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Old 25th November 2018, 15:58   #1
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Default Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Prologue

I was super excited when our A380 took off from the Dubai airport. We would be in London within the next few hours! I wasn’t excited about London per se, because I’d been to London before. Had lived and worked there. I was excited because we were going on a European vacation, with my wife and two daughters - one in high school and the other in the primary. I thought my daughters were lucky to see Europe at such a young age.

As the plane reached cruising altitude, I started wondering whether I even knew about Europe at their age.

I probably did.

As a kid growing up during the 80s, there was a healthy dose of movies and songs featuring Europe. Thinking of my first memory of Europe, what comes to mind is - although all the following songs are probably from the 60s - Dev Anand’s Phoolon ke rang se, Raj Kapoor’s Duniya ki sair kar lo (around the world in 8 dollars), Shammi Kapoor’s An evening in Paris etc. It's a bit hard to remember my first memory of Europe. What I know is those mountains, beautiful landscapes and romantic towns were stuck in the head from a very early age. With age, and after a continued dose of movies - both Hollywood & Bollywood - especially Bond movies and desi flicks like DDLJ - Europe earned a fixed place on the bucket list.

Fast forward to the new millennium. Got opportunities to travel abroad from my early 20s. Over time, I traveled and lived in some interesting places around the world - Southeast Asia, Australia, North America, and England. While England is in Europe, I had not been to the main continent.

I made several plans over the last few years but didn't manage to commit to the trip for one reason or the other.

This year, somehow the stars had aligned. I was planning to go to London for work, so I combined my vacation and work on the same trip. It was timed during the summer break of my daughters and a welcome opportunity for us to escape the summer heat.

We spent five weeks away from home. The vacation was kind of “sandwiched” between two periods of working from our office in London.

This blog will mainly focus on the 18 days and nearly 5000 kilometers of traveling around Europe, during April and May 2018.

Let’s begin with a teaser video and some pictures...



Our first car of the trip - in the UK - Renault Captur
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6628.jpg

Surrey, the English countryside
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Tower bridge
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London bridge
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Our second car - in the Netherlands - Volvo S90:
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Beautiful Tulip gardens of Keukenhof:
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Cube Houses and other interesting architecture of Rotterdam
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Delft, also called mini Amsterdam
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and then the real Amsterdam:
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Rijksmuseum
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The Night Watch by Rembrandt
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Our car in Germany and Austria - BMW X1
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Rhine river - Koblenz.
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Statue of Emperor Wilhelm I at Deutsches Eck where the river Mosel meets the Rhine. The town was completely destroyed in WW2, including this statue.
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Koblenz Altstadt (old town) as seen from the banks of the Mosel.
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Schangelbrunnen (Schangel fountain) - the water spouting naughty little boy of Koblenz
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Continuing our journey along the Rhine valley on beautiful German roads:
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through many historic little towns dotted with castles along the way (this is St. Goar)
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Wurzburg - where the Romantic road starts
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Fairytale castles of Bavaria - Hohenschwangau castle
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And the best of all - the magnificent Neuschwanstein castle
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Beautiful Bavarian roads, meadows and churches
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Last edited by MandarMax : 1st December 2018 at 13:27.
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Old 25th November 2018, 23:27   #2
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Munich. I immediately fell in love with the city.
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Hofbräuhaus, Munich. Claimed by some to be the world's most famous tavern.
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The BMW Headquarters and Museum
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The cute little Isetta and other beauties:
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The colourful and stunning Münchner Freiheit station near our Airbnb in Munich
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St. Bartholomew's church. Konigssee
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The crystal clear water of Konigssee wears multiple hues of green and blue:
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Tyrolean Alps, Austria
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St Johann in Tirol. One of the most beautiful and memorable places of stay during the entire trip. What.a.view!
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Cool mountain breeze, the smell of freshly mowed lawns and this captivating view outside of the window. What more can you ask for?
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Yep, that's the place:
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Beautiful scenery all around. Dream of para-para-paradise..
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Church from the little town of St Johann:
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The main highlight of the trip and the reason why I was in Austria. The Grossglockner High Alpine Street. Considered to be one of the most scenic mountain roads, and the greatest drives in the world, and for good reason.
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What a day! What a road! What a car! Unforgettable experience.
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The view from the memorial for workers who died during the construction of the Grossglockner high alpine road. The road was built in the early 1930s.Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_9775.jpg

