Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part IV – ICE to Berlin

The rear power car of my ICE 1, standing on the platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof in the evening sun, having brought me all the way from Köln.Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of my Travel Spot series, covering the train journey I made at the start of May, going from Guildford to Berlin in a day. Part I of the series covered planning the trip, while Part II was all about the first leg of the journey, which saw me arrive in Brussels Midi onboard the Eurostar. I then changed to the German high-speed ICE (Inter City Express), taking an ICE 3 to Köln, which I covered in Part III. The final leg of the journey, from Köln to Berlin, was also by ICE and is the subject of today’s instalment.

My experience on the ICE 3 to Köln was everything I’d hoped it would be: a fast, efficient journey on a modern, comfortable train, with the at-seat dining an added bonus, reinforcing my already favourable impression of German railways. Up until that point, everything had gone like clockwork, with all my trains on time and all my connections made. Sadly, that was the high-point of my experiences with the German rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, as everything pretty much went downhill from there, starting with my journey from Köln to Berlin.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part III – ICE to Köln

The driving cab of my ICE 3 on the platform at Köln, having brought me from Brussels Midi, where I changed for the final leg of my trip to Berlin in May 2022.Welcome to the third instalment of my Travel Spot series about travelling from the UK to Berlin by train. Part I covered planning the trip, which was far more complicated than I’d hoped. I discovered that the cheapest/most convenient option was to buy a Eurail pass, which covered my whole trip, with a bonus day trip thrown in for good measure.

I made the journey at the start of May, my itinerary taking me from Guildford to Berlin in a day, travelling via Brussels and Köln. I wrote about the first leg of the journey, which saw me arrive in Brussels Midi onboard the Eurostar, in Part II of the series. From there, I had two more trains left, both German high-speed ICE services. This first, from Brussels to Köln, is the subject of today’s instalment (Part III), while the second, from Köln to Berlin, is covered in Part IV.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part II – Eurostar to Brussels

The driving cab of Eurostar e320 (No. 4032) waiting on the platform at St Pancras International, ready to take me to Brussels Midi at the start of my trip to Berlin in May 2022.At the start of May, I travelled to Berlin for my first face-to-face work meeting in over two years. I’d already decided that, when travelling in Europe, I would go by train rather than fly wherever possible, so I set about planning my trip. This turned out to be far more complicated than I’d hoped and a lot less straightforward than flying, even though I was only dealing with two train companies. Rather than booking the trains direct, I discovered that it was cheaper (and far more convenient) to buy a Eurail pass, which would cover my whole trip, with a bonus day trip thrown in for good measure, which I wrote about in the first instalment of this Travel Spot series.

My itinerary took me from Guildford to Berlin in a day, travelling via Brussels and Köln. This journey is the subject of the next three instalments in the series, starting with the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels Midi. From there, I took an ICE to Köln, where I changed for another ICE to Berlin. First, however, I had to get to St Pancras, which meant setting off from Guildford Station on the 06:33 train to London.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part I – Planning

Details of my Eurail mobile pass for my journey from the UK to Berlin in May 2022.In the years running up to the COVID-19 pandemic, I travelled an awful lot for work, which mostly meant flying to various locations around the world, including trips to Rome and Prague. In 2020, I made a conscious decision to travel to European destinations by train wherever possible. I even had a trip to Stockholm lined up, with all the tickets booked, for April 2020. And then COVID-19 happened.

When work announced that face-to-face meetings would resume in May 2022 after a gap of more than two years, the first meeting was in Berlin. True to my word, I decided to travel by train, even though flying would have been much more straightforward, quicker and, arguably, cheaper. The resulting trip involved eight trains spread over three days (with a bonus day out by train thrown in for good measure).

While the individual train journeys will be covered by in future instalments of this Travel Spot series, I wanted to start with a post about planning the trip. While I’m a great fan of train travel, preferring it over flying whenever possible, this trip was neither straightforward to plan or book, something which needs to change if we’re to encourage more train travel.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Return from Boston (Again)

My British Airways Boeing 777-300 waiting on the stand at Boston Logan's Terminal E, waiting to take me back to Heathrow.Welcome to the second and final Travel Spot covering this year’s second trip to Portland (Maine). I flew from London Heathrow to Boston at the start of April (the subject of the previous instalment of this Travel Spot), while this post covers my return to London at the start of May. Both flights were with British Airways and, as I’ve done the last two times I’ve returned from Boston, I took an overnight flight in World Traveller Plus (aka premium economy), leaving Boston in the late evening.

Since I returned from Iceland in July 2021, the rules have been different each time I’ve flown back to the UK, although in this case, the rules were non-existent. After my last flight to the UK in mid-February, the UK Government removed all requirements for testing and withdrew the passenger locator form, so there was nothing to do ahead of the flight. It was very similar to flying in the pre-pandemic era (other than the high prevalence of a highly contagious and potentially fatal airborne virus that is). Naturally, except when I was eating, I wore a mask the entire time I was on public transport, in the airport and on the plane.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: New Orleans to Los Angeles With Delta

Details of my flight on a Boeing 737-900 with Delta from New Orleans to Los Angeles, taken from the on-board information system.Welcome to another instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot. This is a throwback to 2019, almost exactly three years ago to the day, when I was in America on a five-week, multi-city trip, faced with having to get from New Orleans to Foster City (just outside San Francisco Airport). I’d begun my trip exactly a week before, flying into New Orleans to attend a week-long meeting which ended on Friday afternoon. I was then due in Foster City for another meeting, starting at lunchtime on the following Monday.

