Travel without Planes (Part 1)

One of the things that I care most strongly about is the environment. I always have been a worrier and remember the first time I heard about global warming thirty years ago, at secondary school. I started to campaign then for a better understanding but knowledge of this subject was still very limited as the press seemed relatively ignorant to the matter.

Having done a geography degree which focused on landscapes and changes in the environment, my mind was opened to ways in which the devastating effects of global warming could potentially be reduced or even reversed to some extent. One really obvious way included using aeroplanes less. Planes pump huge amounts of carbon and other pollutants right into the part of the atmosphere which can influence the climate.

On that note, I have decided to reflect upon my own travels and share with you some brilliant places to go on holiday which are affordable and reachable by land or sea, rather than using air transport.

Luxembourg by Train

When I was looking for a lovely destination to visit by rail, Luxembourg grabbed me as it was really intriguing, nestled between Germany, France and Belgium. It was an easy ride via Paris (taking two hours to Gare Du Nord and then a further two to the centre of Luxembourg City).

Beautifully nestled on hillsides. Luxembourg.

I found a quaint and affordable hotel just opposite the main train station where I positioned myself for a five day stay. As far as city breaks go, this was perfect for me as just staying for a weekend would have been rushing things and I also wanted to visit some countryside locations and take in some historic sites.

Vianden Castle. Well worth a visit.

One such visit took me to Vianden Castle which overlooked a beautiful little town which was gently parted in two by a scenic river. With a nice little coffee shop that provided great lunches and some in-tact rooms packed with cannon balls, furniture and photos showing when the castle was used as a film set (including ‘George and the Dragon’ 2004), this attraction definitely didn’t disappoint. Just be prepared for a steep walk up to the castle or catch a ride to the top of the hill.

The river through Vianden.

As for the fascinating city itself, it was full of life, with a vibrant area of restaurants and bars not far from the heart of politics. The Duchy of Luxembourg has a Duke and also a Prime Minister. Visiting the parliament (known as the Chamber of Deputies) and PM’s residence alongside a historic Cathedral is easy to do as they are very close to each other.

Chamber of Deputies

I was also lucky enough to spend time at the very modern and architectural wonder that is the Philharmonie du Luxembourg. In here we heard some incredible live music played by a talented full orchestra at what was a mesmerising event. The building itself was stunning and it felt very cosy inside. The dress code was smart and the snacks were great (not even particularly pricey).

Philharmonie du Luxembourg

Overall, in bars and restaurants prices were typically on a level with those in London. So do make sure you have some Euros with you or some available funds in your bank account. Luxembourg is a busy, independent state which hosts some EU buildings including the European Commission. It is friendly and clean on the whole, with plenty of fashionable stores as well as some appetising menu choices.

I would recommend taking the Eurostar to Gare Du Nord and enjoying the double decker train to Luxembourg city, then exploring the city itself for a few days. Luxembourg is modern, stylish and full of energy. Follow this up with a visit to one of the beautiful surrounding towns, situated within half an hour from the centre. A daily train fare is very cheap (a 1 day ticket to anywhere in the duchy is just €6) as Luxembourg actively encourages using public transport.

Next Time…

I will be continuing my series of blogs about travelling into Europe by land or sea with a review of my trip to Belgium.