There was still lots of snow on the road. We experienced a bit of snowfall as well.
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I was glad that I had a good car. A "proper" rear-wheel-driven BMW would have been more fun.
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Last edited by MandarMax : 27th November 2018 at 22:29.
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Old 26th November 2018, 18:29   #3
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A quick night stop in Innsbruck. Such a lovely place! Wish we could have stayed here longer.
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Zürich's Bahnhofstrasse. One of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues.
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Zurich's riverside - from a moving tram over the Quaibrücke.
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Lucerne - This is probably the most photographed angle of the wooden bridge.
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Lucerne panorama - check out the higher resolution version.
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To mount Rigi. The cogwheel railway from Vitznau starts right on the shores of Lake Lucerne.
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Waiting to board the Glacier Express at Chur (Pronounced with a K). Probably the most famous of all Swiss trains a.k.a the slowest express train in Switzerland.
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Zermatt and the Matterhorn.
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Night view of Zermatt from our hotel room.
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Cablecar to the highest viewing point in the Alps:
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Geneva (unplanned visit, I will tell you the story later)
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An evening in Paris!
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No visit to Paris can be complete without tasting those delicious macarons
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The Louvre
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Love these Parisian apartments and their louvred windows.
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One of the boulevards of Paris
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Rue Mandar - It's sooo nice to find a street having your name in Paris.
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Back to London
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Westminster Abbey - The Royal Church
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Picadilly Circus
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Bicester Village - a place created only for shopping
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Oxford - The Bridge of Sighs. No. Not the Bridge of Spies. I thought maybe Cambridge has one ;-) Hope you get the joke, if not, I'm talking about the Cambridge Five
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A board outside of an Oxford bar
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New College, Oxford. Their motto is "Manners Maketh Man" and for some reason, I remembered that it was also used in "The Kingsman" movies.
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Probably one of the most popular hangouts in Oxford
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Boating (also punting) is the most popular activity here
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Last edited by MandarMax : 27th November 2018 at 21:04.
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Old 26th November 2018, 19:15   #4
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Acknowledgements

I want to thank bhpian @chetan_l for personally helping me out with the initial planning and during the trip. His detailed travelogue is a good source of information and I recommend you to read it if you are planning to visit Europe. (http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...d-holiday.html).

I also want to thank several other bhpians who inspired me for a European road trip.

Initial Planning and Visas

Sometimes I think I am the very definition of a “Drive by Tourist”.

As defined by a blogger (not me), a drive-by tourist is the one who says - “Ok, we’re here. Let’s get going, see what we can see in a few minutes, take the pictures and move on! Of course, the pictures are the most important and that’s the only time I’ll slow down!”

I don’t know why but I always read the above in Jerry Seinfeld’s voice

I think with most of the road trips I end up covering too many places without spending enough quality time anywhere. That is not to say that I do unplanned trips, I always have a high-level plan. I also do my research and read before visiting, but I am not a person who can plan itineraries exact to an hour. I don’t enjoy very crowded and touristy places, so I don’t mind being a drive-by tourist to such places. Also, I am a kind of person that finds the journey more important than the destination.

For this Europe trip, I had little time to plan. I committed to the trip only around the start of March. For the Schengen visa, you are required to provide details of your high-level itinerary, hotel, travel bookings, etc. I came up with a high-level plan - Paris, Amsterdam and Keukenhof, parts of Germany (Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle), Switzerland etc. etc. I also wanted to cover Italy if possible.

When I shared my first plan with bhpian chetan_l, his first advice was that I was trying to fit too many places in the plan. He came up with a detailed and a useful itinerary which provided a much-needed structure for me to begin with.

So with the high-level plan in mind, I booked cancelable hotels everywhere. I also booked two Airbnb’s after reviewing their ratings and cancellation policies. With Airbnb, always go with the super hosts. I will tell you about my terrible experience with one ‘ordinary’ host later.

I wanted the flexibility to change plans depending on the weather, mood etc. So I delayed many decisions until the last minute. Due to this I cancelled previously booked hotels and booked new hotels/Airbnbs just a day or two in advance. Is it more expensive to do so? Depends. If you are going to less touristy places then not much of a risk. Also, having a car works to your advantage. If you don’t have a car then I’d suggest planning much ahead.

