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About Jean

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    Service Attendant

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Blue Mts, Australia
  • Interests
    travel, education, family, boating
  1. Don’t know how much time you have in London (there is never enough), but I just wanted to mention that St Pancras and Kings Cross stations are worth a visit. They are right next door to each other, but have very different and attractive decors. Apart from the attractive decor of St Pancras, it is interesting to see where the Eurostar departs (maybe you are going on it). Kings Cross also has great decor, trains depart from here to Scotland etc. Kings Cross features in Harry Potter books (if you have young relatives) and you will find the Harry Potter souvenir shop there. In London I have also enjoyed sitting on the top level of public double decker buses, right at the front if possible. Lots of routes, so there will be one to take you to a tourist site. There are also the tourist hop-on, hop-off buses of course. Jean
  2. An interesting bit of nitpicking there! Thanks for making that clearer. I forgot to mention the very useful www.seat61.com. Good for down to earth info and hints, also good prices for travel in Britain and Europe. I have asked questions there and received prompt answers. I am pretty sure Vauxhall is in Zone 1, if this has not yet been covered. Another thing about travel in Britain, France too - public toilets are pretty scarce. They are commonly to be found in cafes and restaurants, so take advantage of any you find. Sorry to be so basic, but I find it a really irritating feature.
  3. Hi, we purchased regular Oyster cards when in London about 18 months ago and found them excellent. We handed them in at our departure at the entrance to the Piccadilly line in Heathrow, can’t remember which terminal. I think all terminals can access the Piccadilly line. We were refunded our unused credit and our £5 deposit. I see on the Visitor Oyster Card website today that the deposit is not refundable, so that may have changed. Visitor Oyster Cards cannot be purchased in London, but the regular ones can. See www.tfl.gov.uk, if you have not already done so. I must say that the staff on all London train stations have the best, most helpful and friendly staff in the world. Do not hesitate to ask them. The Picadelly line is all stops. If you are likely to be tired on arrival, you may want to consider the Express from Heathrow. It is expensive, but I believe you can buy ahead on the internet for a better price. But if you are arriving in the morning and will have to wait until your hotel room is ready you may as well take the Picadelly line for a fraction of the price. I have visited London four times and love it more each time. A few tips: travel light, most stations have lifts, but some do not. We found this when we needed to change to the Circle line at Paddington. That small section did not have a lift. The first time we lugged heavy bags up and down flights of stairs, the second time a helpful staff member pointed out that we could take the next train one stop in the opposite direction, just walk across the platform there and catch the next train back. It worked! As a general rule, I would beware of any “deal” that restricts your travel time, it is a false economy to have to wait until mid morning to start your day. You may only be there once. There is food of all types in London, just look around before choosing. There are many 7 elevens or similar where you can pick up ready made sandwiches etc. There are nice pubs, lots of options. We never had a problem finding good value, reasonable meals. It is worth taking note of good places, say, early in the day, then going back there at night. Be prepared to walk, if possible. Both sides of the Thames River have excellent walking paths along the banks. and you see so much more. Be aware tube stations may have more than just the London Underground lines and other lines may get you somewhere faster. Ask staff. Re Bath: we have driven there and parked in the visitor parking around the perimeter, at a cost! It is a compact place and from memory the train station is close to everything. I recommend the hop-on, hop-off bus to get around. You will see lots and get off at the places you want to visit. There was a long queue for the Baths, maybe plan to get there early. Well worth seeing. If you are in the Bath area, we loved the nearby little city of Wells, has a beautiful cathedral and water from the Wells runs through the streets. Enjoy! Jean Check out everywhere you are going on the internet beforehand.
