A Travellerspoint blog

November 2019

Sheffield - Love or Hate?

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Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens

Sheffield is on my “frequent visit” list.

It is not entirely a matter of choice. Apart from one occasion, I have always been there to watch my son play ice hockey. It is where British Universities ice hockey has its end of season tournament, and Sheffield Universities’ team has always been in his team’s pool for the league competition.

The city suffered badly during the Thatcher era, losing a lot of its heavy industry, although steel is an important part of the economy even now. Ice Sheffield is in the Don Valley, so past and present steel industry is all around.

Canal Basin

Canal Basin

The city centre has been redeveloped to a significant degree, and lots of it looks great if you enjoy modern architecture. A lot of it remains quite grimy, however.

Although several hotels are available close to Ice Sheffield, I almost always stay in the city centre. I could mention one dreadful hotel experience there - the Holiday Inn - and one which was disappointing - the Hilton. I usually stay at the Novotel. It is modern and stylish and it does not have a function suite, so it is quiet. I have found it to be reliable. It is a short walk from the railway station, so it is convenient for me too.

Novotel

Novotel

Finding something good to eat in Sheffield has been a problem. I have tried several places, and usually end up disappointed to some degree. A few times I enjoyed good food at Café Rouge, but it is gone now, replaced by another chain restaurant - which is what the city centre seems to attract.

On my last visit I found a great wee coffee shop close to the Novotel - HowSt in Howard Street.

HowSt

HowSt

I also tried a Malaysian place - Noodle Doodle - for a dinner. It was a mixed experience and I am in no rush to go back.

Noodle Doodle

Noodle Doodle

The end result is mixed feelings about the city. I have some good memories of the place, and some dreadful ones.

Posted by IainT 12:10 Archived in England Tagged england sheffield Comments (0)

Nottingham - Travel Tips

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Hopkinson - the Store

Hopkinson - the Store

The city is not easy to get to from central Scotland, unless you enjoy 5-6 hours driving (mostly on very busy English motorways) or the equivalent on a meandering cross country train.

I was in Sheffield anyway, so getting to Nottingham was just a 55 minute journey… on a rambling cross country train. I paid £4.60 for my one way ticket on Northern Rail. I got discounts for paying in advance on a “this train only” basis, and for having a senior railcard. It was fine, and ran on time, even if it stopped a lot.

Nottingham College

Nottingham College

In that part of England you have to be very aware of whether your ticket is valid with other train operators. East Midlands Railway (EMR) also serves the route, and my ticket was not valid on their trains.

Downtown Nottingham

Downtown Nottingham

I flew home from East Midlands Airport with Loganair. The airport is 40 minutes by express bus from Nottingham. The service runs every 30 minutes during the day and costs £6.50 single. It is not very “express” in fact, and snakes around quite a bit on the way to stop at a university, a park and ride, a business park and a freight distribution centre.

East Midlands Airport

East Midlands Airport

The airport is small and was very efficient, no doubt on account of being almost deserted. I suppose Monday lunchtime is off peak.

Airport Lunch

Airport Lunch

Loganair was fantastic. The flight to Edinburgh left 20 minutes early, and arrived 30 minutes early. Within 10 minutes of the plane arriving at the gate I was on my bus to Fife, to connect with a train home. I paid £58.92 for the one way flight (hand luggage only) which is just about half what I paid for my train ticket from Fife to Sheffield.

Scotland's Airline

Scotland's Airline

In between, I stayed at the Ibis in Nottingham. After being used to Novotel’s level of service, Ibis feels quite cheap, but it was - £40.85 including breakfast. My stay was a Sunday night, and I imagine that will be the cheapest night of the week. It was clean and comfortable, and it was a buffet breakfast with hot food. The location was ideal for me - in the city centre close to the railway station and the ice arena.

Ibis Breakfast

Ibis Breakfast

I did not venture into any of the city’s restaurants - the massive hotel breakfast I had in Sheffield skewed my appetite a bit. However, I did enjoy a coffee shop near the railway station as I recovered from the journey.

Hop's - the Coffee Shop

Hop's - the Coffee Shop

Hop’s is quirky. It is part of a small second hand “department store”. I did not test my bargain hunting skills, but enjoyed the coffee and cake in a relaxing and friendly venue.

Posted by IainT 13:54 Archived in England Tagged trains england sport transport flights ice_hockey airlines nottingham Comments (0)

Köln - Travel Tips

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Köln Hbf

Köln Hbf

I arrived in Köln on a DB Bahn (German railways) ICE from Brussels. By booking well in advance on a “specified train and no changes” ticket, and with a discount for my Official Old F*rt status, I paid €30 for a 1st class seat. It was very fast and very comfortable. Not all the journey was on dedicated high speed track, but still.

The journey time should have been about 2 hour, but we were delayed slightly on that shared track by a broken down train ahead of us.