In contrast with my other lack of planning, I had booked my flight tickets much in advance. I thought I had enough time available for the Visas. My estimate was that I will get the UK visa in about two weeks and the Schengen visa in another. I had four weeks in hand. But that was a wrong assumption. The European travel season for Indians starts with the summer school holidays and the rush to get the visas had started already. My UK visa got delayed by a couple of days and I missed my appointment for the Schengen visa. Checked with VFS. No appointments for the next one week! neither in Pune nor Mumbai. It seemed very difficult to get the Schengen Visa within the available time. I checked with VFS after two days, and to my pleasant surprise, new slots had opened in Mumbai 6 working days before our travel date. I wasn’t sure if it was enough to get the Visas and it looked certain that I will have to change my flight dates (expensive!). So when applying, I made a special request explaining my travel dates etc. and requested an urgent visa. I was sceptical whether it would work. But someone was kind enough - thanks to that unknown Visa officer at the German consulate - our request was approved within three days and we got the passports on the fourth day.

We heaved a huge sigh of relief. We were in high spirits and technically, we were ready for the trip. But what about the other planning? More on that in the next post.

Last edited by MandarMax : 27th November 2018 at 22:50.
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Old 26th November 2018, 19:24   #5
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The map of our trip

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-europtripmap.png

As shown in the above map, we used different modes of transport for different legs of the journey:

Planes

1. Mumbai --> London (Gatwick) was booked via Emirates because it was one of the cheapest. Gatwick was less convenient but I was planning to rent a car anyway, so did not mind. It also gave us an opportunity to meet a friend (an American settled in the UK) who lives not very far from the airport.

2. London Luton --> Amsterdam Schiphol - There were several options available to get to Amsterdam from London such as Eurostar, Cruise or Flights. Flying turned out to be the cheapest and the most efficient option. I booked four tickets and paid for additional luggage for around £120.

Trains

I had planned to cover some parts of the journey using the train - mainly Amsterdam - Cologne, Basel to Paris and Paris to London - but decided to book those tickets at the last minute. Turned out to be a good decision, although it probably cost us a bit more as compared to booking in advance. The only exception was Eurostar which I had booked just before applying for the Schengen Visa. Paid about £70 per seat for the Eurostar.

Automobiles

I was planning to rent a car in the UK, Netherlands and Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

1. UK - Booked the car with Hertz for 4 days. One way rental. Pick up from Gatwick and drop off at Luton airport. I needed a decent boot size considering my luggage, so I booked "Renault Captur or equivalent". Paid £136 which included LDW. Zero excess protection from Hertz was too expensive so decided to go for standalone insurance. I found that there were very few options for Indian residents, one of them was rentalcover.com. Paid £34 for the added peace of mind.

2. The Netherlands - Also booked this with Hertz because being a member of the ICG priority club they offered a good deal when I booked the hotel in Amsterdam. I paid EUR 94 for about two days. I had booked a Ford fusion or equivalent. I booked an Automatic here because of ease of driving in a right-hand drive country. Bought zero excess insurance from rentalcover.com for £10.

3. Germany and beyond - I preferred to drive a German car in Germany. So from the available options, I booked a VW Golf Automatic through Enterprise Car Rentals based on a friend's suggestion. It didn't turn out to be a good decision because they were not very transparent with their pricing or maybe I didn't check the fine print at the time of booking. The actual rental turned out to be a bit more expensive, but we'll talk more on that later. Bought zero excess insurance from rentalcover.com for £63.50 for 11 days.

At the time of booking, I did not realise that a child seat would be needed for my 7 years old daughter. The day before we were to travel, I was talking with my friend Michael whom we were going to meet after reaching Gatwick, and he asked me if I am bringing my own child seat or getting one from the car rental company. Fortunately, I had a Chicco backless booster seat for the correct age group (Group 3 as per UK standards) which I packed immediately, otherwise, that would have had to rent one from the car company at a steep rate. I also learned from my friend that day that the car seat can be carried for free and does not count towards your baggage allowance on airlines.

Other Items

1. Food - We are vegetarians and because kids are kids, we decided to pack some food items with us. We packed a few packs of MTR ready-to-eat Chhole, Rice, Pav bhaji, Pohe, Upma etc. Having said that we didn't have much problem finding vegetarian food. But on one or two occasions we were glad to have packed the food.

