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Old 8th November 2009, 21:09   #76
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Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Before I left, I tried and tried, believe me there is not ONE travalogue on the web with pictures and story together
Probably I should give a try then with the amount of data dumped in my hard disks

But for the Europe travelogue, then I'd have to take off from work for a long time. Let me see if I can put up one in due course.
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Old 8th November 2009, 22:47   #77
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Boy.. You missed Louvre. I skipped Versailles because I wanted to go to Louvre. Spent as much as 6 days in Paris and still couldn't cover much. I have a trip pending too to catch up with Versailles and go to Parc Du Asterix.
We should do a team-bhp trip actually. What say Ramkya?
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Old 9th November 2009, 00:11   #78
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Originally Posted by laluks View Post
Probably I should give a try then with the amount of data dumped in my hard disks

But for the Europe travelogue, then I'd have to take off from work for a long time. Let me see if I can put up one in due course.
Precicely, there must be 1000's of people who have done the route much more extensively or sanpped more; but looks like none has loaded up in one place. It needs lot of effort and focus. It would be nice, with the data you have, to start one and build it up big. Wish you luck and some time off from work.....

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Old 9th November 2009, 00:59   #79
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Default London City Tour

0300: Stop at Bond street for lunch, shopping (for those who dare) and a walk on the famous street.
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In Mayfair area, this is the up-market shopping paradise like others in Oxford street, Regent street etc. There's KFC for lunch and lots and lots of souvenir options to empty pockets quickly, "zip-up-the-pocket" is the Mantra here. We take a Libera card on the streets, it's the best at 2 pence a minute, 2K of Uniconnect card got smokekd long ago, we were on Vodaphone sms for the last days, all cards taken from India are expensive. We change the Euros to Pounds and also the TC's to cash here, lots of options in Bond street and hog in KFC. We felt more at home there, lot of people, lot more Indians, we can hear Hindi / Bangali and all languages being spoken in the street, well...... felt like home.

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0400:Our local guide, Tim got in, he was connected to security at the Buckingham Palace and was good with his story. We cross Hyde park - 350 acers - lots of public events - rock concerts - speakers' corner - one can just stand up and speak on anything within law, a bedroom apartment costs 1 million pounds here. Mayfair area, Nicky Clark, hair dresser - hair do = 600P but you'd bump into royalty here, this is where the Mittals go to burn money!!! Across to Picadilly, the staute Eros, Greek God of live, with his bow and arrow is a landmark here, nearby hey market is where in olden times horses and stables were plenty, the IC engine killed all that, five of London's swankiest streets converge here. On to Traffalgar square, one of the most famous in the world, Ajay Devgan's first concent here where he meets the Asin in London Dreams, Lond Nelson's column in the centre with 4 lions guarding it, nearby Charinng Cross is the 0 point of London, 4th most visited place on earth, 1.5 crore tourists a year, the 4 bronze statues there were made from captured French cannons, lots more about thie place but we move on.
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Strand, was the edge of the river, later embankments came up and it's no longer a Strand, we pass India House, our High Commission, BBC-Bush House, and Fleet Street. Fleet street where Fleet river used to flow openly, now undergorund, used to be the power house of London Press, full of Law houses now, people still associate this place with London Telegraph. On to St.Paul's Cathedral, 300 year old, Bishop of London's set, Princess Diana wedded here, climbing the 500 odd steps you can get a penoramic view of London agan an archetectural piece worth visiting for those who have the time. Drive by Mansion House, house of Lord Mayor of London wich brokers power over official dinners. Bank of England and thro King Williams street, the heart of the banking industry; street was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, 13,000 homes were gone in 4.5 days, St.Pauls's Cathedral was consumed, though it all started from a small bakery, Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth was accountable for the spread, he did not give order to destroy homes and create a fire line. On to The London Bridge often confused with The Tower Bridge, the first bridge across river Thames, "London bridge is falling down" was taught to us in nursary; originated from the many failed attempts to repair the bridge. We drive on to The Icon of UK, Tower Bridge, a suspension bridge, the spans used to be raised using steam power, modern systems are installed now, it's raised only about 1000 times a year, road traffic crawls at 20mph, there's whole lot of stories about the bridge worth an interesting read. We go past parliment Street, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, 10 Downing Street, National Gallary, Pull Mall (has the Reform club - story where Philias Fogg took the bet to do the world in 80 days) Ian Fleming loved the clubs here and liked his martinis shaken, not stirred and so James Bond followed-through.