  4. Just to depart from the technical, we (my husband and I) hope to travel on Eurostar from London to Avignon, then return from Paris to London several weeks later. This would probably be in May. Is it worth paying for business class? Any tips in general? This will probably be our one and only trip on it. Thanks, Jean
  5. I also thoroughly enjoyed your report, both words and pictures. I am guessing you are a young person? I have noted in my travels that they tend to be treated with great suspicion in all parts of the world, usually for no valid reason. Even the neglect in the dining car could be connected with this tendency. They probably thought you wouldn't tip and I hope you didn't. Pity they couldn't present a more engaging salad with your lobster roll, those large slabs of raw carrot would only attract a rabbit. We travelled both directions on the Ocean several years ago and had to ask crew to make up our beds in the morning. This was after they had gathered in a group to chat in an empty room nearby for over an hour and we were sitting on unmade beds instead of chairs. I did expect better of VIA staff, but it didn't detract too much from the overall experience.
  6. Did this trip a few years back, finding it after a bit of research. It is a complete mystery to me why it is not marketed worldwide. In Australia we get ample marketing of the Rocky Mountaineer, but no-one has heard of the Skeena. We chatted to a passenger from Toronto, who thought he would give his travel agent some business when he went to book. The travel agent insisted there was no such train, so the man went home and booked on the internet. The scenery is stunning on both days, both mountains and forests. It also travels along several rivers. The taxi issue is one I have mentioned in reply to several queries about this train. We chose a close-by motel, about 5-10 minutes easy walk and were glad we did, as there seemed to be few taxis, which had to make repeat trips to convey all the waiting passengers.. Not so bad on arrival in the evening, but could make you anxious in the morning. We traveled in summer, in first class (called totem class maybe). The food was great. I did investigate the offerings available for economy, which seemed pretty basic, so if anyone chooses this, maybe bringing what you can for at least day 1, would be a good idea. One of the pluses for this train is that you can pick up the Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert, for points northward. I also loved the random stops along the way to pick up/drop off locals. This is no doubt part of the purpose of this train. I remember the train stopping somewhere very remote to deliver something, mail or parcels, can't remember, to a place which did not have any other access. The staff were tops, easy-going, friendly, but efficient. I say if anyone can take this trip, do it. Who knows how long it will run.
  7. I like Mark Twain's description. I have only been there twice, but it just didn't seem like summer, even though it was. In addition to your other weather comments, we encountered wind, but then we loved watching the windsurfers on the bay. I noticed that public transport seemed crowded most of the time, so maybe the cab would work better with kids.
  8. I have been to SF twice and really like the sea lions. They are, of course, free! I did read somewhere that they may go away somewhere at certain times of the year, but I am not sure about that. Just walk along the waterfront at Fishermans Wharf, you will hear them before too long. I also liked the little boats that you have to climb down a ladder to get on. That would depend on the tide. For a small fee ($10?) we had a trip out to the Golden Gate bridge. They were in a tiny harbour. Does anyone know if that guy that hides behind some leaves and then jumps out at people is still there? We saw him both times and laughed and laughed. So simple and yet somehow so funny! Must be my simple mind. Sausalito is nice too and can be reached by a ferry both ways. Yosemite is about 5 hours each way by coach. I was amazed that we were the only people actually staying overnight, most people came for the day, which I guess gave them a few hours of walking around in the valley, then another 5 hours of boring driving back. Not worth it for the day IMHO. Go another time when you can give it the time it deserves. Another free thing, go look at the very steep windy street (Lombard St?) and maybe walk up or down. It was fun seeing the cars queue up to drive it and was nicely decorated with flowers etc. Have a great holiday.
  9. Great idea, gets kids tuned in to public transport. Going back a few years, another teacher and I took a similar size group of Fifth Graders on a week-long camp. We took a hired bus to the train station, then a journey of about two hours by train, and then another hired bus to our destination. As we all know, 55 children are not likely to be quiet, so my fellow teacher and I were very amused to watch a passenger board our car (it had two levels and we were downstairs) and spend quite a while deciding whether to go upstairs (no kids and peaceful) or join us downstairs (reasonably well-behaved kids, but loud). We didn't think that anyone would stop even think about it. More recently, I have taken 3rd graders to Taronga Zoo on Sydney Harbour, using train (regional), another train (underground), ferry and then public bus. Did this yearly for about 6 years and never lost anyone. The cost to families was minimal and kids learned lots about public transport. I find that if children are taken places by bus/coach, if there are curtains, they tend to draw them across and never even look out of the windows. So start planning for the next trip, Oreius!