Sensible options including spending the weekend in New Orleans before flying to San Francisco on Monday morning, or flying to San Francisco on Friday night to spend the weekend in the Bay Area. However, I chose a third option, that of travelling via Los Angeles, which is how I came to be heading to New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Airport on Friday evening to catch a flight to the famous LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). I was flying with Delta, my favourite American airline, and, since work was paying, I was in first class (although, as you will see, this is a bit of misnomer when it comes to internal flights in the USA).

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to Boston in Economy

My British Airways Boeing 777-200 on the stand at London Heathrow Terminal 5, waiting to take me to Boston.Welcome to another Travel Spot at the start of another trip to the USA, where I try to think of different variations on the theme of “Brian Goes Back to Boston” for the title. This is my third visit in six months, although my ultimate destination is (just as it was on the previous two trips) Portland, Maine. While I’m flying British Airways again, this time, for variation, I’m in World Traveller (economy to you and me) rather than World Traveller Plus, the first time that I’ve flown to Boston in economy since (check notes) two years ago. So really, not much change there then. In all, I’ll spend four weeks in Portland, before flying back from Boston (in World Traveller Pus) at the start of May.

As before, this Travel Spot covers my flight from London Heathrow to Boston Logan, plus my journeys to Heathrow by RailAir coach and from Logan with Concord Coach Lines. The two previous times I flew to America, the pre-flight process was so involved that it warranted a dedicated post on each occasion. However, this time, little has changed since I flew in January, so I’m going to keep that part to a minimum.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Heathrow to North Wales via Manchester Airport

My British Airways Airbus A320, at the gate at Manchester Airport, having flown me from London Heathrow.Welcome to second instalment of the final Travel Spot from my first trip of 2022, covering my return from Boston four weeks ago. The first instalment dealt with my flight from Boston to London Heathrow, a familiar route, although it was my first time on a Boeing 787-10. All my recent journeys have ended at Heathrow, but on this occasion, I was carrying on to my Dad’s in North Wales, following another familiar route (from pre-pandemic times), the short hop from Heathrow to Manchester Airport.

I’ve always had misgivings about this, not being a great fan of short-haul flights, but the simple fact is that it’s always been the most convenient option, the additional cost of the Heathrow to Manchester leg being negligible (or sometimes zero) compared to the outrageous cost of train travel in the UK. There’s also the additional hassle of hauling my bags across central London and/or taking the tube, neither of which are particularly appealing after a long flight. However, after my experiences this time, compounded by the difficulty in getting from Manchester Airport to North Wales on a Sunday (three trains and a bus), I’m going to be reassessing my options on future trips.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Boston to Manchester via Heathrow

My British Airways Boeing 787-10 on the stand at Boston Logan Airport, waiting to take me back to London.Welcome to the penultimate Travel Spot of my first trip of 2022, covering my return from Boston in mid-February. 2022 got underway as 2021 had ended, with a visit to North America, flying with British Airways in World Traveller Plus (aka premium economy). This time, however, rather than flying to Atlanta before returning from Boston, I flew to and from Boston. In another twist, instead of returning home to Guildford, I continued on to my Dad’s in North Wales, taking the familiar (from pre-pandemic times) short hop from Heathrow to Manchester.

Initially, I had planned to cover the whole trip in one post, but as is often the case, this Travel Spot grew in the telling. Therefore, I’ve decided to split it into two instalments, with this, the first, covering my flight from Boston to Heathrow. The second instalment covers the short hop from Heathrow to Manchester.

I flew out to Boston in mid-January on my way to spend three weeks in Maine with Amanda before flying back two weeks ago. On my previous trip, I took the bus down from Portland to Boston Logan airport, but this time, Amanda and I caught the Downeaster, Amtrak’s train service linking Boston with Maine. We go to Boston on Friday afternoon, spending 24 hours exploring the city before I made my way to the airport on Saturday evening.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Amtrak Downeaster, Part II

Amtrak Genesis P42DC diesel locomotive No. 108 done out in Amrtrak's red, white and blue 50th anniversary colours at one end of the Downeaster which took me from Portland, Maine to Boston North Station where it's resting at the end of its journey.Welcome to the second and final part of my Travel Spot dedicated to Amtrak’s Downeaster, which connects Boston with Brunswick, Maine, providing five daily services in each direction, departing from/arriving at Boston’s North Station. In Part I, I took a trip from Portland, where I was staying, to Brunswick, taking the opportunity to check out Amtrak’s business class along the way, before returning by bus.

Part II covers the journey Amanda and I took two days later in the other direction, from Portland to Boston, where we travelled in coach class (Amtrak’s standard class for travel). Incidentally, although I’d travelled in coach class many times before, this was my first detailed look at Amtrak’s refurbished coach-class seating. Along the way, we tried out the café car, sampling the on-board coffee which we put up against some of our own that we’d made on the train.

Other than my trip to Brunswick two days before, I’d only taken the Downeaster once before, at the start of my Portland-to-Portland trans-America train trip in June 2015. Since then, for a variety of reasons, the bus had always proved more convenient, so I was keen to see how the train stacked up against the bus.

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