Last edited by ramkya1 : 9th November 2009 at 01:03.
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Old 9th November 2009, 01:12   #80
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Default London City Tour Part 2

On to St.James Street where Lobb Shoes (makes shoes of royalty) would set you back by 6K pounds for a pair, then Green Park Area, Ashley House, Royal Museums and at last to the Bukingham Palace. We were privy to inside stories of the Palace, Tim, our guide for the day was one of the security guards there when Diana lived int he building........... not here.......... hush..... is the word!!!!!
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We spend time in front of this place shooting in the low light, its 7 PM now and we need to drive a long way to near Heathrew for our Park Inn Hotel at Bath road.

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The last picture here is the picture of the Gang after dinner at a Bombay Palace, up market Indian Restaurant in London, the last night for the gang together at UK. We had a roaring party, gala dinner and all the funny stories we had to say of the tour gushed out........Dr.Balachandra brought the house down with his laughter, there were many hidden stories we were hearing for the first time....... so it flowed...... the entire restaurant was gaping at us, one half-drunk guy actually asked me, "Are you people part of a Indian film shooting crew?" , I told confided in a whisper, "yes, please, please don't tell anyone", he winked at me happily !!!!
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Last edited by ramkya1 : 9th November 2009 at 01:20.
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Old 9th November 2009, 02:16   #81
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Default London Tour Day 2

15-10-2009: Get up early 6 AM to say good bye to the Gang, they leave for Indian today, we stay on in the same hotel for one more day to finish our private touring. Yes, the deed is done, we're on our own, no guide, no gorup, into the cold London streets with only maps, information, notes and apprehensions. My wife was a lot more scared, I was outwordly bold, to be honest self-doubt was gnawing, will we be able to pull it off smoothly on the first day out along in London?

Got ready and made notes from data on the laptop, brochures and information from friends. We had 3 targets for the day, Madame Tussauds, Tower of London and London Eye, we had taken tickets for these through Mumbai Visit Britian office, they are cheaper in India, you don't have to stand in queue and can pay in rupees, pay on delivery; great way to visit, would highly recommend it to anyone.

Anyways..... after breakfast, we ask the Concierge / bell desk at Park hotel and here's where they did shining service. I've seen my fare share of hotels in my life, all classes, but this was service par excellence. The man at the counter asked, Sir, Madam, would you please sit down, what do you want to do today, how do you want to do, can I suggest you this, would you like this, do you want tickets arranged, do you want cab/ public service, I'd highly recommend the tube, take the day pass etc., This was our first time on the tube the the first look at the map can spook anyone' he patiently explained, its very smple, I'm writing down where you need to get down to change trains, look at the colour codes, you need to catch the yellow circular line, no problem, just follow instructions...... man that was some class service, our fears evopurated, we felt like taking the world on between the two of us, one man made a huge difference, were were so happy. He even said, on the corner by the Petrol Station, there's a store, pick up something to eat on the way!!!!! What can I say.......the tip we paid the next day morning of 5P was gracefully accepted with a question, how was your day yesterday, any problems?

Walked to the bus public bus stop, 5mits to Heathrew, 7P ticker per person, unlimited travel on the tube, we're whizzing under London towards Madame Tussads, change over, another train, this was so simple, so silly to have been apprehensice, this was like eating candy!!!!! Tip to anyone going to London first time, study the maps, buy the tickets and plunge in, you'd do it like to fish to water, every where, everything is clearly written, you'd get lost only if you want to!!!!

Picture at Madame Tussauds.
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Old 9th November 2009, 02:29   #82
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Arrow London Eye + Tower Of London

I have kept the narration short, you'd find tonns of information about all this on the web.....

