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Tag: FlightFree

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 1

Inverness, Inverurie, and Aberdeen

After a day of heavy drinking in London, and a nightcap on the train, I fell asleep—or did I pass out?—immediately when I put my head down. I even forgot to take out my contact lenses, or set my alarm, so when I woke up, I was already late for breakfast! Luckily not too late, and mere minutes after getting up, I was enjoying a Highland breakfast and tea.

The Caledonian Sleeper arrived ten minutes early in Inverness, leaving me with a little less time than planned… In the rush, I couldn’t find my toiletry bag until the very last minute—it was on my bed—leaving me with a rather peculiar hairdo for the rest of the day.

After I alighted in Inverness, I had some time to kill before the first bus to Culloden Battlefield would leave, so I first had a coffee at Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop. The bus then dropped me off right in front of the visitor centre and museum. As a fresh National Trust for Scotland member, I had free access to the exhibition.

After that, I walked upon the battlefield itself. It was a chilling experience to stand on the exact spot where the MacLarens must have stood in 1746, in line with many other Jacobites, just seconds before advancing to the enemy, and for many of them, towards their death…

I also learned that the perfect amount of social distancing is two Scottish broadswords long, of four targes. I think people would actually keep their distance much better if everyone was still wearing broadswords!

Back in Inverness, I had a pizza for lunch at the Black Isle Bar, where they of course also served beer from their brewery on the other side of the firth. Before getting to the train station, I had to little walk through town, and quickly visited Leakey’s Bookshop. After all, since handing over a six pack of 75cl bottles, and a couple of cans and small bottles in London, I had plenty of room in my bag for books!

After this little excursion, it was time for the first Scottish BrewDog bar of this trip, and my first stamp towards the Flying Scotsman reward: BrewDog Inverurie! I was still a bit rough from the day before, so I just had one beer there, and a whole lot of water. The staff was great, though, and the Fisher graffitis awesome as usual!

My last train of the day brought me to Aberdeen, my home for the next two nights. I checked into Travelodge Aberdeen to get settled, and to check out my obligatory day 2 Corona test kit. It looks like I’ll get to play doctor on Sunday!

All settled, freshened up, and hairs finally combed, I then headed to BrewDog Castlegate for dinner. I didn’t account for the Saturday night crowds, however, and had to wait outside for a bit. I didn’t have to wait for long though, and I only just had the first sip from my second beer, when the lovely staff told me they found me a table! It then didn’t take long before I was tucking into a Korean fried chicken burger, this month’s special.

My final stop of the evening was at the OG BrewDog bar, BrewDog Aberdeen. Here The BrewDog Podcast’s Rob left me a bottle of MMXXX I won in a prize draw a couple of months ago. Thanks for that, Rob, and we’ll surely meet in person another time!

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 0

To London, and on the Caledonian Sleeper

Finally, it is happening! I had to postpone this trip three times already, each time amending, or cancelling and rebooking most of the eleven trains and six hotels. This Friday morning however, I was actually back in a Eurostar travelling through the Chunnel to St. Pancras International.

Because I arrived in London earlier than usual, I had decided to use that extra time to make the trek all the way to Ealing, after first dropping off my bag at a Radical Storage point, and a coffee at Origin Coffee in the British Library. In Ealing, one of the newest BrewDog bars had recently opened, not surprisingly called BrewDog Ealing. There I met up with beer friends Jackie and Simon, and BrewDog’s beer trainer Paddy joined us as well. Since it was only noon, and drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, we had lunch there as well.

After lunch, we made our way back to the centre of London again, making various beery stops along the way: Kill the Cat, where we were joined by fellow EFP Liam, the Mikkeller Bar, the Mikkeller Brewpub, where Emma joined us, and finally, after picking up my bag again, the Euston Tap.

After a last couple of beers, we said our goodbyes, because it was time for me to board the Caledonian Sleeper. I traveled with it before, but since then, the service has been completely overhauled. Even though it has been plagued with issues since then, and especially recently, there was nothing wrong with the train I was booked on for the night: it left on time, I had warm water in the shower, and the lounge car was open for business!

Off to Paris, and a good start!

It’s not yet the trip I’ve been planning for since 2019, but at least I’m back on an international train again, this time with destination Paris!

I’ve been to the City of Light several times before, but I can’t remember ever having spent the night here as a tourist. That’s about to change!

Like most of my days out and about, I start with coffee, and since the Ten Belles roastery was only a short walk from the Gare du Nord, that was my first destination.

Then it was time to check into my Ibis Styles hotel, just to drop off some stuff, and make sure there actually was a room waiting for me. Luckily, it was! And yes, that is a single bed, before booking I didn’t even know hotels still had these… But hey, that’s a couple of euros saved I can now spend on beer!

IC Hamburg – Köln & ICE Köln – Brussel

Train route from Hamburg to Brussels, over Köln

My first leg of the journey was on an IC train. I’m not sure if it’s typical for this type, but it felt quite a bit older: lots of fake wood, actual curtains, no airconditioning… Next time I’ll try to make sure I only book ICEs!

And like it was on purpose, to rub in the fact that I had to cancel a large part of my trip, there was a ÖBB Nightjet waiting in Köln station!

The last leg was a proper ICE again, and even in seat 61! Perfect temperature, comfy seat, loads of space, and Komfort Check-in again! No clue how they actually check it, but every time I used it, they’ve always passed me by during ticket control.