My return journey was on a Thalys train, Thalys being the multinational version of the French TGV which serves Brussels, Amsterdam and Düsseldorf (via Köln). The cost was €59 in Premium. Thalys operates 3 classes - Standard, Comfort and Premium. The difference between the latter two seems to be free food and drink.

Altstadt Backstreets

Altstadt Backstreets

It was all going well until the train broke down at Liège. Eventually all the passengers got off and we caught an SNCB intercity to Brussels arriving 85 minutes late. Whilst frustrating, the train crew did a good job of keeping us informed and the getting us onto the next Brussels train. The delay entitled me to compensation. At the time of writing I have been offered 25% of the ticket price. I am confident I am entitled to 50%. We will see.

In Köln I stayed at the Lint Hotel, in the Altstadt less than 10 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof. The room was excellent and so was the breakfast. We did have one glitch however. Their reception is not open after 6pm on a Sunday and I seem to have missed their email about the self check in arrangements. The issue was quickly sorted out by a phone call, however.

Lint Hotel

Lint Hotel

It cost me €103, including breakfast and city tax. Good value.

Hotel Room View

Hotel Room View

My brief stay in the city did not involve visiting any restaurants, so they will have to wait for the next time. Certainly the area around the hotel, and between there and the station, offered plenty possibilities.

Posted by IainT 23:42 Archived in Germany Tagged trains germany transport köln Comments (0)

Brussels - Travel Tips

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When in Brussels...

When in Brussels...

I flew to and from Brussels (from Edinburgh) with Brussels Airlines (the successor to Sabena, for those who can remember before 9-11). The cost was £104 return, with hand luggage only. Both flights left a little late, but arrived more or less on time.

Otherwise, they were pretty good. Perhaps I have rose tinted spectacles of course, as Sabena was a favourite.

I used the SNCB airport trains to travel to and from the city centre. It is important to know which station you want to use in the city - Centrale (close to Grand Place), Midi (where many Thalys trains arrive and depart) or Nord. The train costs €8.90 each way to any of those stations, and runs about every 20 minutes with a journey time of about 20 minutes.

SNCB Cool

SNCB Cool

Over the years I have stayed in so many Brussels hotels it makes my head spin, but like most cities, location is important. For this trip I wanted a place in the city centre and close to one of the railway stations. I fixed on something near Gare Centrale as I know there are lots of places to eat around there.

When it came to price and value for money, the Novotel was the one I chose. I am in their loyalty programme, so that usually gives a 10% discount. It was their hotel at rue du Marché Aux Herbes, 100 metres from the Gare Centrale. The room cost me €127, without breakfast.

Novotel

Novotel

Breakfast was going to cost €22. I found it difficult to imagine what kind of breakfast is worth that much, especially as I would be out of the hotel for 8am to catch a train. I opted for 2 croissants from a nearby bakery.

Dinner on the evening I arrived was quick, cheap and easy - a small tray at an Exki close to the hotel.

Posted by IainT 11:18 Archived in Belgium Tagged trains restaurants transport belgium flights brussels airlines brexit Comments (0)

Krefeld

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October in Krefeld

October in Krefeld

I bet you have not seen many travel blogs about Krefeld!

The road less travelled (again)...

It is a city of 235,000 very close to Düsseldorf and Duisburg. I traveled there and back by train from Köln, which takes about 45 minutes on a DB Bahn regional express.

My visit was 100% for ice hockey. Like ERC Ingolstadt, Krefeld EV plays in the DEL - the top German professional league. As an Ingolstadt fan when I was visiting the city regularly over 6 years, it is something I have missed in the years since those visits stopped.

Warm Up

Warm Up

In that time I have often thought of a short trip back to Germany to see a game or two, but their games at the right times and places have never coincided with my ability to make the trip. Finally it worked out as part of my F*ck Brexit escapade in Brussels and Köln.

They have a great arena - small like the one in Ingolstadt - but with more seating than in Ingostadt. The sport is not a cheap option for a DEL game and my prime location seat cost me €48.60. A standing ticket costs only €17.60, on the other hand.

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Good (basic) food and beer are part of the fun at German games, and I enjoyed my Bratwurst and Pilsener before the game. Then I enjoyed Currywurst and more Pilsener at the second break. The beer was not as good as in Ingolstadt, needless to say, but compared to the chemical cocktail you would get in a British arena, it was nectar. Food and drink are also much cheaper than in a British arena, which makes up for the higher ticket prices.

Ice Hockey Accessories

Ice Hockey Accessories

It was a close game, with Ingolstadt edging it 2:1. I was happy. The locals were not.

As for the rest of the city, my experience is limited to the taxi ride from the city centre to the arena (about 2 miles) and the walk back. My impression was of affluent, leafy suburbs contrasting with a slightly grimy inner city. That description to apply to so many cities, of course. The architecture was very different to what I am used to from Bavaria.

I suspect they do not get many visitors - around the station I could not find any visitor information either in general, or - what I was looking for - public transport routes and how to buy tickets.

Posted by IainT 00:21 Archived in Germany Tagged germany sport ice_hockey köln krefeld Comments (0)

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