York – March 2020

I haven’t previously written about any mini breaks or holidays I’ve taken in the UK, I could maybe backtrak on some of them one day. Meantime this piece is about a mini-break in took in March this year just before “lockdown” in the UK. I took an extended long weekend to York. The Liberal Democrats were holding a conference there and I decided to travel down early and back later. The intention was to only spend Saturday in the conference and the rest of the time as a tourist. But, the conference was cancelled about 10pm the day before I travelled. I still went as I wouldn’t get any money back.

Thursday 12th March

Day of travel down to York for a long weekend and an extra day for sightseeing with conference cancelled. I could do other things instead. After checking into my hotel I went out in source of food and went into a Bella Italia about 5pm. There was hardly anyone in at that time of evening but other people arrived while I was eating. Enjoyed the meal. My hotel room overlooks a main road with a bus stop under the window but, there as little or no noise coming through the windows.

Friday 13th March

Most of the morning was taken up with going on a guided walking tour of the city run for free by the Association of Voluntary Guides. The first hour was spent near the starting point in Exhibition Square outside the Art Gallery going round St Mary’s Abbey, Yorkshire Museum and King’s Manor (home to the Department of Archeology). It was pointed out that as a Scot I could be legally beheaded for crossing the city walls. We then moved round the popular section of the city walls overlooking the Minster, Treasurer’s House and coming down at Goodramgate (a steep descent). We then went into The Shambles where the walk ended 2 and a quarter hours after starting.

St Mary's Abbey  York Minster

Saturday 14th March

I decided to do a longer walk round the city walls this morning. Started about 9am and there were very few people on it at this time of day. It was a little damp. Part of the walk is on a mian road as the wall is missing then you get back onto it around Red Tower where there is no railing on the drop side of the wall. You have to be careful passing others. Carried on to Tower Street and decided not to carry on. Instead went into the Castle Museum and did the tour. A little shopping in the afternoon.

York City Wall

Empty city wall

City Wall  image on the city wall Clifford's Tower

Sunday 15th March

Took a walk along The Ouse out to where the flood plain starts, river level had fallen all week-end but there as still water on the flood area. A couple of cyclists tried to cycle alongside the plain but had to turn back as the path was flooded. On way back to town centre people were getting into their row boats. Was muddy in places. Took a detour and went into the Rail Musuem. After lunch walked along the Ouse passing the merger with The Fosse and crossed over at the Millenium Bridge to walk back to town centre. The weather was nice today making it a pleasant walk. Ouse River flood plain

Inter City 125

InterCity 125

Returned home the following day.

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Austrian Tyrol – June 2018

Friday 15th June

This was my only holiday of the year. Typical start with journey down to London for overnight stay. East Coast main line train left on time, overtook an earlier one at Newcastle, held up at Darlington as a passenger fell ill and needed to wait on ambulance crew taking them off. Then on board announcements apologised for delays, overcrowding due to problems with train ahead and one behind resulting in us having 3 loads of passengers on board and we we would be making an extra stop at Peterborough. Eventually arrived in London 50 minutes late.

Saturday 16th June

Formally first day of the holiday. Departure from St Pancras was at 12.58pm to Brussels so a bit of hanging around this morning. An hour’s wait in Brussels Midi to take the Thalys service to Cologne, this service arrived 15 minutes late due to a “person on the track”. check in at the hotel then quick up to room to drop bags and straight back down for evening meal.

Sunday 17th June

Another day of travel. Cologne to Munich on a train with r coach numbers the wrong way round making us late in departing – its not easy trying to get around 35 people on board a single carriage when this happens. At one point on this busy train there was an announcement at one station that we wouldn’t be leaving until the people that got on at Stuttgart got off – there were too many people on board and there were other services. We arrived 15 minutes late into Munich. Our next train into Austria (headed to Verona) left Munich 9 minutes late but when we arrived in Worgl it was on time. There was then a 20 minute coach trip to our hotel in St Johann – our base for the week.

Monday 18th June

Today was a day of rest, just able to lounge around in St Johann. Picked up food to make my own packed lunch and left hotel at 9.00 am and decided to walk along the GroBach river that runs through the town in the direction of Kirchdorf in Tirol. Was a very nice walk, weather was good, crossed over the river and back the other side into town. Then carried on out the other side towards Rettenbach but this stretch wasn’t as nice. Perhaps too close to the main busy road. Returned to hotel around 3.00 pm for coffee (OK it was free but still). My FitBit said over 24,00 steps (18km) making up for the last couple of days.