Well, that was it, I’m almost back home! Hopefully next trip will be a bit longer again…

ICE Berlin – Hamburg

Train route from Berlin to Hamburg

This Sunday morning I was in Berlin Hbf again. No, I wasn’t there to catch a train home yet, but one to Hamburg first. I was a bit early—getting up and checking out of your hotel can be so much quicker when you’re travelling alone ?—but luckily I found a nice coffee place just outside the station, Tucano Coffee.

Now it’s just a short ride to Hamburg, so I’ll be arriving there soon!

Off to Berlin!

Wait, what? Straight to Berlin? What happened to Wien and Budapest? Well… because Hungary suddenly closed its borders for tourists, I had to change my plans a bit. The sleeper train adventure has been put on hold for now, and on this trip I will only visit Berlin and Hamburg, meaning I’m going straight from Brussels to Berlin. I’m still keeping it classy though: first class tickets all the way!

As usual, I had to change trains in Köln, giving me the opportunity to quickly grab something to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask them to put your order in your own reusable packaging, even abroad! No time to grab my usual coffee in the coffee bar just outside the station, so a train coffee had to do… Really nice of Deutsche Bahn to serve it in proper cups, at your seat!

Now just a couple more hours of podcast listening—I was running behind a bit anyway—and enjoying the view, and I’ll be back in Berlin!

Day 10 – The Journey Home

Today we left Italy to go home again, taking the final three trains of this #TenTrainTrip. A quick beer stop in Zürich at Drinks of the World—only to take home this time, not to drink in—and another changeover in Paris.

However, this stop didn’t quite go as planned: instead of having beers and dinner in BBP Canal, we went hunting for my wallet, which had been stolen from my not-so-safe ‘train’ backpack… And that after eight days without any problems in the Italy with my PacSafe sling…

According to the Tile in my wallet, it was last seen near metro Bastille, but after looking for it for a while, we had to give up so we wouldn’t miss our train home. We eventually reported the theft with the police in Gare du Nord, just before our Thalys home.

Day 9 – Milano

Our last day in Italy turned out to be the hottest as well, ironically in the most northern Italian city we’re visiting: Milano. From our B’n’B on the Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, we went to the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit in the technology museum: Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci”.

The Piazza del Duomo was even busier than usual, because there was a big stage for the Festa della Repubblica celebrations, so we quickly headed to the Porta Ticinese and Naviglio Grande area for some beers at Tutti Fritti and Al Coccio.

When all other bars we were interested in turned out to be closed, we went to the Hops Beer Shop, before going south again for our own last supper—ossobuco and cotoletta alla milanese—at Osteria del Binari.

After two more beer stops at Bere Buona Birra and Hop, an antique tram brought us back to our B’n’B for our last night in Italy…

Day 8 – Napoli

Today we visited the Museo Archeologico di Napoli, to see all the stuff they moved out of Pompeii. As a future archaeologist, learning about the importance of the correct recording of all finds, it is quite frustrating to see that for many of the finds from Pompeii, they now have to guess where exactly it was actually found… Still, nice to see so many famous mosaics and frescoes for real at last!

For lunch we had a real pizza napoletana, and a pizza fritta. Indeed, my Scottish friends: “We’re gonna deep fry your pizzas”, is no threat at all, for the Neapolitans!

After lunch, we did a bit more sightseeing, since we hadn’t seen much of Napoli in daylight yet. Ugly apartment blocks and quadracycles immediately reminded us of Oostende, but we have to admit, the sea view was quite a bit nicer!

Our last stop was NaBeer, one of the newest—and probably smallest—craft beer places in Napoli, serving beers from local brewery VentiTré on draught.

After that it was time to catch our Italo train to Milano. Since the price difference at the time of booking was negligible, we even even had the pleasure of enjoying this almost five hour trip in Prima class!

Once checked in in our Milanese accommodation, we briefly popped out again to visit one of the Birrificio Lambrate bars.

Day 7 – Pompei & Erculano

Our first day in Napoli, we didn’t actually spend a lot of time in the city, but on the sites of the Pompei and Herculaneum excavations, checking at least one thing of my bucket list.

When we returned to Napoli in the evening, we first visited Ventimetriquadri for some top quality coffee. For dinner we had a cuoppo di terra from Friggitoria Vomero.

Then it was time for—not surprisingly—beer, provided to us by Murphy’s Law, Hoppy Ending, Mosto, and Il Birraiuolo. This little pub crawl also learned us that Napoli is quite big, and the height differences can be huge!

Day 6 – Roma II

On the second and last day in Rome, we first visited the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme to see their nice collection of Roman statues, mosaics, and frescoes.

After some pizza al taglio, we then went to see the Ara Pacis, and the Claudius exhibition in the same museum.

West of the Tiber, we checked out coffee place Pergamino and beer bar Be.Re., that strangely enough seemed to be two parts of the same business…

A last visit to BrewDog Roma to have our beer visas stamped, and we had a couple of beers as well of course.

After a excruciatingly slowly served dinner, we quickly picked up our bag at our B’n’B, and eventually still managed to catch our train to Napoli.

Day 5 – Roma

We started our first full day in Rome with the obligatory visit to the Colosseum, complete with tour, and the Forum Romanum.

For lunch we had porchetta at Pane & Vino. I have to say: this Roman snack with crispy bits beats the Florentine lampredotto hands down!

Of course we had to visit the Imperial Fora as well, in particular that of my favourite emperor Traianus, before we had our first beer of the day at Johnny’s Off License, a beer shop where you can drink in as well.

In the evening we first visited the bar that once was the only craft beer bar in town: Open Baladin. We then crossed over to Travestere for Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa’ and Bir & Fud.