2. Sim cards - We considered buying a Matrix sim card or opting for Vodafone's prepaid roaming plan, but I found both options expensive. So we decided to get pre-paid sim cards after landing in the UK. All providers offer free roaming in Europe so that was good. It turned out to be a good decision. Most places offer free wifi so internet connectivity was never a problem during the trip.

3. Electrical adapters - I already had a couple of UK adapters. I decided to buy Euro adapters in Europe if needed. Some Indian plugs (two pin ones) might work with European adapters but the sizes are not exactly the same. I did eventually buy adapters in Europe and Switzerland (Yep, the Swiss have a different system). It may be cheaper to buy these from India.

4. Forex and Insurance - it was taken care of a week before the travel date. We got two forex cards. One loaded with GBP and the other with Euros.

5. Navigation and Mobile apps - I have a licensed version of Sygic offline maps, so loaded maps of all the European countries on it. Downloaded translation apps, dictionaries etc. I purchased a good quality mobile holder from Amazon and a fast charger and new cable. Decided to not take my Belkin car inverter because of the weight.

I could barely sleep the night before due to all the excitement.

All the packing was done, all the checklists passed. We were ready to roll !!

Last edited by MandarMax : 27th November 2018 at 22:03.
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Old 1st December 2018, 11:47   #6
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Except for the slight delay at the Mumbai airport, our flight was uneventful. I even managed to get a few hours of sleep on the Dubai - Gatwick flight. I woke up just before the flight crossed the English channel. I looked out of the window expecting clouds (that was the forecast last I had checked) but to my pleasant surprise, it was nice and sunny. We soon landed at the Gatwick airport, around 7:30 am.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img20180423wa0029.jpg

That’s indeed the A380 we were in. My friend Michael who lives near the Gatwick airport happened to be in his garden as the plane flew over his place.

We reached the immigration counter to find a huge queue, and we had to wait for almost an hour for our turn. The immigration process itself was smooth and shortly after 9 we had collected our luggage and were out of the airport.

The Hertz counter was just a short walk away, outside of the airport. Completed the formalities in the next few minutes and we were handed the car keys. I was pleasantly surprised to get the promised car - Renault Captur. It was almost brand new with only about 3k kilometers on the ODO.

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I inspected the car carefully, took photos from every angle and then tried to load our luggage. Fitting all our luggage proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. After some experimentation, I decided to fold part of the rear seat, removed the parcel tray, and after everything was stuffed into the boot, I closed the tailgate. Next, installed the booster seat and the mobile holder etc. and we were ready to start our journey.

Our hotel for the next four days was in the northwestern part of London, but before that, we were going to meet our friend for a cup of coffee (yep, the same friend who took pictures of our plane). His place was only 11 miles / 20-25 mins drive away from the Gatwick North terminal.

We soon reached his place and after the initial chit-chat and some coffee and snacks, he suggested going for a little countryside walk.

Despite the journey last night, we were feeling fresh and enthusiastic and so we were game for anything!

We crossed the road and we soon hit a walking trail. It was a bit chilly but not uncomfortable. There is something nice about the springtime weather in England. As we ambled along the trail, we could see the rolling hills and brick farmhouses in the distance. The smell of grass, the blossoms of cherry, apple, plum trees and the yellow wildflowers surrounding us, the occasional chilly breeze, it was so refreshing to the senses.

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To complete what one could call the quintessentially English experience, we also had sheep and horses grazing around us.

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This is called the kissing gate. Commonly found in England, this gate allows people to pass easily but not livestock.
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After the end of the trail, we reached the nearby town of Lingfield and went to the 13th-century church of St Peter and St. Paul to take some photographs.

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We were feeling a bit hungry after the walk so we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. After the lunch, we had two options to reach our hotel in London - either take the orbital highway (M25) or drive through the city (via Caterham - Croydon - London city). We compared both the routes using the Waze app and it showed a difference of only about 30 mins. My friend thought it would be a good experience driving through the city if I don’t mind the slightly more time and the congestion charge.

So, off we went on the city route, and soon we realized that it was a bad decision. . I don’t enjoy driving in traffic and by late afternoon I was feeling very tired. Also, you have to be very careful when driving in a city like London. It’s full of people, buses and bicycles.

