Welcome to the third and final instalment of my latest Travel Spot series, all about my return home by train from Berlin. The first part covered my journey from Berlin to Köln, where I spent a few days exploring the local coffee scene, as well as taking a day-trip by train along the Rhine to Mainz. The last stage of my journey was my return to the UK, which involved retracing my steps from the journey out as far as London St Pancras. However, while I’d set off from Guildford, I was returning to North Wales and Flint station, which was part of the reason I’d broken my return journey in Köln.
I’d done Guildford to Berlin in a day and while I could, in theory, have done Berlin to Flint in a day, it would have required a very early start and any missed connections would have probably been disastrous. In contrast, by travelling from Köln, I could have a relatively relaxed start, catching the 09:42 to Brussels, where I’d have an hour and 20 minutes before my Eurostar to London, arriving at 14:00, rounding things off with the 16:10 Avanti West Coast service from London Euston, direct to Flint.
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.
Last week I wrote about my first (and, so far, only) trip to Amsterdam by Eurostar, which I took in June 2018 to attend that year’s World of Coffee event. Sadly, it was only a short trip, with just enough time for a day at World of Coffee, 2½ days exploring Amsterdam’s speciality coffee scene and the annual off-season gathering of the Surrey Scorchers’ TV Commentators’ club. Then, the following Tuesday afternoon, having spent the morning visiting more coffee shops, I was back at Amsterdam Centraal Station to catch my train home.
At the time of writing, Eurostar runs two direct services a day (afternoon and evening) from Amsterdam to St Pancras International, but three years ago, with the service only having just started, you had to take a Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam to Brussels-Midi, where you changed onto a London-bound Eurostar service. This is because on Eurostar, you clear passport control and customs for both countries when you board the train. At the time, Amsterdam Centraal didn’t have the necessary facilities, so Eurostar allowed you to book a through ticket, combining the Thalys and Eurostar services, an option which is (slightly disappointingly) no longer available.
Today’s Travel Spot takes us back three years to the summer of 2018, when I caught the Eurostar to Amsterdam to attend the World of Coffee. In all, I spent 3½ days in Amsterdam, mostly exploring its speciality coffee scene, before catching the Thalys/ Eurostar back to the UK. This Travel Spot covers my journey there, when I took advantage of the (then) newly introduced direct London to Amsterdam service (which started running in April that year), although my journey had actually started that morning in Newcastle, with the leg of the journey to Amsterdam only an hour longer than it took me to get down from Newcastle.
Although my journey out was direct, my return was a two-stage affair, taking the Thalys service from Amsterdam to Brussels-Midi before transferring to the Eurostar back to London St Pancras. The good news is that as of this time last year, Eurostar runs direct services from Amsterdam as well. At the time of writing, Eurostar is offering two direct outbound services a day, with another two services involving a change of trains at Brussels-Midi, while there are just two direct return services (afternoon and evening), with no indirect services, which is slightly disappointing.