Tuesday 19th June

An interesting day full of spectacular sights. We went to the Hohe Tauern National Park to travel on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. It’s a long climb with many hairpin bends from about 1145m to 2500m up. HGV’s can’t travel this route and there are times it may be closed to all vehicles if weather is bad. The only HGVs are tour buses and the entrance gate is open from 5am to 9.30pm. We ended up at KAiser Franz Josefs Hohe just below the peak at the glacier.

On the journey down we took a slight detour into Heilegenblut for a walk around. The church was lovely with a little stream running down through well tended gardens.

We did not stop at any of the view points on the journey so photos had to be taken from a moving bus.

Today was full of some spectacular sights. A coach trip to Hohe Tauern National Park where we would travel up the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. It is a very long climb, about 1145m in height and many hairpin bends. The only HGVs allowed on this road are tour coaches and access is between 5.00 am and 9.30 pm weather permitting at any time of year. Someone said no-one would cycle up it, sorry, we passed some going both ways. We stopped for a bit at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Hohe just below the Grossglockner peak at the glacier. After the break we traveled back down to Heiligenbut, a very nice village, before completing the journey back. We did not stop at any of the viewpoints in either direction, most photographs of the views were taken from the inside of the coach.

Wednesday 20th June

Another day trip this time to Mayrhofen. Coach trip to Jenbach where we boarded a steam train on old carriages to travel up the Ziller Valley on the Zillertalbahn Railway. You could sit on hard wooden seats or in the open air “cattle truck”. There was a couple of hours to spend in Mayrhofen before returning to Jenbach. Then 2 trains back to St Johann. Some nice views along the way.

Thursday 21st June

Train journey to Lake Zell and Zell am See. There was a 45 minute boat trip around the lake – boring really at least for me – then 3 hours to spend in the town. I ended up walking along the lakeside path and stopped to eat my packed lunch. It was the only day affected by the weather with some wee showers but I just kept on walking and dried quite quickly. The train journey back only took about 40 minutes.

Friday 22nd June

Today was a free day to do what you wanted. I decided to take a walk to the Eifersbacher Wasserfall – a route that has only just opened. Took it easy, lasted about 3 hours. As you start to approach the waterfall there are warning signs advising of steep bits. There is a short viewing point at the foot of the waterfall then you van either go up past or back down. Going up was much steeper and harder than I expected, mostly on new wooded steps with big steps, heart beating in head time. Took a long rest at the time while I calmed down back to normal breathing etc. Then a easy walk down the winter ski lift access path and into the farmer’s market in town. Rested most of the afternoon.

Saturday 23rd June

A day trip to Salzburg which started off with a tour with the same guide as last time I was here – I’m sure he missed a few bits out this time. The afternoon was free to do what you wanted. Walked along the river Salz, had my packed lunch, then though the streets with some shopping along the way. Some gingerbread bought at the market stall along with a wee dragon.

Sunday & Monday

Two days of travel back home Sunday all the way back to Cologne for an overnight stay and Monday returned all the way home arriving around 9.30 pm. Of the 6 trains over the 2 days of travel only two ran to timetable – the Eurostar and the local service between Edinburgh and North Berwick.


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Xmas Markets – December 2017

This was a different type of holiday for me. I had already booked my following summer holiday and used most of the money I saved on that early booking to pay for this one. I was going to look round some Christmas Markets but had no intention of using it to buy presents. Other people on the trip apparently did have that intention.

Sunday 3rd December

This was the day to travel to London. I left the central heating on at home on a low setting burning 24/7 to keep some level of heat in the flat. Was expecting my main line service to start today in Stirling but, when I got to Waverley it was already on the platform where it was actually starting from. However this train broke down at Durham, we all had to get off and get on the next train through. However we all lost our reservations and I ended up joining many others in standing in cold vestibule areas. Eventually arrived in Kings Cross, London 40 minutes late.

Monday 4th December

This was a travel day. Eurostar terminal at St Pancras was busy with snake queuing but I felt my progress through was smooth, helped by striking up conversations with a couple of people on the way through. There was an easy transfer in Paris with plenty of time at Gar de L’Est to walk around and get something to eat. The TGV to Strasbourg was good. We could have stayed on it to Colmar (which was its destination) but because of our time of travel we had to change trains. Our seats on the TGV were not taken up! So we had to wait 40 minutes on a change of train to a local service running between Strasbourg and Colmar. The hotel we are staying in (Best Western) is just outside the station but not noisy.