We did go through some interesting area and encountered places en route such as the Oval cricket ground, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace etc. but I was so tired by the time I reached the city than I was in no mood to enjoy. Secondly, I had seen these places before so there was not much excitement.

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Encountered some (presumably) Brexit protestors:
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Buckingham Palace:
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Anyway, after negotiating the traffic for about three hours we reached our hotel at 5 pm. In contrast, M25 would have taken just little over an hour. I vowed never to drive through London again. I was really tired. We went to a nearby restaurant that evening for dinner and crashed to bed early.

Next day, fortunately, I remembered that I had to pay the congestion charge. So I went to the website, entered car number and paid the congestion charge £11.50. Nobody likes paying taxes, but neither do we prefer sitting in a traffic jam. The congestion charge has reduced some of London’s worst traffic problems. I think some cities in India should try it too, especially where the public transport is good, and the pollution situation is bad.

Our flight to Amsterdam was on the next Saturday (we reached London Monday morning).

Rest of the week was spent working from our office and socializing with office colleagues. We did go out once with my two English friends that week to see the Tower Bridge and other highlights of London - especially for my wife and daughters. We were lucky with the weather so far.

Some pictures of London:
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Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6972.jpg

On Friday i.e. the day before our flight to Amsterdam, we decided to reorganize our luggage because we would not always be having a car during our European trip. We packed as light as possible and kept the excess baggage with a friend. Later we realized that it was still not as light as we would have preferred. The infrastructure in Europe is old and in many places - train stations or buildings, apartments etc. - they do not have lifts. So, always pack as light as possible.

Our flight was at 6 am from the Luton airport which was about an hour’s drive away from our hotel. This meant that we would have to start no later than 3 am tomorrow. We also had to refuel and return the car at the airport.

We tried to sleep early but it was difficult.

Our *real* trip would be starting from tomorrow!

Last edited by MandarMax : 1st December 2018 at 20:11.
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Old 2nd December 2018, 13:49   #7
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd December 2018, 19:56   #8
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Fabulous teaser video. How did you shoot it? Do you have a Go Pro. Went through Munich and Austria a few years ago - but that was in June. I must say the scenery looks so much nicer with the snow. I tried writing a travelogue on my trip - but ended half way. So please keep this coming and complete the travelogue. Thanks
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Old 2nd December 2018, 21:34   #9
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayek View Post
Fabulous teaser video.
Thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayek View Post
How did you shoot it? Do you have a Go Pro.
I do not. I so wish I had one. I could have borrowed one easily but I did not and I regret it. The teaser was shot mostly using mobile (either mine or wife's phone) and using my good old Canon Handycam. Since I was in charge of the DSLR, most of the videos were shot either by my wife or elder daughter. I did not get much usable footage but whatever I got was enough to put together the teaser video. I'm glad you liked it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayek View Post
I tried writing a travelogue on my trip - but ended half way. So please keep this coming and complete the travelogue. Thanks
Yes, that's the plan. There is so much more to write. I am hoping to add at least one post a week. I hope you too find time to complete your travelogue.
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Old 2nd December 2018, 22:01   #10
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Excellent teaser video

I have gone through Chetan_I's and Chethan B G's travelogues multiple times in my quest to understand the best itinerary. Your travelogue will be the next one for me to look forward to. Having traveled only to USA and Singapore (with family), Europe is next in the list for me.

Waiting for your posts !

Last edited by AltoLXI : 2nd December 2018 at 22:09.
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Old 3rd December 2018, 01:30   #11
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Default Day 1 - Netherlands - Schiphol to Keukenhof

Day 1 - the Netherlands - Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Keukenhof


On Saturday morning we got up very early as planned. Our bags were already packed and were in the trunk of the car. Daughters were still sleepy, the younger one did not like to sit in the booster seat, but she was half asleep so did not protest much. With everyone seated and belted, we were ready. It was dark, cold and raining outside. The temperature was less than 10 degrees. There was no one on the road except for us. It felt almost surreal, and to be honest, for a moment I felt like I was in a dream. Was I really going to Amsterdam? I could have pinched myself but I did not, instead decided to splash water on my face to be fully awake

I started the car just after 3 am. I had already identified and marked the Hertz drop off point and the nearest fuel pump in the GPS app. As there was no traffic, we were near the Luton airport within the next 45 minutes. We went to the nearby ASDA fuel station and filled the car up (cost me nearly £17, not bad!) and then we went to the car drop off point. There was no staff at the drop-off point at that hour. As per the instructions from Hertz, we were supposed to leave the car in the designated parking lot, keep the refueling receipt on the dashboard and drop off the keys in a box outside their office.

