|1st November 2009, 21:04||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Road Trip–2700 KMs Europe & 3380 KMS UK + end-to-end.
Road Trip–2700 KMs, Europe & 3380 KMS in UK + end-to-end.
--7 countries, many cities, 29 people, I coach, 9 days of Europe – 2700 kms.
--UK, many cities, 2 road-heads, 1 car, 14 days, 3380 & 9 GB of Photos + Video.
When the mind commands, the body needs to follow and so the story started around August, 2009. Around 5th it became clear that the trip we were pining for to Ladakh would not happen, leaves would be difficult, we will have to watch the HVK pack go by on the by-pass and only read the story and see the photos. This was a huge disappointment and so we thought it would be best to compensate by driving around the August 15th long week-end to Kalpa and Chitkul. That was done on plan and we enjoyed it thoroughly, will upload that URL later sometime.
Another seed was germinating on the mad-mind, whey not really compensate for not doing the Ladakh Drive with a drive holiday to Europe? Once the Genie was out, we started serious research on the possibilities, route, cars, countries, visas and the works. Frantic mails cris-crossed between friends and family living all over to table the information; in the meantime it was clear only me and wife would be able to make it, our children won’t get off their school / college routine to do a 20 day trip. FIT quotes to Europe and UK were scary, crossing 5 Lakhs, a compromise was mandated with quick decisions. Europe being a left-hand drive, we decided to take a couch tour there and then take a self-drive holiday in UK, where the drive is like India. Many crazy combinations of rail / road / air, about 4 GB, was analyzed and the die was cast. My wife wanted to visit Bristol University Library for her Doctorate work on Howard Gardner’s Theory on Multiple Intelligences, so things sort of pointed to UK anyway.
A caviet here before I go on: Some things I chronicle would be mundane, day-to-day, ordinary, matter-of-fact for Europe-UK-Gurus, but new to me and to some prospective Europe-UK travelers, so please bear with me, OK?
We used the corporate muscle with the travel agents and short-listed SOTC and Thomas Cook (TC) as they were the best and had announced packages starting around 5the Oct ending in UK. With the SOTC sales turned out to be non-responsive and TC turned to be the best choice with maximum inclusions on a fixed plan, most European tours finish by September end, after that the the weather turns cold, rains are a probability, choice of routes, cities, iterinary is at best a compromise but you have less crowds, better rates more flexibility in POI’s. In Eingelberg area and Lucerne, Switzerland, around April to June, you can have as many as 500 Indian tourists jamming up all facilities, you can imagine the Kumbha Mela!!!! A suggestion, if you want to do Europe, do it after 15th September and before October end to get value for money. Do a search on the net revieiws for tours like Kesari, Con-Tiki, Raj and such others, you’d find some of them offer cheap rates and tales of woe, it would make sense to pay 20-30K more and enjoy the trip, Europe is one of the most expensive destinations in the world.
As for any trip, the check list was huge, this one required an International License, bookings of a car with Europe car for the UK drive and confirmed bookings with Bed and Breakfast places. Trip Adviser, Google and other sites give many possibilities at 50 GBP per day and we fixed up acco. at Merdon House in Inverness for 4 nights and Laurel Heights at Keswick for 3 days, a cousin’s place at Bristol for 3 nights and another at Croydon for one night. In retrospect, the air bookings thro Flybe from Gatwick to Inverness proved to be a mistake, for the 25 K we paid, we could have stretched it to 5 more days of UK through the east cost, through Grimsby, Scarborough, Perth and Inverness, well there’s that route to finish next time
The Portents were NOT good when we started at midnight 4th October, 09. It started pouring heavily around 12 and some sections to the Airport was known to flood, the taxi guy wisely came early, many underpasses were already flooded, we took detours to reach the airport around 2 am for the 5 am Qatar flight out to Doha. They weigh everything, including the cabin bags to ensure it sticks to rules, we had already weighed it at home with an allowance of 5 KG to bring something back!!!! Uneventful 4 hours flight, then a 6 hour wait for the one to Rome, the start point of the tour, the tour manager was supposed to meet us there. We identified many of our would be tour mates at Doha itself, the tell tale TC strollys, camera bags, small families and excitement on their faces leaves little to imagination, we were able to identify 5 of them quickly. The Doha Rome leg was more traumatic, 6 hours, by the time we landed around 7 PM, we were zapped. There was confusion at the airport, nobody knew were to look for the TC Tour Manager and were about to leave for the hotel ourselves, when we spotted a guy with a TC folder in his hands and identified ourselves, it took about 45 minutes for him to round up the rest; TC needs to work here to avoid frustrations. We walk to the couch, load the luggage and start off for the hotel and dinner, 30 KMs away, that was not a lucky day for us, just 3 kms before the hotel, it stalled and would not start, we were in the middle of nowhere, cold night, cold breeze, 12 degrees, 10 PM and not a soul in sight. The tour manager and the driver kept on calling many numbers, walking to the hotel was not an option, at long last around 11 PM, another bus came, by the time we had an Indian Dinner and hit the bed it was past midnight, a very bad start indeed, the only day which went hay-wire.
