Sunday, March 16, 2014

Be your own travel agent

Castle Howard, Yorkshire. I am BUSTING to see this place. Source
When I took on the task of organising our holiday to Europe, I really had no idea what I was in for. Sure, I've arranged overseas trips before, but (surprise!) booking airfares, accommodation and transfers for a two week trip to south-east Asia is rather less challenging than doing the same for a seven week long trip across six countries.

It's been consuming my life for the past three months, as I've studied Lonely Planet guides, trawled countless tourism, airline, railway and review sites and Google-mapped various alternative routes between potential destinations. Exhausting, and also a big part of the reason there's been very little blogging going on. (The acquisition of a PVR earlier this year might have also contributed. All those recorded episodes of Orphan Black, Downton Abbey, Lillyhammer and Love Child aren't going to watch themselves, you know)

But this afternoon I've finally booked our last couple of nights' accommodation, so we're just about done. Well, apart from arranging hire cars and waiting for Renfe to release train tickets to a couple of Spanish destinations. Why on earth you can't book a Spanish train three months out, I don't know...

The Alhambra, Granada. A grand finish to the Spanish leg of our trip. Source
One of the reasons that the whole thing was so difficult was that we wanted to go everywhere. And of course, there's only so much ground you can reasonably cover in seven weeks. We didn't want it to be one of those trips where you see fifty cities in thirty days. I mean, what's the point of that? We like to get a feel for the places we visit, enjoy the local sights, customs and food - and you can't do that if you only have a couple of hours allotted in a place. We also hate to be constantly on the move; it's exhausting. We'd rather do a few destinations well than do a lot of destinations without seeing much of any.

So narrowing down our choices has been the most difficult part of the whole exercise. I desperately wanted to visit the Loire Valley in France, but that particular region got crossed off the list early on, because we also needed to be on the other side of the country for some alpine action. *sigh*

Spain is tricky because we didn't want to drive and the trains don't necessarily go directly between cities. We wanted to pop up into the Basque region for a brief taste of pintxos (OK, and maybe some wine). That was easy enough. Getting out of there wasn't so simple. The solution was to stay an extra night, then take an early flight to Madrid. I'm still working on moving us from Seville to Granada, however. Keep your fingers crossed, OK?


Keswick, The Lakes District: Our first destination in England. Source
Then in England, we had to work around the Tour de France. Given that we'd be in the UK whilst days 1-3 of Le Tour were happening in Yorkshire, it would be crazy not to take the opportunity to catch some cycling action. Boy, did that take some organising! First you have to find accommodation along the route that isn't booked out... then you have to figure out how you're going to get in and out of there with road closures, heavy traffic and so on. Due to the logistics of working around a major event, we've had to ditch the idea of visiting some other parts of England. The Cotswolds made the final list though - thank goodness for that.

The magnificent medieval city of Carcassonne - our final stop in France. Source

But in the end, we have an itinerary we're happy with. There'll be plenty of castles, abbeys, ruins, museums and beautiful scenery to keep us happy.

Only seventy-seven days to go now. Can you feel the excitement? :D



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