The drop off area was probably about a mile away from the actual airport and there is a shuttle bus every few minutes to ferry the passengers and other staff. One bus was already waiting, so we hurried with the parking, removed the luggage, locked the car and went to drop the car keys. Just before I was about to drop the keys I remembered about our booster seat, I ran towards the car to remove the booster seat. Phew! I had almost started sweating in that cold weather.

Bye, bye Renault Captur! I said to myself. I liked the car. It was smooth, comfortable and easy to drive around. The European Renault Captur is not quite the same as the Indian version, as they are based on different platforms. I have no experience with the Indian version so far, but I have hardly seen that car on the road here. Such a shame that Renault goofed up a good product!

Please excuse my segue into the car (old habits of a petrolhead, what else!) coming back to the topic - We missed the bus that was standing while I was getting the booster seat. The next bus arrived 10 mins later. I soon realized the virtues of packing light while loading our bags on the bus. It was too late to do anything now.

The airport terminal was crowded when we got there. It also felt a bit chaotic. We completed the check-in formalities, picked up our boarding passes and went for the security checks. There was a huge queue and it was moving very slowly. To make matters worse the security staff decided to open both our cabin bags, it felt as if we were being singled out but I realized they were equally strict (or arrogant) with everyone. My mistake was that I had perfumes in my cabin bag. We had forgotten to put them in the check-in bag. They confiscated my almost full perfume bottle. Ugh. It was so stupid!

Anyway, our EasyJet flight to the Schiphol airport was on time, and boarding had just started when we cleared security checks. We rushed to the gate and boarded the flight soon.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_055745.jpg

It was a very short flight and after an hour we had reached Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_082200.jpg

I don’t know why, but it always feels good to see an Indian aircraft at a foreign airport. Here not one, but two Jet Airways flights were standing.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_082212.jpg

It was windy, cold and cloudy. There was a chance of sunshine later that day, so kept the fingers crossed. Amsterdam is one hour ahead of London, so even though we had reached early in the day, we had already lost one hour.

Our next plan was to pick up the rental car and drive to Lisse which is the city where the Keukenhof tulip gardens are. It was a short drive away - about 22 km / 25 mins from the airport. We had decided to go to Rotterdam for the night that day. Keukenhof was expected to take almost all the day and considering that we had started very early that day we had not planned anything else.

This was our first port of entry in Europe. At the immigration counter I was asked a single question “Why are you visiting Europe?” and I said “Tourism”. That’s it. No other questions asked. It was very smooth. The immigration officer was friendly and polite and spoke English well, although with a slight accent. Most Dutch speak English very well. Language is seldom a problem in the Netherlands.

We went to the Hertz counter at the airport and from there we were redirected to the parking lot. It took us almost 10 - 15 mins to locate their office in the parking lot. As mentioned before, I had opted for an automatic car - Ford Fusion or equivalent, but the car we were given was another Renault - A Renault Kadjar.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_095113.jpg

The car definitely looked great. Just like the London car, this one was also new and in great condition. I completed the inspection, took photographs, loaded luggage and sat in the driver's seat and that is when I realized that it was a manual car. I hated myself for not realizing it sooner. I went back to the office again and asked them to get me an automatic car. The person apologized but said that he didn’t have an automatic car. I remained adamant that I will not take a manual car. So, the person said he will try and see if he can help. He was gone for almost 10 mins and then he came back with this:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_100831.jpg
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_100828.jpg
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_104202.jpg

It was a Volvo S90.

WOW! That’s quite an upgrade! I said to myself. It was very exciting.

When I looked around I found some damage to the rear bumper and some minor scratches. Called the person again, got the damage recorded and entered Keukenhof in the navigation system.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-pasted-image-0.png

It takes some time to get used to driving on the right side of the road. The right side is the wrong side for us. You have to constantly fight that feeling of being on the wrong side until you are used to it, and so you have to be more focused until it becomes a second nature to you. I started driving carefully and we soon were on a highway with a 100 or 110 Kmph speed limit.

