 2 coming home) at £15 and paid for our seats (£5 each each way), it soon added up and I was surprised to discover that British Airways actually offers cheap European flights that include both one bag and your seat selection for around the same price once you add in all of Ryanair’s extra fees. So, my suggestion is to shop around on several airlines before making your final selection. Ryanair might wind up being the best or go to the destination you need, but you might find BA or Lufthansa or Austrian Air offered a better price.
We flew into Linz, simply because it was the cheapest Austria option for flying with Ryanair. We needed to actually be closer to Innsbruck, and could have also flown to Munich, but after all the problems being reported with cross border trains in the weeks leading up to our trip, it was a good thing we chose to fly directly into Austria.
Our options to getting over to our first destination included rail, bus, or a car. We might have also been able to book a flight on a smaller, local, airline, but we skipped that option all together. We don’t like travelling by bus for long distances, so we also didn’t bother looking that information up. I did price out a rental car and I found a car for around €10/day. However, as my husband is a former BR staff member, he retained his BR privs and we get 4 48-hour free travel passes on OBB, Austria’s railway, so I began to look up trains.
Remember what I mentioned above about the border issues? Yeah, our train should have been a corridor train that crosses into Germany for about 45 minutes with no stops, but due to Germany deciding to close the borders, this was going to become a nightmare with a 90-minute delay! In the end, Germany decided to allow the corridor trains, so we were fine and in fact, things worked out so well that we managed to snag an earlier direct train to Jenbach without going out of our way to Innsbruck and got to our destination a lot earlier than we thought we would!
For rail schedules, I downloaded an app to my phone called OBB Scotty. For ticket prices and buying, you will need a separate app called OBB Tickets, but the Scotty app will prompt you to download it if you want to buy tickets. Also helpful is the DB app as DB has schedules for all European countries. The nice thing about all of these apps is that they seem to be automatically working in English for me. And if you’re using Chrome to look at websites, Chrome can automatically translate things into English.
Our schedule looked like this:
24 September- TRAVEL Stansted-Linz-Fügen
25 September-Brenner/Brennero (Italy!)
27 September-Zillertalbahn Dampfzug
28 September- TRAVEL Fügen-Zell am See
30 September-Pinzgauerlokalbahn/Krimml Wasserfälle
01 October-Pinzgauerlokalbahn Dampfzug/TRAVEL Zell -Linz
03 October-TRAVEL Linz-Stansted-Lincoln
We did have to modify our plans slightly as due to the no trains to Germany thing we had to cancel our plans to visit the Chiemsee, but we replaced it with a quick trip to Italy instead, so not all bad!
We changed locations twice, so we had a 4 night stay in an Apartment in Fügen, 3 nights in an Apartment in Zell am See, and 2 nights in a hotel in Linz. I will detail our stays later, however you can read my reviews of the first and last place on TripAdvisor. On average, we paid €50/night for our accomondation, but both apartments also charged a cleaning fee.
The nice thing about renting apartments is you get to eat on your own schedule, and you generally have a bit more space. The downside is you have to buy all your own food, but more on that in a later post.
Over the next few days/weeks I hope to post about our entire trip, since after all, my blog was originally a travel blog!
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I remember this jingle and I always want to sing it when I’m waiting to board an Amtrak train. Ironically, they started using the old Metroliner cars on the Keystone and Pennsylvanian service…or at least, they were yesterday and today. I amused Tim by calling it “the boxy loco” because the engine part looks like a box. Apparently they no longer need to change the engine in Philly and haven’t needed to since 2006….shows how often I’ve ridden the train since 2006. Shame, really, since I used to take it all the time to visit friends.
I was fortunate enough on both trips to grab express services. The Pennsylvanian only stops at Harrisburg, Lancaster, Paoli, and then 30th Street, and the Keystone “express” skips about half the stops in the middle, too. All-in-all, a pleasant ride in both directions, though this morning I sporadically napped since I was worn out from the Carbon Leaf show at WXPN World Cafe I went to last night with my friend Erin.
