Roaming around Europe by rail with Railbookers

Having travelled extensively across Europe over the years, we were looking to explore some new destinations and have a bit of an adventure.

We became familiar with Railbookers at the beginning of this year and were impressed with the selection, flexibility and independent nature of their holidays. They listened to what we were looking to put together and created a holiday that included everything we had on our list, whilst also making some great recommendations themselves.

We began our trip with a delicious dinner at The St Pancras Grand – a fitting start to our first rail holiday.

GenevaAfter staying in London overnight, we boarded Eurostar and sped our way to Paris. We know Paris well but the transfer between stations is so easy and we had plenty of time to pick up some French treats for lunch at Gare de Lyon before catching our next train direct to Geneva. With the Paris heat, it was a welcome relief to board the high speed train with air conditioning and very comfortable seats. Having never really travelled by train on the continent before, we were struck by the ample amount of luggage storage on the trains, something that we were not expecting.

When we arrived in Geneva, the hotel for our first night was a stone’s throw from the station – incredibly convenient and we were checked in within 20 minutes after arriving into Geneva station. Having never been to Geneva before, we headed to the Lake, again, just a short stroll and enjoyed walking along the water before crossing the bridge to the old town. We were spoilt for choice of places to stop for something to eat and drink.

We had booked 2 nights in Geneva and we were glad we did – what a lovely city to wander around and explore. We particularly enjoyed visiting Parc de la Grange with its spectacular array of roses.

Lake MaggioreThe next part of the adventure saw us catching a morning train, after a leisurely breakfast, on what we had been told was one of the most scenic parts of the trip. We travelled from Geneva through to Milan via the Alps along the Simplon Pass. The view from our window onboard the train was incredible; from the lakes, to the mountains, through the tunnels and past the vineyards, it was an ever changing view and we even saw snow on the peaks. A particular highlight for us was travelling alongside Lake Maggiore as we crossed the Italian border.

When we arrived in Milan Centrale, we had just under an hour to make our connection onto our onward service to Bologna. This was very straightforward and more than enough time.

In a little over an hour, we were in Central Bologna and on our way to the Al Cappello Rosso Hotel; the location of the hotel could not have been better and the size of the room was one of the most generous we have experienced in a city centre hotel. Thanks Railbookers for suggesting this hotel. We were also thrilled to be upgraded upon arrival.

Porticoes of BolognaBologna was everything we hoped for and more – a beautiful city, famed for its 38kms of porticoes and a food and wine paradise. We had originally been inspired to visit Bologna after watching Rick Stein’s weekend away series and we were not disappointed. From the ragu Bolognese and the pasta arrabiata, to the best antipasti we have ever eaten at the oldest delicatessen in Bologna, Tamburini, we ate our way through 4 nights in this lovely city.

On Saturdays and Sundays, central Bologna is closed to traffic which restricts the route that the tourist trains and buses can take but equally makes it more pleasant to explore the city by foot.

Apse of Basilica of Sant'Apollinare, Ravenna by Ludvig14 [CC BY-SA 3.0]Railbookers had also booked tickets for us to travel out to Ravenna for the day, from Bologna. Another spectacular train journey passing through Monza and countless apricot orchards. As a UNESCO World Heritage site for its early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, we visited 4 of the recommended sites and enjoyed more delicious food in the central piazza before returning by train to Bologna.

Our 7-night Railbookers holiday came to an end with a flight back from Bologna to London Heathrow which went without a hitch. What a fantastic holiday. In fact, we enjoyed the trip so much that we have already booked our next  holiday with Railbookers – next year we’re off to Spain to visit Madrid, Toledo, Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela.

Thanks to all at Railbookers for such a special trip – we loved every minute of it.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Railbookers.

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David & Margaret Pearson

Retired silver travellers & rail enthusiasts

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