Tuesday 5th December – Colmar

Today was classed as a day at leisure in Colmar as the only organised thing was a tour of this town in the evening. We were free to do what we wanted. I was first down for breaksfast at 7.30 am, didn’t see anyone else until an hour later. I left the hotel around 9am and went walking around the town centre which was about 20 minutes away. I saw most of the market stalls while they were still setting up and gradually getting busier. I was able to get into the indoor market before the queues started. That has security guards to control access to the steps up/down. There are 5 mini markets all quite close to each other so its easy to get round them all. Did buy a couple of wee things for myself. The guided tour as darkness was falling was good, poining out things I hadn’t spotted earlier in the day but I did struggle with the Guide’s English at times. But I did learn more about he history of the town, the region, and, of course Christmas and why Colmar thinks it has the best markets in the world.

Wednesday 6th December – Freiburg

This ended up being a disappointment. The tour was advertised as Colmar and the Black Forest. Today should have been about going through the Forest and ending up in Frieburg. Now, while I type this up, I’m still waiting on going through! The coach trip took us through a few villages after crossing over the Rhine into Germany, with some trees, that are classed as being in the Black Forest. Apparently there is a sort of funicular that will take you up one of the hills at the edge of town into the “official” forest! Once we got off the coach we were guided to the tourist office and left on our own until meeting up with a guide 2 hours later. It only had 2 Xmas markets, they claim 3 but one is the normal market where people go to buy their fruit, vegetables etc with a few Xmas stalls thrown in. We met up with the official guide outside the cathedral at 12 noon and he took us into and through this building in a very informative way, then a quick birl round certain parts of the town. It was a very long afternoon. We had been asked if we wanted to return at 4pm or 5pm. Most opted for 5pm but a few later confessed they wished they’d chosen 4pm as they, like me found it too long with not much to do but wander the streets or sit in a cafe. I did manage to buy a couple of wee presents for myself.

Thursday 7th December – Strasbourg

A 30 minute rail journey from Colmar, on arrival we are guided to the main cathedral then basically “dumped” for the rest of the day until the middle of the afternoon to do what you wanted and find your own way round. I think most of us managed to find and fight our way into the tourist information office to pick up guide books – after having a security bag check. There was no official organised tour. I felt we could have benefited from one. The main town is actually an island, a big shopping centre with various markets. It would have been possible to visit the European Parliament’s official headquarters but the tram system wasn’t fully operations due to roadworks and we couldn’t figure out which was which and we felt it too far to walk. So, just walking round the town, crossing the bridges going through bag searches on returning to the city centre as security had kicked on at 10am. It’s easy to close off as its an island. Yes I did buy another couple of wee presents. We took the 4.30 pm train back to Colmar.

Friday 8th December

The long journey home. Colmar to Strasbourg, change for Paris, change for Eurostar to London, change for train to Edinburgh then the last train of the day back home. Got into my flat just after midnight to a pleasantly heated flat.

Off the 3 towns, Colmar definitely has the best markets and it helped being compact. If I was going to do any Xmas shopping I’d go back there and to that hotel as it was nice with decent food.

Oh, what were the wee presents? The usual wee magnets of the town I was in (for the fridge) and 3 colourfully painted pewter dragons that take up space on my mantelpiece.

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Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, June 2017

Another holiday with Great Rail Journey’s. A bit more cultural this one if you want to think of it in those terms.

Started Tuesday 20th June with trip down to London with 2 rail journeys that ran to timetable. Found  London much warmer than back home in North Berwick. Managed a long walk before evening meal.

Wednesday 21st, as it was an early Eurostar to Brussels it meant early breakfast and into St Pancras for 7.20 am. Met up with a Mrs Louise Smith who got on at Ebbsfleet. Alexander – the tour manager introduced us – this is the same tour manager I’ve had previously. Arrived at hotel (NH Koln Altstadt) in Cologne around 5 pm and I went for a walk before evening meal. I much prefer the hotel to the normal one the company uses. Not as big or corporate.

Following day Thursday 22nd June was another day of travel and another early start. Almost missed breakfast, didn’t wake up until 6.30 am, we had to be out of hotel by 7.15! The train taking us to Munich was supposed to be leaving at 07.55 but it was 15 minutes late, so much for German Rail efficiency. It takes 4 and one half hours for that journey. Time to kill at Munich station then onto Austrian Rail for journey to Vienna. That was over 4 hours and arrived 10-15 minutes late. The hotel we stayed in (Hotel Falkensteiner Margreten) was away from the main city centre but very nice. The room has a walk in shower with space age type controls.