30th Street even has free pubic wi-fi at both the McDonald’s and the Cosi, and Cosi even has comfortable booths and tables to sit at. We saw a lot of people lined up around the perimeter of both restaurants “mooching” wifi. I went inside Cosi, ordered a hot tea, and sat at a table for hours using their wifi and reading while I waited for Erin. No one seemed to mind.
Unless something comes up, the next time I get on Amtrak it will be to pick up Tim! 😀 He visits in less than 2 months now!
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(Finally writing up a trip from several weeks back!)
Tim had a day off on perhaps the snowiest day of the season so far here, but we had made plans to take the train to York to go to the quilt museum and the National Railway Museum, so we decided since we didn’t have to drive in the snow, we’d still go.
I think we both wish we hadn’t. Not because we didn’t have a good time, but because it was cold and wet and both of us were a bit under the weather…that turned into a really bad cold when we got home!
Our first stop was the quilt museum….once we found it. All we had to go by was the sign we had seen in the city centre. We followed the sign until we ran out of signs, and after not being able to find it, we decided to head to the information centre to get directions. The streets of York were unplowed, the sidewalks unshoveled, and when we walked on a narrower street we got splashed by the passing cars. It was absolutely miserable and the snow had turned to sleet, and then to rain. At the information centre we picked up a flier, looked at a map, and discovered the museum….right around the corner from where we were looking! My socks were completely soaked by this point, but fortunately I had thought to pack an extra pair of socks into my knapsack (US: backpack), so I swapped my socks when we got there.
The quilts were beautiful, but we weren’t allowed to take photos. Ironically, we traveled to York, UK to see two quilts that had been made in Lancaster, PA. One by Mennonites, one by Amish. I was pretty amused.
On our way over to the National Rail Museum we stopped for some Lunch and some hot chocolate to warm up. The wet had already soaked into my socks again, so we stopped in Marks & Spencer’s to purchase socks. I spent about £12 on two pairs of thermal socks, a pair of padded socks, and 2 pairs of knee highs and after getting permission from the women at the till (US: cash register), I changed my socks again in the shoe section of the store. I put on a pair of thermal socks AND the pair of padded socks. My feet were FINALLY warm.
Of course, we had to walk back across town to get to the NRM, but the good thing was the museum was right next to the train station we’d need for the trip home.
We had a good time in the museum. They had a lot of things related to Tim’s job (signalman), so I finally was able to learn more about his job since I wasn’t allowed to actually visit him at one of his boxes. They even had a signal box set-up in the children’s area that let you play with the signal, and Tim showed me how to work it.
We also saw several of the Royal trains, which I found fascinating.
It was getting dark, so we headed across to the station and boarded the next train back to Lincoln….I slept the whole way home on the train, I was so exhausted….but my feet were finally dry!
For more photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/york-part-2/
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Okay, I have no idea if they’re called The ‘Pools or not, but we went to both Liverpool and Blackpool this past weekend by rail from Rainhill, a town about 20 miles outside of Liverpool….and I’ve decided that Northern Rail is horrible! BOTH days were filled with delays and cancellations….and I got locked in a loo!
Day 1, we arrived at Rainhill to take the 10:28 into Liverpool around 10:15 or so….to find out that the train had been canceled and we would have to wait an hour for the 11:28. We debated driving into Liverpool instead, but by the time we got back to the hotel and the car (a 20-30 minute walk) and drove all the way to Liverpool, we wouldn’t have saved any time. Plus, we had special “Christmas Cracker” train tickets that only cost £1 for the round trip INCLUDING access to the Merseyrail electric line though the city. There was no way we’d find parking for that cheap! We had no other problems, and I’ll tell you all about what we did in a later entry, because I know you’re all dying to hear the stuck in a loo story.
Day 2. It seemed to be a typical thing for trains to be running late or not at all on the Northern Rail lines, and today was no exception. We found out we’d wind up missing our connecting train to Blackpool if we stayed at Rainhill, but the station master suggested a short bus ride to a nearby town where we could connect directly with a Blackpool bound train. Once we got to St. Helen’s, we found out the Blackpool line was also running on a delay, but we managed to catch the earlier (now delayed) train as a result.
