As many travelers know, Swiss trains run like clock work. In fact, travel by rail in Europe is a much different experience than in the United States, for a variety of reasons. Eurail is finding itself in competition with low cost airlines for the European travel dollar. I interviewed a northern California couple about their recent European train trip for the Contra Costa Times and wrote about my train trip from Seville to Madrid, Spain.
Berlin to Budapest
“When I was 5 years old, my dad and I watched the trains go by in Northbrook, Ill.,” said Andy Schnur. “It was a moment I still remember.”
Madrid’s Penthouse Rooftop Night Club
There’s something special about traveling by train. Passengers take a step back in time to a more civilized form of transportation.
Lafayette’s Ellen and Andy Schnur traveled by Eurail with a first class pass for three weeks. The pair explored Berlin for its interesting architecture — the Jewish Memorial, Jewish Museum, Reichstag, Sony Center; Checkpoint Charlie museum and East Side Gallery.
“Because things are closer together in Europe, all the trains run on time,” added Andy Schnur.
They took the high speed, non-stop train from Nuremberg to Munich in about a hour, traveling at speeds of 150 mph. They planned the trip themselves starting in the north, selecting the cities with the shortest train trips.
“We traveled strictly by train or foot; all public transportation, said Schnur. “Driving in any city in Europe is a challenge.”
His favorite hotel was the Berlin Westin, with Salzburg’s Hotel Goldener Hirsch a close second.
“The Hirsch was very expensive and very old,” noted Andy. It’s also George Clooney’s hotel when he visits.
Ellen remembered the Berlin train station for its modern architecture and multiple level shopping malls. The charming old town of Nuremberg was a favorite with high end shopping and “the best gelato ever,” laughed Ellen.
Seville to Madrid by train
On a recent trip from Seville to Madrid, I traveled by train using the Eurail pass. I stayed in the Intercontinental Madrid,a lovely hotel in Spain within walking distance to boutique shopping. Fancy a palace stay, I recommend AC Palacio Retiro, a gorgeous five-star Grand Luxe hotel with Retiro park views. General Manager Fernado Bodelon will take care of you.
For the jetsetters, check out the penthouse inside the Midnight Rose at Plaza de Santa Ana. This hip hotel is part of the Gerber Group.
The private Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza on Paseo del prado is worthy of a morning, as is the Prado Museum and the new wing opened in 2007.
A visit to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a stop to the Debod Temple or the Royal Palace with its African influenced ceilings. After a day of sightseeing, stop by the Taberna Alabardero for a tapas lunch. The restaurant Grupo Lezama also has Taberna del Alabardero locations in Washington, DC and Seattle, Washington. If you enjoy wine, have dinner at the Dominio de Antargu. You’ll be surrounded by an extensive collection of wines at this Bodega.
2009 Travel Trends
As 2008 comes to a close, I’d like to share what the experts at Luxury Travel Expo had to say about travel trends and hot places to visit in 2009.I wrote about the luxury traveler. I agree with the Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau that the luxury traveler is an avid vacationer. If the “On the Road with the Sun” pictures represent a typical Lamorinda resident, we are, indeed, an active group.
According to Luxury Travel Expo panelists, some of the top travel destinations for 2009 will be Greece, Spain, Ireland and Egypt. I’d like to fly Ireland’s Aer Lingus non-stop from SFO to Dublin.
Maybe we should add Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve to this list. Norway and Switzerland are on my wish list for 2009.
Closer to home, the Resort at Pelican Hill on the Newport Coast is getting rave reviews. Ocean-view suites on 504 acres with spa and golf … what’s not to like?
Where are you headed next year? Will the economy affect your travel plans? What are your top travel picks for 2009? I look forward to hearing from you.
Photo credit: Nancy D. Brown