Friday 23rd June was a tour of the city after a tour round Schonbrunn Palace. We were taken on a tour round the inside then had 30 minutes in the grounds before getting back on the coach for a tour round the city. We were dropped off and continued on foot to walk round some of the bits that were tricky for the coach. Had lunch in the city with Alexander and a couple of others then walked around for a bit, took a trip along the river bank then single tram journey back to the hotel for the evening.

Schonbrunn Palace

Saturday 24th June was a river cruise along the Wachau valley section of the Danube. The excursion started with a coach trip to the town of Melk where we had plenty of time to walk around, have a coffee, admire the views and the monastery where a wedding was scheduled to take place as we left. The coach transferred us to the bottom of town onto the river where we could board a river boat to take us to Krems. It was another warm day and the little breeze helped cool us down. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the river cruise on the Rhine last year. The heat seemed to affect most of the group as they didn’t want to walk into Krems and we just took the coach back into Vienna. The driver took us back via a different route and gave us an unofficial tour of the city including bits we hadn’t been to before. That included the Old Danube section where a week-end festival was taking place.

Monastery at Melk

river breathing

Sunday was a free day and after breakfast I took the underground to Schonbrunn to spend a couple of hours wandering around the grounds and admiring the views from the hill. Then back on the underground into the city centre, walked around the museums area and had lunch at Landtmann Cafe. Shortly after I finished the very nice meal (yet another apple strudel) it started to rain. A number of people started to take shelter under awnings and in shop doorways but I just walked – it wasn’t that heavy – to Schwedenplaz to pick up the U4 underground back to the hotel. There was a bit of thunder after I got back and the rain got heavier. I must have got the timing right.

Schonbrunn Palace

Monday 26th June was travel to Salzburg day. The first train of the day took us to Leoben on the Semmering Railway. It was a long, slow climb to the top at Semmering twisting and turning with some excellent views but, tricky to photograph – didn’t bother. Then onto another service into Salzburg using old re-conditioned carriages. Slow and meandering through the valleys. After checking into the hotel (NH Salzburg City)I took a quick walk around town to stretch my legs. Had a text message session with Louise – my nutrionist and agreed appointment after I get back.

Salzburg, Tuesday, morning was a guided tour round the key parts of the town for 2 hours with a local guide – he needs new shoes! After that we were free to do what we wanted for the rest of the day. Salzburg is called Mozart Central. So, I wandered round for a few hours, taking photos, grabbed some food to eat by the river Salz. Then back to hotel for evening meal and chatted to some people at other tables.

Town Centre, Salzburg

Wednesday – The Sound of Music day! A tour by coach of some of the places used in filming that musical. Some of the places visited were composited to appear as the same place (the main house). The grounds and gardens at Hellbrun especially. The trip then continued onto St Gilgen in Salzkammergut but we stopped at Red Bull HQ on the way so that you could see the bulls. Had the chance to walk round St Gilgen which is on Lake Wolfgangsee. Then back on the coach for the trip round to St Wolfgang where there was more time for walking round and grabbing coffee/lunch if you wanted. There was the option for going back to St Gilgen by coach or by boat across the lake. Needles to say the majority wanted to boat trip. From St Gilgen we stopped off at Mondsee for 90 minutes or so. Then back to Salzburg with the music and some of the group singing along.

St Gilgen, Mozart House

Church in Mondsee

Two days of travel back home on Thursday and Friday. First from Salzburg to Munich then Munich to Koln where we stayed at the Maritim. The following day there was time for an early morning walk round bits of Koln as we didn’t leave until 11 am. Journey Koln to Brussels ran late owing to a death on the high speed line, then the Eurostar arrived late into St Pancras. Both trains in the UK ran to timetable though so got home about 10.30 pm. With the time difference that was 13 hours of travel.




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Another wee walk in the hills, Switzerland,June 2016

This holiday is similar to my last one to Switzerland with a few differences along the way.

Friday 24th June

The first difference was that I decided to travel to London overnight using the sleeper service departing Edinburgh at 23.40, not in a sleeping berth but in a seat. I don’t think I could sleep properly in a berth. The train departed 3 minutes late, no on board ticket check took place , stopped at Carstairs to enable Glasgow train to join up, stopped in Carlisle then Preston. Arrived at London Euston with no on board announcement, only knew arrived by looking out window. Arrive 1 hour early, 6.15 not 7.07!