I really had to use the toilet, and because we arrived at St. Helen’s with only a few minutes to spare, I was unable to use the toilet in the station. The trains are equipped with toilets though, so it wasn’t going to be a problem….only it was.
The toilets on the trains are designed to run with electrically powered doors. You press one button outside to open the door, one inside to close it, and another inside to lock. When you’re ready to leave the toilet, you press the top button that opens/unlocks. I pressed the button and the door moved maybe one or two centimeters. Thinking I hadn’t disengaged it properly, I hit the close and lock buttons again and tried for open/unlock. No such luck. I banged on the door and yelled “Help! The door to the toilet is stuck!” Of course, Tim was sitting in our seats all the way in the back end of the train, so he couldn’t hear me, but someone apparently did and alerted the conductor. I banged and called for help again, and I heard the conductor tell me he was going to try to get me out. He tried squeezing his fingers through the small gap, but was unable. He told me to wait, and he went and asked the driver to reset the toilet door. He then tried to press the open button, and it still wouldn’t budge. The conductor had to use his entire body weight to pry open the toilet door far enough for me to sneak out, after which I am sure a giant “out of order” sign got placed on the loo.
Further updates later!
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Tim’s dad had been in the Leicestser hospital, and while his mum was driving back and forth visiting him she heard on the radio about an event at the National Space Centre called “Exterminate 45“. Since she knew we are both big Doctor Who fans (okay, I’m probably a bigger fan than Tim), she made sure she told us about it.
Unfortunately, Tim had to work that day from 2-10, so we originally planned to head out in the morning, and then he’d leave for work and I’d make my way back on the train. I posted on a Doctor Who community to see if I could find anyone to hang out with, and I met C of the Leicester Doctor Who Club, who invited me to spend the afternoon with her and the rest of the club. Unfortunately, Tim and I had to alter our plans again, as a neighbourhood kid who looks to Tim as a mentor needed his help Saturday morning, so Tim and I decided I was going to make the trip by myself by rail and bus!
The trip really wasn’t too bad, and the train was a straight journey from Lincoln to Leicester. The trip took two hours because of all the little station stops, but I’m used to that with SEPTA!
My problems began when I got to Leicester. The Space Centre’s website tells you you can take two busses from the rail station and mentions the street names where the stops are….which was fine, but they didn’t give you any directions on how to find the streets. I had foolishly assumed the two streets were streets bordering the train station (I was sort of picturing 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where you can get to 4 different streets from within the station)…they didn’t, but I did see a sign that said “bus station”, so I started walking towards it, pulling out Tim’s copy of the Leicester A-Z map to see if I could figure out where to go.
I got lost in the marketplace area. Many city centers have a pedestrian-only section of town where all the shops are, and there are loads of side streets and alleys with shops. I’ve gotten pretty good at navigating Lincoln, but Leicester confused me. There were streets that weren’t on my map, and streets that had two different names at an intersection. Confusing, right? I finally saw a bus, and I walked up to it and asked the driver if he knew where I could find bus 54, and he directed me to the correct stop. I finally made it to the bus and paid my £1.80 for a return (US: round trip) ticket.
I was expecting to get dropped off right outside the Space Centre, but the bus actually drops you off about a half mile away. I asked the driver how to get there and he told me to “cross the street and you can’t miss it”. Well, I crossed the street and couldn’t see the Space Centre through the fog, but I DID see the top of the Abby Pumping House Tim and I had gone to in October. The Pumping House is next door to the Space Centre, so I headed in that direction.
I got in line to pay my admission, £12. The person behind the counter wasn’t quite prepared for my American debit card, so I wound up with a complimentary ticket. Not bad at all. I walked around a little bit, and then shortly after met up with C and she and I wandered around until we found the rest of the Leicester Doctor Who Club.
We had a great time goofing off and checking out all the Doctor Who stuff AND the Space Centre. About half of us rode on the “Europa Simulator”, which was a small 3-D ride to “prepare” you for being an astronaut sent to Jupiter. The ride had one of those lap bars they pull down and the guy doing it just kept slamming it down. We had to have it done several times because one of the bars wasn’t going down fully, so I kept having this bar jammed into me over and over. At one point I told C if he slammed the bar down again I might have thrown up on him, it was that jarring.
