Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Transport Across Europe Part I

Two weeks of scratching Western Europe's surface still takes a great deal of planning although the internet makes it a lot easier these days. Enter your keyword search and it then becomes a buffet. Well, I don't mean the food but the extensive information you'd likely get after. It will be mental gluttony.

Although for the fun of it, I don't mind the idea of scouring books in the library and actually phoning accommodation. Uhm, on second thought, I'd rather not. I may be just a little heady at this moment. And I couldn't imagine racking up my phone bill!

Estació de França in Barcelona, Spain 

Well anyway, in my first post about my Euro trip last fall, I listed down the countries that my cousin and I had come up, while letting go of those far-off places that we wished we could squeeze in. For truth be told, we are only humans with no superpowers, a limited time frame and most importantly, a frugal budget.

Even if we had earnestly narrowed down into a list of 6 countries for a trip of 2 weeks, it was still a major part of the plan on how we could exactly get from one country to another. Where to book? What's the cheapest and convenient way? And so on.

Six countries can be too many for others but we were also working on the possibility that we might no longer have a chance to do this all over again. Aside from the fact, that we worked our asses off to make this happen. Any worker ant out there as well?

But let's get down to business, shall we? This does not however, include our flight that got us to Paris from Singapore.

Paris, France to Barcelona, Spain

The "memorable" Renfe train at Estació de França

Our intended travel date was fortunately within Elipsos' remaining time of operation. Last December, they had ceased their overnight train from Paris to Barcelona, concentrating instead with their daytime schedules albeit in a much faster train.

Elipsos is a company co-owned by both Renfe (Spain's national railway) and SNCF (France's national railway) to address the transportation needs between the two neighbouring countries.

Our train schedule that time was:

ETD: Oct 13, 2013 (SUN) 22:16 at Gare d'Austerlitz Station in Paris
ETA: Oct 14, 2013 (MON) 09:43 at Estació de França in Barcelona
Duration: 11.5Hrs
Price: €97.00/Person (Reclinable seat)

It was a gruelling overnight travel inside a muggy old train with a heater that functioned well more than necessary. To make it worse, the stingy us had settled on reclinable seats. In hindsight though, there were also several others with the same fate who survived the journey. There was even one man in our train car, who snored all throughout the night, making it uhm... worst.

Yeah, it was indeed high time for them to make way for newer trains that can cut back the travel time into just merely over 6 hours. Insanely amazing for a distance of over 1,000km!

To take advantage of the convenience of this highly advanced era, I directly booked through Renfe's website, summoning my non-existent Spanish language skill. Don't fret though. They have an English option. Otherwise, if you are well-versed in French, you can book through SNCF's website as well.

I paid through my credit card and that worked without a hitch. After my payment was successful, the tickets were conveniently sent to my email for me to print out later. Hurrah for this pure ingenuity!

Renfe (Spain): http://www.renfe.com 

Paris to Barcelona in Google Map

Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy

Vueling Aircraft at Fiumicino Airport in Italy

After settling in Barcelona for 3 days and having well recovered from jet lag and that epic of a train ride, we then hopped on a Spanish budget airline to get ourselves to Rome.

Of course, when listing down the countries, it is apparent that I also considered if a reasonable transport is feasible. Reasonable meant cheap and with good timing.

Our plane schedule that time:
ETD: Oct 17, 2013 (THU) 11:55 at Barcelona–El Prat Airport
ETA: Oct 17, 2013 (THU) 13:40 at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
Price: €73.94/Person (With 23Kg Luggage Allowance)

Similarly, I directly booked with Vueling Airline's website and again, using my credit card. One important thing to note is that we bought our luggage allowance on top of the plane fare, in contrast to riding in trains.

How the heck did I know of Vueling Airlines? This question might be at the back your mind. If not, I will still say this anyway. Well, it doesn't take a genius when there's Google nowadays. But seriously, I may have a general summary about all of this and I hope it won't be a redundancy. (Ain't this already a summary??)

Vueling: http://www.vueling.com

Barcelona to Rome in Google Map

Rome, Italy to Amsterdam, Netherlands

easyJet Aircraft flying over The Netherlands

We basked in Rome's sunshine for 3 days and proceeded to the damp north after. Due to time constraints, we dropped the idea of the breathtaking scenic train travel crossing Italy to Switzerland. 

A glimpse of the Swiss Alps from above would have been an ideal consolation but our flight was early in the morning and all I could see was pitch black darkness. The daybreak only came during our plane's descent towards Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. :(

It was the same disappointment when I had gotten an aisle seat in our Vueling flight and it was too late when I decided to transfer to an empty window seat. I was in ecstasy snapping a few photos just when the pilot announced our descent. !!! Flying over the Mediterranean sea in broad daylight! How could I miss that? 

But it's okay. *sniff*

Our plane schedule that time:
ETD: Oct 20, 2013 (SUN) 06:25 at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
ETA: Oct 20, 2013 (SUN) 08:55 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Duration: 2.5Hrs
Price: €79.69/Person (With 20Kg Luggage Allowance)
Taxi service from Rome to Fiumicino: €48 whole car and €2 as tip (Was that enough?)

This early morning flight required us to leave Rome at 03:30 in the morning because Fiumicino is another city. With no traffic in the road, travel time is around an hour. Because I couldn't imagine hailing a taxi at this ungodly hour, I arranged for a taxi service beforehand and our driver of our overwhelmingly huge car arrived promptly.

To book with easyJet's website: http://www.easyjet.com/en/

For the taxi service, I booked 5 days prior through Roma Shuttle. http://www.romashuttle.com
Luckily, I got a confirmation with them after receiving no availability replies from other shuttle companies. Whew!

Rome to Amsterdam in Google Map


This is already a very lengthy post so, I am saving the rest of our journey in another post. Just before this post turns into an entry to Wikipedia.

Another note with these train and plane schedules, all 6 countries that we visited have the same timezone. It would be far more challenging if it weren't so!

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