Pictures at London Eye.

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Pictures at Tower of London.
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Took the tube back to Heathrew station, had a very satisfying day, had to walk a lot to get from the tube to the places we wanted to go, the exercise did us good, had dinner near London Eye at Macdonalds. Next day we needed to get to Gatwick for the flight to Inverness Scotland, the hotel again did magic. The Lady at the Travel counter, called National Express, found timings, booked 2 tickets through my credit card, got ticket emailed to the hotel from them, took print out and gave it to us, all within 10 minutes, told us to be at the Lobby by 5AM for the airport shuttle to drop us at Heathrew, all at NO extra cost!!!! We did not regret the 130P we paid for an extra night there, this was a 4 star hotel. Wonder if we would get this service at our top 5 star hotels in India, without a great service charge.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 9th November 2009 at 02:35.
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Old 9th November 2009, 10:59   #83
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Such service will indeed make a trip more memorable and enjoyable.
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Old 9th November 2009, 11:31   #84
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Fantastic snaps and wonderful experiences you have undergone. Europe is really beautiful and appreciate the way you have captured and shared with us. The view from the London Eye is superb and so is Madam Tussuad.

Thank you for sharing and keep sharing...
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Old 9th November 2009, 13:46   #85
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I'm thoroughly enjoying this travelogue Ramkya. I'm very tempted now to post the night photos from the London Eye. well, guess will reserve it for a travelogue of my own and not hijack yours. It's reminding of my good old days.

Here's a 5* rating from my side.
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Old 9th November 2009, 15:55   #86
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Arrow London To Invernes, Scotland

@ MX6: Thanks a lot for the vote.

@ Indian Ranger: Thanks for the post.

@Ashwinsid: They repeated this on 16th morning.


============
16-10-2009: Up at 4 AM, pack, check out, waiting for the Coach at 445, the amazing Concierge said, "Sir, you'd miss breakfast, would you like a breakfast box" !!!!!!! We were blown, such attention to details is awesome, I wrote to Thomas Cook about this, much as we complain rarely do we appreciate exceptional service, hence I'm writing this in gret detail.

We're off to Heathrew coach terminal, 0510 AM we wait for National Express (NE), No.205, Dep at 0530 rolls in at 0520, the driver helps load the luggage, looks at the tickets and says get on for the 90 mt, 70 KM distance. The NE driver seemed rash comparitively, he followed rules but cut in and out of traffic sharply and took turns a little too fast, don't know if others have experiences here, would be interesting to see if they differ. Anyway, we were at Gatwick at 0700AM.

The Flybe, economic air carrier experience need a few words. Wanted to save 3 days and tried the net for air fare from London to Inverness, Flybe came out cheap, but I could not book in with credit card, no service in India or some spook int he system, so used Make My Trip and they messed up my name and caused lots of stress. Had to talk to flybe directly to sort it out, burned the wire and money; costs for 2 - tickets 240P, 2 holdluggage @ 15 each = 30, 2 seats @ 5 each = 10, at 22K it would have been cheaper to hire a car from London and drive up to Inverness; they say hind-sight is the best one!!!! Other than the cost, the check in, service etc., was as good as any in India, I think India is better in low cost carrers. We landed at Inverness, Scotland at 1130 AM, temp 7 with a wicked wind.

Had planned on buying a AA road map which I saw on the net, all airport shops have it, got one for 10P at Gatwick, one of the best investments of the trip. It was detailed, accurate, had the speed camera locations mapped and had Postal code of all important monuments, landmarks of England printed. This was a God-sent, with the Post Code on the TOM TOM you can navigate to any place accurately and then find the address if you have the geo-cordinates, leads you to the door step. We could not have done the trip in UK without Tom Tom and AA road map.