At Exterminate 45 they wanted to try to beat the world record for people dressed as Daleks, one of the monsters of Doctor Who. None of us were in costume, but we headed outside to look at all the costumes and things ranged from the incredibly accurate to small children wearing cardboard boxes carrying a whisk and a plunger (the two “arms” of a Dalek look similar to those items). We even saw a child dressed as “The Empty Child” with another kid dressed as Captain Jack!
We wandered back inside and started making our way through the exhibits – both the Space Centre exhibits and the Exterminate 45 exhibits – and kept “running into” assorted Daleks, and I even shook hands with one of them!
There was loads of other Doctor Who related things there, too. Several people had brought along versions of the TARDIS, there was at least 2 versions of K-9 (aka “the tin dog”), one that was super accurate, and a club member dressed as an Ood!
When things started to wind down, the group I was with decided to head to a pub in town for a few drinks and asked me to tag along. We boarded bus #54 and I went to hand over my return….but what’s this? It seems I rode OUT on one bus line and was riding IN on another, and they don’t take each other’s tickets….but BOTH buses were Bus #54 and went to the Space Centre and even stopped at the same place. *shakes head* So I had to hold up the line while I dug out an additional £1.50.
I forget the name of the pub we had gone to, but we found a table in a corner and chatted. One of the guys in the club, N, and I started discussing words that mean different things in the UK vs. US. I’ll have to write up a blog entry about that at some time, because it was a really fun conversation.
I left the group around 6 to get back to the station. I was told it was really easy to get back – and it was! I boarded the 1830 train, and headed back to Lincoln.
Tim kept texting me telling me where I was (on the route) and I was really confused until I realized that he could monitor my train from his signal box, though I didn’t pass the box he was working at.
We got into Lincoln at 8:30, where Tim’s mum (and dog!) picked me up since the bus to the village stops running at 6.
The Leicester Doctor Who club invited me to come out for their December meeting, and if the train schedule can be coordinated, I just might, I had such a great time with them!
view overlooking most of the displays
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I really love the old classic comedy movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, but I was beginning to feel yesterday like I was a part of the film….minus the sharing hotels with strangers and setting things on fire, of course.
Part of this entry I wrote yesterday while waiting in Winnipeg, the rest I wrote this morning.
I’ve made it as far as the “holding pen” for US bound persons. There’s wireless, but neither Captain Jack nor Gwen can seem to gain access to it. Jack will connect, but never bring up the access page, and Gwen brings up an access page that wants me to log in with my Telus account….something I don’t have. 🙁 Ah well.
My day started out on a VERY bad note. Actually, let me backtrack to last night. I’m not sure if I’ve spoken of my immense arachnophobia on this blog yet, but suffice it to say – I have it in the worst possible way. Anything other than daddy long legs completely freak me out to the point where I sometimes even cry.
Last night I went to carry up the dirty litter and got the bag stuck on a loose nail, so after I got the bag out of the house, I decided to grab the swiffer to sweep all the litter into the basement, where I planned on then using their basement vacuum to get it all up. Except that while I was sweeping off the steps…TWO large black spiders (the size of a US nickel including legs) popped out of a hole and terrified me to the point where I lost my balance and fell down the steps. Not a good thing when I still had some cleaning to do. I emailed Sarah and Joe to let them know what happened, and Sarah told me not to worry about cleaning the rest up.
Anyway, so cue this morning.
My flight out of Dauphin (on a 12-seater prop plane!) was at 7:50. The airline confirmation said to arrive an hour ahead, which made it 6:50, and I decided I was going to call for a cab around 6, figuring on it arriving to pick me up at 6:15 and I’d get to the airport between 6:30 and 6:50.