Anyone wanting to do a couch tour of Europe (the best way to see Europe and breathe the country), be prepared to do lots of walking. Most parking areas are away from monuments, Points of Interest (POI’s) and Indian Restaurants; we liked the exercise, opportunity to stretch and explore on foot, could not say the same for many others, some of them opted out to cool their tortured voluntary muscles. I know this for a fact as I dispensed some analgesics for those aching backs and legs. Schedules are tight, up at 6/7 AM, breakfast around 7/8 AM, load up and move to be out the whole day sight seeing and reach the next destination around 7/8 PM for a quick dinner and bed; believe me you’d sleep tight. Lunches are what you can grab in the afternoons; ice-creams, cakes, sandwiches, muffins, cold/hot drinks, French fries and other stuff, veggies had a tough time, others would survive though preparations are painfully bland, we had to use pepper and salt liberally to the consternation of some people sitting near-by. My wife survived as she is an eggitarian, most places prepare any kind of egg you want within reason, may be at an additional cost. Water or aerated drinks cost almost same, it’s best to buy water at a departmental store, 2 ltr bottle would cost between 30-50 rupees, depending on the place, in a hotel this could go up to 150 to 200!!!! Most places in Europe and UK you can drink off the tap in decent hotels and most public places, we were warned not do so from taps in Italy and Germany, don’t know if this is right, we didn’t take chances, anyway. If you’re with a diverse group, you also need to be flexible and accommodating to the Incredible Indian variety of homo sapeins it spawns.
We were lucky, our group was very mature, travel-savvy and fun to be with, we made great friends and jelled well. Just 27 in a 50 seater coach, plenty of space inside. As with any Indian group ( we prove that point that man / woman is a political animal) clusters emerged, the front 6 rows rotated between me and wife, Dr.Balachandra and wife, Dr.Anamika, a cardio + gynecologist team from Hyderabad, fun loving couple, Krishna Kumar Udeshi & Malati Udeshi, around 67, a veteran world traveler from Rajkoat & mentally the youngest in the group!!!! Another veteran travel savvy couple, 55 +, Chari (high profile fund man) and Malti, from Mumbai, were equally bubbly, specially Mrs. Chari emerged as the voice of the group, moving around freely with everyone; Madam, hats off to your energy!!! The middle cluster was Dr.Baban, wife and daughter his friend Dr.Ravindra Chodankar & wife, a great team from Goa. The cluster in the back Milan Kukreti, from Mumbai, a Professor in a training college, his wife Sangita, their sister Sangita and son Anuj, again a fully charged bunch. The Sarkars from Guwahati with Bimal & Manjula, children Biswadeep and Sushmitha the two business big-wigs, Devendar Gulati & wife (on 25th wedding anniversary trip), children Bhumika and Devandar from Ludhiana, Gajanand Agarwal and wife from Orissa, the tour manager Naineet Save, Mumbai and pilot Chiro from Rome just about rounded off the gang. I wonder if this is not truly India, what is?
The red line in the Europe and UK map depicts route we followed in Europe with the tour group and the route we did by ourselves in UK, the Picture of the motely crowd and some starter pictures.......
Took me about a week to sort the story, downsize the picture and load the starter here, will keep on working when I get spare time, so please wait for more..... I promise you after reading the story there'd be many prospective UK road trippers for sure, it would be one of the most rewarding and cost-effective trips you can make for a holiday, if you're careful with planning.
Last edited by ramkya1 : 1st November 2009 at 21:19.
|The following BHPian Thanks ramkya1 for this useful post:|
|1st November 2009, 22:33||#2|
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That was one road trip Awesome
By what mode of transport did you crossed into Europe from UK? Did you went by Sea (from Dover, Plymouth, Peacehaven) or by air?
I envy you for your trip. I have been planning to go to Nurenburgh and then through rest of the europe for years but things never transpired for me.
|1st November 2009, 23:01||#3|
Senior - BHPian
|1st November 2009, 23:44||#6|
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Trivandrum, Kerala
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@ramkya1 - Sir, nice crisp start to the travelogue. Now eagerly waiting for the rest. As they say "let the show begin".
PS: Your intention to chronicle even the mundane, day to day activities is highly appreciated
|2nd November 2009, 01:14||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Vatican and around
06-10-2009: Best Western Hotel, Lucca, 4 star, about 20 Kms away from Pisa. Wake up call at 7 AM, get ready quickly, pack, check-out and breakfast at 8 AM, all breakfasts are continental hereon, you have to made do with all kinds of breads, eggs, jams, fruits, cakes, juices and what have you. In about 4 days there were people panting for a glimpse of the usual Indian spread!!!! One has to carry his luggage to the coach and Chiro would load it into the coach.
