Train travel in Europe is actually good value and, even in the UK, can be quite cheap if you book ahead on off-peak trains.
A single from St Pancras to Lille on Eurostar cost about £50, while a first class single on the top deck of the TGV Duplex (double-deck) train from Lille to Montepellier (a 5-hour journey) was about €100 (£85).
The construction of the HS1 High Speed rail line through North London, Thameside and Kent means that the previously-slow journey from London to the Channel Tunnel passes very quickly. Lille is reached from St Pancras in less than 90 minutes.
The direct trains from Lille to southern and eastern France and beyond travel around the east side of Paris on the Interconnection LGV lines and often stop at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport or Disneyland Paris (or both) before reaching the main LGV lines to Strasbourg, Lyon etc. South of Lyon, the LGV continues south to Avignon before branching east to Nice and west to Marseilles and beyond. The western line is not yet complete past the Marseilles spur and the construction works are often visible from the TGV as it meanders at slower speeds on the classic lines. Montpellier station itself is relatovely central and served by the city’s growing tram network.
At the end of March, I was in serious need of a holiday after 3.5 weeks hard work in Kuwait. I hadn’t actually had a proper holiday since the end of 2008 after the financial shock of buying a house and uncertainties about job security. Initial ideas for the holiday were to travel across the USA from east to west by train but that became expensive and logistically difficult when travelling alone. I had already decided to do as little flying as possible, having got fed up of flying and the stresses of airports and because I actually enjoy the window-gazing opportunites of train travel. I therefore looked closer to home and used the Man in Seat 61 website for inspiration.ë_I set upon Barcelona as a good destination, having been there 10 yearsë_previously, and started planning travel options.
While thereë_is an overnight sleeper train from Paris to Barcelona, I actually fancied seeing France rather than sleeping through it. I have wanted to visit Montpellier in the south west of France for many years and determined that I could get there esaily. The preferred option wasë_to change in Lille rather than Paris (therefore avoiding the trek across Paris by Metro) and there is a direct service to Montpellier from Lille that is a good connection with a mid-morning Eurostar train from London to Brussels.
From Montpellier to Barcelona is a relatively easy train journey with a change just on the Spanish border at Figueres. The new station there has been built as part of the high speed rail line from Paris to Madrid and Barcelona.
Until the advent of the iPhone, I always considered Apple to be style over substance and indeed actively avoided getting an iPod (preferring instead to use a basic MP3 player from Creative or a Sony Ericsson phone for music on the go). In late 2007, I tried a friend’s iPhone and was most impressed.. 6 months later I had succumbed to buying the iPhone 3G. While I’m not going to say the iPhone has transformed my life, it certainly has enriched it in many ways. Using the Internet on the move has become far easier, listening to music on the go more enjoyable … oh yes and I make a phone call every now and again.
It wasn’t just the good design of the iPhone that attracted me, though compared to previous mobiles I have owned it is far an away the best designed, but the ease of use and seamless and intuitive user interface (I can’t believe I just typed user interface with a straight face).
Of course, in 2010, the iPhone 4 came out and I have to confess that I had become a little too interested in the various rumours about the device .. which had started months before it was announced. I don’t think I ever seriously considered buying the 3Gs as it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the 3G.
The iPhone 4 was, to my mind, a far better device than the 3G (despite the well-publicised problems with reception and grip etc). I had also made the mistake of upgrading my 3G to the iOS 4 operating system that slowed my old phone down to a crawl… I wonder how many other upgraded on this basis..
In early 2011 it became obvious that my 2.5 year old Sony Vaio laptop would not last much longer (its battery had been replaced but still only lasted 5 minutes) and it was far too heavy for taking with me unless I had a real need. I started looking at alternatives and, after encouragement from the already-converted, decided to take the plunge and buy an Apple computer… the rather svelte and attractive Apple MacBook Air 11.6″.