I was ready to go by 5:45 and had everything packed including my laptop, so I decided to just start giving the cats some good-bye love (which Quincy ignored, Casper was indifferent to and meowed, and Hobbes climbed onto my shoulder), and call the cab company. Sarah told me to use Parkland Taxi, as they were on the other side of the highway. I called around 5:50 and got a recorded message that told me the hours were 6AM til whatever time at night. Wow, glad I didn’t need a ride earlier after all. So, I chatted with my mom on Skype for a bit and tried again at 6 on the nose. Same message. I tried at least three more times and STILL got the recorded message. I was sort of starting to panic. Fortunately, I was able to load the dauphin website on Captain Jack and got the number for Dauphin Taxi. Located a bit into town from Sarah and Joe’s, but they answered the phone and I had a cab by 6:20. My taxi ride was $13 though, so I’m not sure if I had to pay for him to come GET me too or what as the airport wasn’t that far away!
Anyway, we arrived at the airport before the counter person was even there to unlock the door. I think the cab driver wanted me to stay in the cab and let the meter run, but I saw a picnic bench so I told the driver I’d wait there for it to open. As I was paying the driver, the person with the keys pulled up, so I didn’t have to wait outside after all.
While waiting for the flight to leave, I met someone who is some type of Government person. He was pleasant, and we had a nice chat. Soon, it was time to barod the plane and about a half hour later we were landing in Winnipeg.
Two other women on the flight with me who needed to go to the International part of the airport offered to share a cab with me, which was really nice. One of the women was headed to South Africa to visit her family and it was going to take her 2 days and an 11 hour layover in London to get there! (and I complained about my 18 hours?)
Before I continue, I want to add in my little rant about this airport business in Winnipeg. The airport we flew into and the International airport are in the same compound yet if I had taken a cab alone, I’d have had to have shelled out $10-12 for a cab plus tip/baggage handling. To essentially GO AROUND THE BLOCK. Why don’t they offer a free shuttle between the two? Or even a shuttle for a $5 fee or something like that? All they’d need is a 15-passenger van or something. Just seemed ridiculous. In the end I only paid $5 anyway because of sharing the cab (he got $5 from me because I wanted to give him $4 and hold onto my loonie, but I accidentally handed him a toonie and a loonie and didn’t want to grab the loonie back out of his hand, but wanted to give him more than $3 for my share).
Anyway, back to my travel story.
NWA wouldn’t let me check in. Well, she said she could, but then I’d have had to have gone though to the Customs screening right away and been forced to wait in the “pen” all morning where there isn’t alot of food options…but yet if I didn’t check-in, I was able to go upstairs to the main airport….I didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t have checked in for the flight, gone upstairs and then come back downstairs to go through customs, but whatever. I had to drag my suitcase around with me upstairs. I went into a small souvenir shop and picked up a thimble for my neighbour and a few other items (and a really cute purse/bag for me that had pockets on the front the perfect size for my LG9900 and N810).
Then, I went back downstairs to check-in, and the people ahead of me were being a pain. THEIR flight wasn’t until 4, but they were checking guns (eek!) and obviously couldn’t carry those around the airport. So, the counter person had to spend some time trying to get them onto the earlier flight that I was on. (oh joy!)
Surprisingly, it was very easy to get through everything. Checked my bag, got through customs with a grand total of ONE question (“What did you buy in Canada?” “a bathing suit, some gifts for family, and some candy”), and even security was a breeze.
I’m typing this from the lounge though becuse I needed to make sure TSA didn’t do anything to FUBAR my laptop…they ran a freaky wand over the top, bottom, and then opened it to run it along the inside. I asked the woman what it was for and she explained it was to check for any chemical residue. I asked her if she needed me to power it on, and she said no. So, laptop owners can be re-assured that TSA is not out to get us with taking laptops internationally.
Okay, my second leg of my trip starts in about 20 minutes, so I’m going to save this and shut down. Perhaps Minneapoilis will have free wi-fi I can grab…at the very least, I know Philadelphia does!
I got so sick on that flight. I was seated at the back of the plane right next to the turbine (I think that’s what it’s called),and I guess the back of the plane is like the back of the bus and I got airsick for the first time in my life. When we got to Minneaplolis, I booked it over to the connecting gate and explained to the guy at the counter that I wasn’t feeling well, could he move me closer to the front of the plane. He said “If I have it, you got it” and moved me to row 5. Then, I spent about 20 minutes walking all over Minneapolis to try to find PLAIN bread/bagels to eat to try to calm my stomach, and finally settled on tea from Caribu Coffee.