Smooth roads of Netherlands:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_7333.jpg

The traffic on the highway was sparse. I engaged cruise control and for a moment I had a weird feeling like the car was driving itself. Was the car controlling the steering? How could it be? I shook that thought and focused on the road ahead. We were on the highway for a very short time so I didn’t get much time to think about it anyway. After a few minutes, we soon turned right towards Lisse/Keukenhof.

I understood later that day, when I was on the Keukenhof - Rotterdam route, that the car was indeed trying to drive itself because the Volvo S90 comes with an autopilot feature, which is basically a semi-autonomous mode of driving.

Check out this video I found on Youtube:


Coming back to Keukenhof - the car navigation was showing traffic on the shortest route and automatically suggested us a slight detour, which we gladly took. It was the last week of April, which is like the peak Tulip season, so the crowds were definitely expected. I was also expecting a lot of Indians. Even our flight from London had more than fifty percent Indians.

The roads approaching Keukenhof are narrow, so as we got nearer, we encountered a small traffic jam. I did not mind the jam because of this view on my left:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_104220.jpg
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_104159.jpg

Cars behind me in the left mirror:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_20180428_104207.jpg

More views of the tulips and windmills from the road
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_7330.jpg:

I had done my research regarding Keukenhof parking, so wasn’t worried about it. The parking area is huge and you can always expect to find a spot.

As we approached Keukenhof, the staff guided us towards the parking area. There were plenty of cars, but we found a parking spot which was very close to the gate.

It was cold, windy and wet but luckily it wasn’t raining. It felt colder than London.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_7325.jpg

Walk from the car parking:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6978.jpg

It was crowded just as I had expected but the place is designed to handle a large number of tourists, so it was all very well organized. There was no noise or any kind of chaos. People can purchase the tickets online or can buy a combo Bus+garden ticket from Amsterdam. We had not purchased tickets in advance. There was hardly any queue. We paid about EUR 18 for adults and EUR 8 for kids and EUR 6 for the car parking.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6979.jpg
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6980.jpg

We entered through the gate full of excitement. The garden is huge and there is no recommended route as such. We studied the map and decided to traverse the garden in a clockwise fashion.

After a lifetime of dreaming about this, we were finally here. The world of beautiful and colourful tulips was awaiting us.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe-img_6989.jpg

Last edited by MandarMax : 3rd December 2018 at 01:58.
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Old 3rd December 2018, 10:02   #12
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Excellent start to the travelogue .

I've been to a few places in Europe, but there is so much more to explore. Every small place has a lot of history and an interesting story to tell. That, along with the beauty of the place, is what I love Europe for.

Your photos and the teaser video are really good. It does take a long time to write a travelogue. Looking forward to reading more about your experiences in mainland Europe.
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Old 3rd December 2018, 10:16   #13
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Great start! This have all the makings of a blockbuster travelogue; looking forward to the upcoming instalments. Thanks for sharing
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Old 3rd December 2018, 10:30   #14
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Wow Mandar, great to see such a detailed travelogue. Europe in spring is always so fresh; can almost remember the grassy smell. It reminds me of our trips to France/ Germany/ Switzerland years ago. I never managed to finish sorting the pictures for a TL then.

Looking forward to the next instalments; it is really tempting to make another trip.
Did you make a trip to Disneyland near Paris or the kids have done that earlier? Also, were you not tempted to go towards the Black Forest or down further to the Riviera (Monte Carlo/ Nice/ Cannes)? perhaps this was on your itinerary too but would have added a week or more to the trip.
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Old 3rd December 2018, 10:49   #15
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Default Re: Planes, Trains and Automobiles - My Tour of Europe

Honestly, this is an Overdose... Perhaps the travelog of the year.

Photographs are drool worthy. Feeling nostalgic for I had lived 6 years in Germany yet haven't visited many you have.

Living expenses in Europe are quite moderate except places like London and Swiss. Income level is also moderate, most of the sectors are regularized, economic inequality is low. Now a days, an above middle class Indian can save as much as an average European. As a result, tourism flux to Europe is bound to gain momentum. Please provide as much information as possible as I hope your log could remain a baseline for future travelers.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 3rd December 2018 at 11:12. Reason: Grammar
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