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Did the stay bookings thro. mail and net, bed and breakfast place called Merdon House in Central Inverness after checking with Trip Adviser and other sites and finding availability difficult on a week end. Merdon house had a private car park and a walk away from the centre of town and river Ness. Even during off-season, the week-ends are packed, week-days rates drop, the range is huge, starts from basic 15PDPP (per day per person) to 50, we got the 30 PDPP with breakfast, as we were staying for 4 nights, gave us for 25, still expensive. I am sure there are more economic options like youth hostel, dormatries etc., I wanted it tied up and ready when we arrived.

Had pre-booked with Europe Cars for a entry segment car with AC, we were only 2 and wanted a fuel efficient compact with at least 1400 CC, petrol, electronic safety, full insurance cover for 2 drivers and a GPs. We booked with National Cars and cancelled, they took one booking and gave confirmation for another so cancelled it, only later we found that Europe Cars has just gobbled up National, its the same company. Tried others like Avis, Hertz, Budget etc., not satisfactory with response and choices and zeroed in on Europe Car, turned out to to be a good choice in the end, service was seamless, fluent and easy, all done on the net.

COSTS: car from 16th to 26, pick up from Inverness drop at Bristol, 300, additional driver, 0 liability insruance, GPS+additional driver 100 P, 400 total. When you take delivery of the car 250 would be blocked in your card as security, when you return the car and if there is no speed ticket debits, they'd release it. You get it on a full tank of petrol, return it on a full tank, no other conditions, just drive.

Car Hiting in UK: The Europe Car pick up was waiting for us at airport to take us to the air port depot for the car booked which was a compact 1.4 Petrol one from the Ford Stable. They wanted to overdo it by offering me, at same cost, Vauxhall Vectra 2.0, Renault Lagane 2.2, Honda Accord, Hundau Sonatta 2.0, Ford Focus 1.6, though gratified, I stuck to my guns, no thank you, I wanted what I booked, a 1.4 with specifications. The cost of petrol averages about 1P, wanted a car which would give around 15 KM/Ltr with decent power, whcih would be about 6Rs.per KM. They said sorry, we have another location in Inverness, would you mind taking a look at it, we will drop yo there. We drive to Thistle Hotel, Inverness and settled on a Perugeot 207, 1.4.
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The silver 207 with 14000 on the clock, April 2009 had the works. Great interiors, high quality dash, plush seats and 5 star NCAP, sporty amber dials, 95 bhp @ 6000, 50 ltr tank, electirc mirrors, cruise contorl (did not work),cd player, gross weight 1650 kg, Electric Power steering, alloys, driver-passenger-front side air-bags, tyre 185/85/R15, low height of 1502, good steering response, rear wipers + defoggers, on board computer, highy refined engine, most information on the Service book. Two downers IMO, the shift was not smooth and wish they could have worked on blocking small road noise that crept in. Compared to the scorpio I drive, visibility was a problem at first and was like being inside a well, but the engine and response was more evolved.

Driving in UK: First time driving there, was scared after reading many forums, do this, do that, dont's speed, be careful on the roundabout etc., Drove gingerely at first inside the hotel court yard, there also the in and out has to be followed properly and the lane discipline strict. Took me 15 minutes to understand the TOM TOM interface, gave Merdon House post code and drive into the Scottis traffic. Fortunately for me, 1 PM traffic at Inverness was light, kept to the left lane and mad a couple of blunders on the round abouts by choosing wrong lanes, cut in front of a couple of cars from right side got a couple of angry horn blasts at me, I drove gamely on, after about 25 KM's, I could do it fluently.

Merdon House was OK, the rooms very clean but not noise-proof. The lady of the house was really good, the man was a disappointment, got an impression he had a problem with coloured people, luck of the draw. Well, there's no getting away from that with many Caucasians, a feeling that they'd go to Heaven and the rest are minions!!!! Otherwise, the place was value for money and the breakfast was OK, we took toasts, milk, cereals, eggs, fruits etc., their spread too much for us. We love to dig into lunch, which turned out to be fruit, cakes, milk, crossants, ready made veg. salads, noodles on the go etc., was not a problem. There are many Indian restaurants in Inverness; the Rajah, Cinnamon, Jeera, Shapla, Jaipur Indian Restaurant; from reviews and experience with a couuple of them we found the best is Jaipur, High Street, Ist floor, value for money;
order carefully, with a 60 ml alcoholic drink, dinner would cost you 25P for 2 and yummy too.

