Category Archives: train

Hot train ride, dinner at Pall Mall club – cotswolds to London 


Marion and I had a longer and hotter than expected train ride back to London. Our train was cancelled so we waited over an hour for the next one, chatting with some nice women and kids from Stratford as we sat on the platform in surprisingly hot weather that got even hotter in London (87 degrees. Dripping). The train that finally arrived had only three cars and little ventilation. I put my purse on the floor in front of my seat only to discover later that it had landed in a cup of what appeared to be hot chocolate, discarded by a previous passenger. Ick. Our friends tell us this decline in rail service is a result of the Tory government’s austerity measures that are causing the decline of public services.

We met Dirck at Paddington, who came from Heathrow after a flight from Warsaw (that fortunately was not too messed up by our awful president’s quick trip to Poland.  Can’t escape the guy) and had a quick lunch with Marion at a fast food Mexican place overlooking the arrivals at Paddington. No AC. Lukewarm soda. No ice cubes. London just isn’t prepared for increasingly weird hot temps. (but climate change is a hoax, right?)

Tonight we had a very English experience– dinner with Francine and Russ at Russ’s club in Pall Mall. I used to ride by the stately cream colored private clubs on my bike as a 20-something.  We had drinks on the balcony, with great views of the St. James area  (although not views of my favorite park) and delicious English food (asparagus with hollandaise sauce, Dover sole, salmon, gooseberry pie, strawberries and cream) with impeccable service on the terrace and coffee in an elegant high-ceilinged room where many an English club scene has been filled (including for the BBC show “the crown”) and where Dickens’ chair is in a corner (yes he was a member, as was another illustrious Charles…Darwin.)

Mixed feelings about these exclusive clubs but at least this one (the Atheneam) bases admittance on merit and achievement vs money and bloodlines.

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An unsettling surprise at the Holocaust Museum, Indigo, shake shake, Amtrak — DC

imageWithin the first 20 minutes of my visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC today, I got quite the surprise. During an early display about book banning and burning in Germany, at the start of the Nazi era, several names were etched into the glass in front of some photos and videos and one name jumped out at me because it was my own: Rubiner. The first name was Ludwig. I was stunned. Rubiner is an unusual name and I’ve long assumed that any Rubiners are related to me. I had not heard of Ludwig.  My dad seemed to know of him but I don’t know if he is a relative. apparently he was a poet and critic who specialized in expressionism and lived in Berlin, dying in 1920′ according to a man I spoke to in the research area of the museum on the second floor. will have to do some more research. I did use the museums database to find several other Rubiners linked to the holocaust in ways not very clear and some Reibmans (my grama’s maiden name). Some were from Kraków and Poland and Berlin, three places I visited a few years ago.

imageon a more cheerful note, I visited my son at his new office in the Hart senate building, (not far from my sisters office there),and we had a good Indian meal at Indigo, (Indian to go) a very casual place where you order at a window and are served in paper trays in a small room covered with intentional graffiti. There are a few tables inside and picnic tables outside, which people were sitting at thanks to glorious and surprisingly warm temps. i also stopped briefly in the Native American museum (must try their cafe sometime, which serves food from several regions). Also caught a glimpse of the African American museum rising up near the Washington monument. Really looking forward to that museum, in part because I have heard a lot about the architect. I am now in Baltimore at the hotel Monaco after an easy  and pleasant Amtrak train ride.

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Lessons learning while buying train tickets for Eastern Europe

Deutsche Bahn AG
Db-schild.svg

Who would have thought it would be easier to buy train tickets online for  Peru than for Germany  and  Eastern Europe? Okay, I’m not willing to say that’s true yet. But buying tickets online for train trips this summer through Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic was harder than expected. I managed to find some of the train schedules on the DB Deutsche Bahn website (a German company http://www.bahn.com) but the site didn’t always list  the fares – or indicate when or if the tickets could be purchased online. (In some cases, it looked like I’d have to buy them by making a phone call to Europe.)