Saturday 25th June London to Metz

Had to check in with Great Rail from around 9.01 am, hence the overnight travel. It was an easy walk between Euston and St Pancras using the signposted walking route between the two.  Had to wait on shops/cafe’s opening to get something to eat. Our Eurostar departed at 11.01 arriving at Paris Gare du Nord at 14.17, time to kill to allow transfer by coach to Gare D’Est with TGV departing at 15.40 and getting us to Metz at 17.03, where we checked into the Mercure in the centre of town.

Straight forward journey throughout the day. Plenty of time to relax. Tour Manager Iain doesn’t seem to have same knowledge as Alex regarding places, also doing the admin differently.

Sunday 26th June Metz to Kandersteg

Day of rail travel basically. After breakfast walked round Metz but went further than last August to see more of the town. as our departure was later, almost lunchtime. Then it was trains, platforms and stations,  not much else.

Fountain, Place de la Republique, Metz

Fountain, Place de la Republique, Metz

Opera House, Meetz

Metz Opera House

This journey had more splits in it than last time. Metz to Mulhouse, wait, then Mulhouse to Basel (despite first train going all the way to Basel. Then Basel to Spiez, switch trains after wee wait then Spiez to Kandersteg. Eventually arrived at Hotel Bernerhof – same as last time – about 19.00 and was given same room as last time.

After evening meal Doris from the local tourist office gave a very nice outline of our stay from her perspective.

Monday 27th June Kandersteg

Day of walking, initially to Blauchsee then on to Fruitigen. Walk was a different start to last August. Went towards railway station, under the bridge then on other side climbed up hill. Great views over Kandersteg on that first stretch. Then picked up previous walk route but, instead of diverting onto main road then through site visitor centre we went in through the back door to Blausee.

Lady of the Lake

The extension to Fruitegen was much better than last year, smaller group, better pace, we did the extension to the ruin without actually going up and looking in it. It was a nicer way to finish that walk. Got the bus back to town. Enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday 28th June Interlaken

Today was just like last year, trains, bus, cable cars and steam boat. Didn’t have a long break for lunch as we didn’t go near the restaurant midway on the walk from Murren. Still enjoyed it.

Wednesday 29th June Kandersteg

Again very similar to the one last August up to Oeschinensee. The route after the cable car to the restaurant was different. After that of course the route up and down was same, there is no other option. Managed it better than last time, walking poles helped. The walk down from Oeschinensee used a different route helping to make a welcome difference.

Restaurant and lake

Restaurant and lake


Thursday 30th June Kandersteg

This one was different to last time. This intermediate walk was a welcome change. The trip to Sunnbuel by bus and cable car. This walk then took us to Arvenseeli flower meadow then along the flower strewn path towards Stock looking down the gorge on one side. Back up to the cable car station crossing the mountain bike track as a few went down. Their bikes are secured underneath the cable car for the ride-up. Back at the bottom didn’t take the bus back to town instead walked along River Kander.

Flowers on path

Friday 1st July Kandersteg

Today was my 60th birthday, hence the reason for the trip. After speaking to Doris at the Tourist Office yesterday afternoon she gave me a couple of maps for Thun as I had decided to spend most of the day there. Not very many of the group decided to do this. I only met a couple of them at the station. Took the 9.13 train to Thun, walked around river bank and through the town. In to some shops, had coffee and cake for lunch. Got train back early afternoon, then short walk along River Kander.

I got a text from Susan and Mum, nothing from anyone else. Nothing done by Great Rail even though they have my d.o.b., glad of that. Only people I told beforehand were at the hotel and Doris. I didn’t tell anyone  on the group.

Saturday 2nd July Kandersteg to London

We left Kandersteg later than last time and took a different route back to London. Kandersteg, to Berne, then onto Basel, into Paris Gare de Lyon, transfer to Gare du Nord and arrived in London at 21.40. Walk to hotel. Just a day of travelling by rail, hanging around rail stations wating on connections.

Sunday 3rd July

Final journey leaving Kings Cross at 11.00. Due to ScotRail rail strike was glad I had taken my car up to Edinburgh and parked near mum’s to make it easier getting home.

There were enough differences in timetable and activities to make this different. Allied to the fact I was lighter in weight and have managed my Type 2 Diabetes better I enjoyed it more. Not sure I would repeat this specific holiday until several years have passed.

Photos for the holiday can be found here.

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