Inverness is a small place, the capital of highland Scotland, about 60K people, the traditional distilary business is now replaced by some IT parks; reportedly, the younger generation tend to migrate south for jobs / faster life and what have you, tourism is a huge business here, more or less drives the economy in summer, it would be like Simla during Diwali vecations. You'd find most of what you want in the new part of town, High street, Marks&Spencer, Thornton Chocolates, Whisky shops, Curry's Digital and Tesco - Huge departmental chain 3 minutes walk away. Walk down another 5-6 minutes you reach the old town to dig for your Scottish souvenirs like bags, accessories, key chains and stuff.

We took a nap, went out for a long walk down the street, across the hanging bridge, turn right at St.Columbas Church, down under the Inverness castle along river Ness, did about 7-8 kms, it's dark by 6 PM, drizzles on and off, tem sub 7, cold day. We try an Indian Restaurant there, OK, call it a day at 8, tomorrow we drive to the northern end of UK, John O'Groats. We'd get a whole day at Inverness just for local sight seeing.

The water was so blue........
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Last edited by ramkya1 : 9th November 2009 at 16:12.
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Old 9th November 2009, 23:34   #87
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Default Northern Tip Of Uk, Dunnet Heat

17-10-2009: Target for the Day - Northern most point of UK, John O'Groats, 192 kms away, about 3 hours drive. One has to take the A9, 130 km till Latheron, A 99 for 27 kms to Wick, and A897 from there on 34 kms to the Northern End. Looks simple on paper. A99 is, a catagorized black - the highest risk band,the 2nd most dangerous road in UK, had 12 fatal accidents in 3 years; I was sweating when I read this!!!!!

Another set of figures: 2.48lakh Road accidents in the last 2.5 years, 266 fatalities in 2008, Jan-Oct-09 - 122 fatalities....... our own Ahmedabad figures. 2 KM from where I live, Judges Banglow road 5 km stretch, middle of the town, can't do more than 30 kmph, Jan to Oct-2009, 922 accidents!!!! What risk band should we give, black, blue or black and blue?????
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Started a relaxed drive at 9, the GPS was guiding me all the way, nothing to worry, just stick to the speed limits, don't obstruct traffic, park only in Park areas and enjoy the drive. We had all day, the signages were great, limits clear and the car singing along with BBC FM giving traffic and weather updates. The landscape was awesome, hardly any traffic or people, occassional cyclists, locs, medows, blusing trees all passed by. Cross the beautiful Moray Firth on the bridge near Kessock, Cromarty firth (back waters) and on to one of the most beautiful costal road on earth, up and down, right and left, small villages after another, double track all the way through Dalmore, Comore, Golospie, from Helmsdale to Latheron road hugs the cliffs, than the dangerous sections on A99 starts on single track. Really, it's a well marked road, lots of blind summits, you need to be cautious, compared to our Himalayan roads this is the expressway. There are steep climbs and downs, most of the caution boards were for winter snow drives. When it snows, this road would kill a couple a people, it would be the ultimate horror to slide on one these twisties into the beach 100's feet below or skid off into the air and plunge into the cobalt blue sea. I found it exciting, many of the bikers who whizzed past us must have been doing 70 on a 50MPH road, we pass Ulbester, and reach Wick, last petrol stop here. From here seconday road, A99, but lots of passbys for you to stop to give side, people were so considerate, just stop and let you pass and you do like wise, most people wave at you!!!!!! Near Keiss, a young copule came behind on an Audi blasting, using the headlights to pass buy, I tucked into a parking bay at the earliest and they took off dangerously doing 70 plus, met them at JOG, they waved and we met them. We touched the post at 0115 PM, and parked. Walked to the historical post which displays the distance all around, walked about and took loads of photos, camera cannot justice to the landscapes.

