Monday, October 02, 2023

Grand Tour for 30th Wedding Anniversary - Prelude

Bari, Puglia, Italy. Monday 02-October-2023.

To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary we embarked on Interrailing for Seniors - a three week rail journey from southern Italy to Amsterdam. Neither of us had done interrailing as students and now was our chance.

Our interrail pass was booked nearly a year before as they were offering a discount. We booked the option for seven days first class travel to be taken over one month.

That left 11 months to plan the route which underwent many, many versions. There was only one fixed point - the stunning Bernina Pass - and one must have requirement - a city with a parkrun every Saturday. 

Part of the logistical challenge was where to spend our actual anniversary. Early plans included at night at the opera at La Scala in Milan, possibly the traditional romantic destination of Paris for a weekend, or ending up in London for a Michelin starred meal. 

There were a couple of factors that helped us make the decision. Firstly the difficulty of carrying the necessary posh clothes, shoes, etc on a three week train journey. Secondly our anniversary was on a Monday when many restaurants are closed.  In the end we decided to come back to Penrith for Winter Droving, hire a private chef for a meal at home on our anniversary and drink some class wines from our cellar.

Fairly early on we decided to cross the channel on the overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle. This avoided the additional cost of the Eurostar and making the journey from London to Penrith which we have done so many times. This usefully gave us a fixed endpoint in Europe making the planning slightly easier.

The next challenge was which cities to visit. We decided to go for B-List cities. The A-listers like Rome, Vienna, Paris and Berlin are readily accessible and could be done any time as a city break. Better to go for the less obvious that we might not otherwise get to visit.

Once we had decided on the route Mary started to investigate Home Exchange house swaps to save on accommodation costs. Three and a half weeks of hotel costs would soon mount up!

Two invaluable resources for advice, tips and hints were "The Man in Seat 61" and the Facebook group "Interrailing for the older crowd". In the end this was our 3 week route: Bari > Trieste > Padova > Tirano > Chur > Salzburg > Karlsruhe > Freiburg > Cologne > Amsterdam then ferry back to Newcastle.

We made our way by bus and train to Bari the night before so we would be at hand for a prompt start in the morning for the first, long leg all the way to Trieste in the North-East of Italy.

A meal and an early night ready for the great adventure...

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