Wednesday 15 June 2022

Good times, bad times ...

 Travelling with confidence in spite of it all

It is all rather difficult. Just as I have planned and booked many new trips, both self-arranged and Great Rail Journeys packages, so the unsatisfactory labour relations in the UK railway industry has spilt over into strikes which will add to the general difficulty posed by some companies dragging their feet with rebuilding full timetabled services following the pandemic restrictions.

This blog has always looked on the bright side, though, so I shall make light of the difficulties here just as I have with making my own travel plans. The strikes are not solid walk-outs of indeterminate duration, but pre-announced specific dates, so it will often be possible to work around them, although perhaps not quite so simple where international trips are concerned, since it is only UK firms that are likely to be flexible about the issues. We shall see, if it comes to it, which, so far, I hope, it has not.

On the subject of international travel, the really, really good news is that there is no longer any Covid-19 test requirement for travelling to any of the European countries I am planning to visit, nor any locator forms to complete, which is just going o make everything so much more of a pleasure than it was last year when paperwork abounded and we lived in constant fear of not being allowed to go somewhere because we had forgotten to fill in some online form (it was nearly all online, OK for me but really tough on some people - one old couple had bought their first smartphone just to complete their passenger locator forms!). We'll need our vaccine certificates and may have to wear face coverings on trains in some countries, but that's all, and it's really not difficult to comply with that.

So we're off again soon and I've a drawer (and smartphone!) full of tickets and a file of Great Rail Journeys confirmation letters! First up is a visit to the Swiss canton of Neuchatel: we are returning to Le Locle to have what will probably be our last ride on the branch line to Les Brenets and a cruise on the lake there in the hope it will contain more water than when we visited later in the year a few years ago! We shall then go on from there to stay a few nights in the city of Neuchatel itself before travelling home via Geneva. Our outward journey is planned as a bit of a treat: we shall overnight in Paris and have dinner booked at Le Train Bleu, the spectacular art nouveau restaurant at the Gare de Lyon. I look forward to writing you my full report on that!

Later we shall take our usual short holiday in Chichester where we have theatre tickets booked as has become our tradition, before going on to Knoll House Hotel near Swanage in Dorset. All the rail tickets are booked but if there should be a strike we can do this trip by road instead - albeit rather more slowly in summer holiday traffic. We do hope to go by rail, which is so much more relaxing and includes the marvellous open-top bus ride from Bournemouth station to the hotel via the Sandbanks ferry.

Later still in the summer we visit the Atlantic coast of France, the Bordeaux region. I have never been there before and am looking forward enormously to that, and then in the autumn we return to Italy, to Rome again before travelling south to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Other, shorter, trips will probably be fitted in, too, and there is much planning to do, including contingency plans to cope with strikes.

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