  10. Well, I can't see how any comparison can be made unless both meals were eaten by the same person each time, and we have a report on each one. I'm not so worried about "the look" unless it is really poor. I am more interested in the meal itself. I am a bit scared to bring up another aspect of this discussion, but... I have travelled quite a bit in each country and find that restaurant/cafe/diner food in Canada is much nicer than in the US. After a week of eating out in the US I am often feeling quite ill. The food seems too greasy, cheesy, overcooked and there is just too much of it. In Canada, often (not always!) it is lighter, fresher, simpler, crisper, less sauces, cheese, dressings. In other words, more like Australian food. Maybe that is why I like it better, my digestion is used to that style of food. So US citizens may naturally prefer Amtrak food to VIA, it is just more like what they are used to. I have had meals on the Canadian and the Ocean, and they were both open style seating, no booths on the Ocean at that time. The only dessert on the Ocean was a berry slice, take it or leave it. I took it and it was quite good. I forget the mains, but they were quite acceptable and didn't feel re-heated. Jean
  11. These objects are reported to be over 2,200 kms south-west of the south-west corner of Australia, if that makes sense. This is a very remote area. Aircraft are said to be there now (but still searching), plus a merchant ship is nearby. Our news media is reporting poor visibility. One object is reported to be 24 metres long and the other smaller.
  12. You didn't waste much time getting the 2014 series up and running. I am glad to see it is possible to prepare those little discs of sausage so they are edible, even enjoyable. I have tried them several times in the US (usually with eggs for breakfast), but always wonder why I did. Likewise scones and gravy... once. Don't worry about the music culture, you are exploring a whole different aspect of culture. Really enjoyed these recent episodes. Jean
  13. So it seems your main priority is to ride a Brewster bus, so obviously go with that, bearing in mind that they will probably travel the Icefields Parkway at quite a high speed. I remember seeing them travelling fast in that area, which I felt was a pity as the scenery was spectacular. I am hoping they make a stop at the glacier/restaurant area, so you can experience that. I think (it was a few years back) Brewster also runs the special "buses" that go up onto the glacier. They were a little expensive, so we opted to walk up to the glacier on our own for free. You may need cold weather clothes for this stop. You will see plenty of great scenery on the Skeena, and if you are lucky, like we were, the engineer will stop/slow the train at the best views. Enjoy your trip, whatever your mode of travel. Jean
  14. Jean

    Italian rail travel

    I have never travelled by train in Italy, but I have received helpful information from the seat61 website (the man in seat 61) which seems to cover train travel in Europe and Britain. Google something like seat61, Rome to Palermo, same for Milan. Somewhere on seat61 there is also a forum if you can't easily find the info you are looking for. Jean
  15. A few years back we (myself and husband), did a very similar trip. In Prince George we stayed at the DaysInn IIRC. It was good in that it was a level walk of maybe 5-10 minutes from the station, quite doable trundling overnight luggage. At that time anyway, the VIA train crew assured us it was OK to leave our main luggage on the train. This was a medium type place, quite reasonable. We were glad of its proximity to the station, as there were few taxis and there was a long wait for those who needed them. The few taxis went backwards and forwards delivering passengers to more distant destinations, but I would have been anxious in the morning if we had to depend on scarce taxis to get us back to the station. Can't remember where we stayed in Prince Rupert, but I can check on that. There is a great Indian museum there, well worth a visit. We were a little disappointed in Lake Louise, in that it was very "touristy". I know that we were tourists too, but we like places that are less crowded and developed. I wouldn't dream of paying such a huge amount. Presuming you will have a hire car, Banff is close by and there should be much more reasonable places to stay and you can drive a bit to see views just as good in more relaxed conditions. I felt the lovely lake was spoiled by the multi-storey hotel buildings.