The flight wasn’t bad. Row 5 happened to be the first row after first class, and I guess the counter person put a note that I was ill because I got lots of attention from the flight attendant. She brought me ginger ale while we were waiting to take off, and when they were serving first class their meal, brought me a dinner roll. She also told me if I wasn’t feeling well I could use the first class bathroom and could get up even if the seatbelt sign was on.
At Philadelphia, it was a mad dash to get my baggage and try to not have to wait for the R1. Fortunately, our bags came out in record time and I managed to make it onto the 8:39 R1….and then I had problems. See, apparently the Zone 5 ticket I purchased 2 months ago was no good on the R1 line because it didn’t say “CCP” on it, and the conductor wanted me to buy another ticket from her at $7. The problem was, I only had $4 in US Currency. The people who had been with me on the plane and made the mad dash with me didn’t even offer to make up the difference, which I thought was kind of rude, but typical for Philadelphia. Anyway, I explained to the conductor that I only had $4 and asked if I could give her my bad ticket AND the $4. She told me no, and said that she would take my not good ticket “this time”.
I had to wait at 30th street for about 2 hours for my Amtrak train. There were loads of creepy people around at that time of night, but the Cosi offered free wi-fi, so I was chatting to a few friends. Finally, we were able to board the train and I was headed home!
We arrived slightly early, and I think I walked in the door at home at exactly midnight. Mom and I stayed up until 3 in the morning talking!
I shouldn’t be awake right now, I sort of feel like a zombie. I have a lot to do today though. Will was acting a bit weird around my suitcase, so I want to empty it out and febreeze the whole thing because I’m sure he smells strange kitty.
I was going to add some photos from yesterday, but my camera is in the living room, so I will do a separate photo post later in the day.1 comment
I’m here for just one more week. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for seven weeks already! There’s so much to do in so little time, including the dreaded re-pack. I have a feeling I’m going to need to use my second bag I brought along…not because I have a ton of more stuff to bring home, but Tim sent me 4 books for my birthday, and I bought a shirt and my suitcase was pushing the weight limit on the way up. So I think I’ll just pack into three bags for the way home.
I’m still not sure what time I’m leaving or what the plan is other than flying out of the Dauphin airport, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. I’m sort of glad I’m flying instead of taking the train or bus down to Winnipeg…mostly because I’d rather just get it all done in one day.
My flight doesn’t leave Winnipeg until 1, but since I’ll probably get there early I’m going to see about getting on an earlier flight just in case there are open seats. As it currently stands, I won’t actually get back to Lancaster until midnight because of taking the train from Philly (my flight gets in at 8, but I have to wait for the R1 and then get to 30th street so I miss the earlier train). I can always sleep on the planes and trains.
I also need to figure out food for traveling that will make it through airport security. I should be okay as long as I’m not packing any raw fruits or vegetables…I don’t know if cooked/canned are okay or not but I probably won’t pack them just to be safe. Cream cheese bagels seemed to be okay on the way up, so I’ll probably go the same route.
I keep thinking I should start to pack, but then I realize if I start packing now, I’ll have to live out of the suitcase for the rest of the week! So I have a feeling Monday night is going to be a rush of packing, especially since I probably have to be up pretty early on Tuesday.
But I do have lots to do. I figure I can start to get all my non-clothing stuff into one location and I can pack up the toiletries I’m not going to be using. I want to vacuum their basement to get up all the cat litter that’s been kicked outside of the box, and sweep or mop the floor up here…the cat’s scratching post (a table leg) really leaves splinters on the floor! Monday evening I want to wash the towels and bedding and I also need to plan meals to use the food I have left (which I went grocery shopping yesterday to get some things to compliment what’s left…but I think I bought too much!)
I’m not sure if I’ll be doing anything this week or not. I might take one more walk into town because who knows when I’ll be back? I’m hoping I get the chance to see the people I’ve met while I’ve been here one more time.2 comments