Rail Europe Logo

Meanwhile, on the site that I could buy at least some tickets online – Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com) – I couldn’t always find schedules or fares. I finally had to call Rail Europe and pay a $15 fee for phone assistance – which turned out to be worth it, even if I had to leave my name on an answering machine and wait for  an hour for Rail Europe to call me back (better than lingering on hold I guess.) Here are some things I learned through this process:

– If you can find a train schedule but NOT the price or when/if the tickets can be purchased via DB Bahn, email their help line (Sales@bahn.co.uk) and you will get some if not all the information. (This is helpful especially if you’re trying to see if it costs more to take the train or fly.)

– If you can’t figure out how to buy the tix online via Rail Europe, call and pay the additional fee ($33 all toll when you add the processing fee, which includes the cost of mailing the ticket – which are paper and not available for online printout.)  I was told that it would have been very hard  to do-it-myself online because the three train trips I needed to book are unusually complicated. They’re not the typical Yank tourist routes (Berlin-Gdansk anyone? Not to mention Gdansk-Krakow and Krakow-Prague). And they involve three different countries with varying ways of selling train tickets. (The Poles, for example, won’t let you buy your ticket more than a month in advance but I could buy the tickets involving Berlin and Prague about two months in advance.) I also found help by emailing service@raileurope.com.

– Figuring out the price and booking a sleeper for an overnight train is tricky because the countries we’re visiting – unlike some others, apparently – require that you buy two separate items for each journey (a ticket, which  gets you on the train, and a reservation, which specifies a seat or compartment on the train, – as I understand it.)

– A Eurail  pass, which   we’ve used in the past, didn’t work for this trip because of our particular schedule and because we’re taking two overnight trains. Oh well. I liked the ease of the Eurail pass – but then I was traveling for months, not weeks, when I used one on several occasions.

– Read the fine print – especially to see how many stops the train makes! There’s also various classes/speeds of train. I never really figured this all out.

– The Polish Rail website wasn’t much help.

– Rick Steves’ website also has some good information on train travel http://www.ricksteves.com/rail/

– Trains vs. Planes: Sometimes flying is comparable in price to riding the train (ex: Gdansk-Krakow) but not always (example Krakow-Prague where flying was much more expensive.)  Planes of course are a lot faster – for Gdansk-Krakow flying takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours (direct vs. connecting flight) while the direct overnight train takes  11 hours. But we went with the train 1) because we so seldom get to ride a train, especially an overnight train and still find this romantic (that may change.) 2) the times of the direct planes didn’t work well with our schedule  – one was 6:30 a.m. and the other 5:30 p.m.   3) It’s often a hassle to get to the airport vs. the train station. 4) we  do save money by taking an overnight train and not paying for a hotel that night, for what that’s worth.

– I did opt to fly (EasyJet) from London to Berlin rather than take trains. (way too complicated…)

– Paper tickets. Apparently I can’t print tickets out online. And the paper tickets won’t be mailed out until a few weeks before our departure date (even though I bought them two months in advance) because the Polish ticket can’t be issued until a month before we travel. Grrr… Here’s hoping it all works out.

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Transportation options between Chicago and Traverse City

We were looking lat summer – with little success  – for mass transportation between Chicago and Traverse City, Michigan. And finally decided the best bet was to rent a car.

But there is another option a reader offered:  an Indian Trails bus (indiantrails.com). It is a fairly long trip (9 hours) compared to driving a car (5 hours), but the advance purchase cost is, we’re told, $50.

The other options: take the train from Chicago to Grand Rapids (which takes about 4.5 hours) and then somehow get to Traverse City. Word has it there’s a bus connection but it takes 12 hours.  (that’s crazy.)

 

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megatrain

So i guess there’s a megatrain to go with the megabus in London – not sure how that works but worth finding out, especially since it seems to go to some places I go in England – like Bath.

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