We leave around 9 AM, the tour manager is not happy (this total disregard to timings went on for 2 days) and he had to make a public request to stick to timings, merficully nobody picked up a fight with him, I was half-expecting it to happen and so we were lucky to be with a mature group, things went on time after that, the tour manager said we were are disciplined group. He said the most difficult part of his job was timings, many Indian tourists are not used to the concept of time, we believe in life after death, so there's plenty of time to do things
Chiro steers us toweards the Vatican, the smallest city in the world, 800 citizens, ruled by the Pope. Of the many tourist attractions here, 3 are must sees, St.Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace and Sistine chappel and Museums, requires at least 2 complete days to do justice, we had half a day!!!! We reach there around 10 and follow Naineet Save, Tour Manager towards St.Peters Basilica, the biggest in the world, can hold about 60,000 people, the holiest of places for a Catholic, St.Peter's tomb is underground, Michealangelo was responsible for overseeing the structure as we see it today, the dome is the tallest in the world at 448 feets. Place is filled with tourists so it seems to us, we are told it's only 30% of the peak season, we meet our local guide, Peter, we cluster around him inside the courtyard and he narrates the history of the place, a long sotry. We are told to meet at 12 at the opposite side after visiting the Basilica, photos are OK inside and we stand in the small queue to enter.
As you enter from the light into semi-darkness, one is ower-awed by the proportions and the great art work inside. To the right is the masterpiece of Michealangelo, Jesus on the lap of Mother Mary after the crucifixion, the only one work on which he inscribed his name!!!! There are many such pieces of art inside, another one is the biggest bronze artwork in the world, an altar built by Bernini, the domes and engravings are exquisite. I'd let the pictures speak for some time.........
The Swiss guards who protect the Pope
The Michelangelo Masterpiece Jesus on the lap of Mother Mary.
Last edited by ramkya1 : 2nd November 2009 at 01:19.
|2nd November 2009, 01:28||#8|
Senior - BHPian
More to go......... I can give only a selected few, I'd need to take another 10 days leave to load all the stuff here, I kind of like my job and rather keep it
All we could do was run around the Basalica, we could not see the Apostolic Palace and Sistine chappel (lots of art work is inside there, including more works of Michealangelo) and Museums... that's the way the dice were loaded, more for next time, 2-3, whole days are needed for Vatican and around.
Last edited by ramkya1 : 2nd November 2009 at 01:32.
|2nd November 2009, 09:02||#9|
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I can see this thread is going to be the ultimate research documents, one-stop tour for those going to Europe herafter.
Ramky, your coverage of UK is amazing!
|2nd November 2009, 09:15||#10|
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Now, this thread is surely gonna be different. I've subscribed it.
btw, I thought it was an official trip along with a D R I V E.
Anyways keep the travelogue flowing.
|2nd November 2009, 09:20||#11|
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well written Mr Kumar.
Yes indeed it sometimes makes more sense to travel with an INternational group rather than an Indian one on account of total disregard for punctuality.
Your pictures of the Vatican are indeed wonderful as are the notes.
St. Peter's really has some awesome power within it -on my first visit there some years ago I was quite overcome and knelt in prayer quite involuntarily - possibly on account of my convent school education as a small kid!
The Sistine chapel and the Musei Vaticani are truly lovely - I wish you had had more time - you could have climbed by stairs to the top of the basilica and had a look at the wonderful view from there.
Great going and we await more on the trip as and when you can upload!
|2nd November 2009, 10:33||#12|
Senior - BHPian
@ Shankar: We also knelt in prayer, the atmosphere inside was so electric, 5 minutes of meditation released lots of stress.
@HVK: 3 more days I could have driven up from London thro the east coast and reached Inverness, I'd do that coast at a later date for sure. The visit UK site has loads of material, you can get almost anything you want from here.
Official UK Travel and Accommodation Guide - For Holidays in UK : VisitBritain
The AA, UK would give you exact route information for your primary research:
The AA: Breakdown Cover, Car Insurance, Life, Loans, Motoring Advice, Travel and Maps
Like you said, give me a week and the internet, I can prepare a route to the moon
Last edited by ramkya1 : 2nd November 2009 at 10:42.
|2nd November 2009, 10:38||#13|
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Great pics, adds to my regret that I had to miss Rome last time around due to accomodation problems.
|2nd November 2009, 11:02||#14|
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Ramki welcome back.
An amazing trip and log there.
Vatican, those chairs were for some occassion or is it permenant these days. When we were in Vatican for Christmas in 2003, the area was free and there was huge Christmas tree and crib in the middle. That was some amazing days.
We were there in Italy cris crossing for around 15 days during christmas and newyear time. the next year 2004 Christmas time we were in UK for a similar stint.
Your trip will bring back the memories for sure
Last edited by laluks : 2nd November 2009 at 11:06.
|2nd November 2009, 11:06||#15|
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Ramkya sir, wonderful, good spirited narrations and wonderful photos, you have got me hooked on to this thread, looking forward to more!
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