One can take the boat to the Orkney islands, most tourist having time do that, or people stay at JOGoats for a day and cover the island too. We had missed the ferry, you have to reach at 8 so that the same ferry gets you back by 5 PM, you can do it if you start at 5 AM from Inverness and reach back by 8 PM. People say the island is beautiful.

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Most people think JOG is the north, not so. At 2 we turned into A836 and turned off to the actual northern end, Dunnets Head with a light house. The road to Dunnet Hill on B855 was just one vehicle track but visibility was 300 mtrs around, you can tuck into the lay-by and give side for other vehicles. The temp was around 5, strong wind was ripping at 20 MPH, but we managed to get out and take some photos. Wanted to visit the Castle of Mey, but found it closed, closes in September, so drove on to Thurso, took a turn on A9, A882 and joined back at Wick around 330 again back on to the same road to Inverness. Return was more slower, the sun came out and the land and sea on the left sprang into sparkling colours. We reached Inverness back at 6 PM, parked, had a wash and went out for a dinner at Jaipur Restaurant. A day well worth spent, 430 kms on the clock touching the symbolic northern most part of UK. Tomorrow we have the whole day for Inverness, so we thought... man proposes....

The picture with the light-house, the one after the snap with "Tourist Information" is Dunnet Head. The Castle you see is one of the many many you would find all over Scotland.

The photo with SALT box: You'd see lots of these boxes all over this route, in winder they use lots of salt to melt the snow... I guess, anybody in the know please comment.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 9th November 2009 at 23:50.
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Old 10th November 2009, 09:38   #88
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ramkyaji,

I came across this thread today and was glued to it till i read 6 pages of
your trip log. very optimal use of pics and narration in your description.
I am planning to take this Europe vacation next summer. I am debating
between taking bus tour(SOTC/Raj) or Eurorail pass and do on your own.

1) SOTC i thought provided lunch everyday as well, did'nt Thomas Cook
provide indian lunch?
2) I know the schedule in bus tours is tight, do u think people with kids
(age 7-9) will be able to do bus tours?

looking fwd to your next post.
rawnak
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Old 10th November 2009, 09:44   #89
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Aah, finally! The part I was waiting for. The drive through UK. Wonderful travelogue Ramkya. Onward Ho!
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Old 10th November 2009, 10:27   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rawnak View Post
ramkyaji,

I came across this thread today and was glued to it till i read 6 pages of
your trip log. very optimal use of pics and narration in your description.
I am planning to take this Europe vacation next summer. I am debating
between taking bus tour(SOTC/Raj) or Eurorail pass and do on your own.

1) SOTC i thought provided lunch everyday as well, did'nt Thomas Cook
provide indian lunch?
2) I know the schedule in bus tours is tight, do u think people with kids
(age 7-9) will be able to do bus tours?

looking fwd to your next post.
rawnak
Thank you. It was very difficult to choose pictures, I have about 4K snaps + Videos!!!!!

IMO: SOTC is snooty, they think customers have to go to them, no choice, based on my interactions with them. I could be very wrong here. There are only 2 choices if you want quality rooms, guides and grub, SOTC or Thomas Cook. Raj is almost down and out as far as outbound is concerned, talk too some people in the industry.

Summer is when all the tours start; mad rush on for most POI's, you'd have to wait in queue. If it's a choice take in after 15th Sep, before November, I know timing could be difficult.

Kids 7-9 would be able to do it, depends on the family. Getting up early, walking a lot, standing in queue, managing food could be a problem for kids, so it depends.....

Most operators do not give lunch, they suggest places, you'd surely not get Indian Lunch. Those who give are small time operators, on paper plates on the road side etc., I've heard tales of woe, read travalogues of woe etc., did the net for reviews, mouthshut has some.

Any other info. you want, let me know. Happy Hunting!!!

Just saw you're from Boston: Drive by yourself is a great option, drive side in Europe is same as US. You must add Lake District, UK, if possible, wait for my section of the travalogue.

========

Last edited by ramkya1 : 10th November 2009 at 10:31.
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