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Best of 2019 (5)


View Athens & Krefeld & Sheffield & Nottingham & Tbilisi 2 & Belfast & Faroes & Iceland & Orkney & Tbilisi & Sheffield 2 & Sheffield & Dublin & Belfast & Barcelona & Manchester & Dundee & Vilnius 3 on IainT's travel map.

Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens

Sports travel is the category for this award.

2019 brought several sports travel trips, mostly linked to my son’s ice hockey team’s games.

Those took me to Sheffield three times, and to Nottingham, Manchester and Dundee.

Downtown, Chinatown

Downtown, Chinatown

My visits to Sheffield now have a pattern - I stay at the Novotel. I take the train, although I did fly to Manchester once and take the train from there.

I went to Krefeld via Brussels and Köln on a sentimental journey to see ERC Ingolstadt play ice hockey. It was fun and they won. It was another journey combining plane and train.

DB Bahn ICE

DB Bahn ICE

Belfast hit my itinerary twice - also for ice hockey. In March it was to watch the home team play Dundee Stars, and in August to see them take on Augsburg.

Pub Life

Pub Life

As with previous years, I was looking for an opportunity for trip to watch rugby or horse racing, but nothing suitable ever came up. I did go to see Glasgow Warriors play in the final of the Pro 14 (rugby), but the game was in Glasgow and that hardly qualifies as travel.

My visit to Yerevan was a sports trip in a sense, as climbing Mt Aragats was a key part of it. I would have gone anyway, so the climb was not the only purpose in going.

Mt Ararat (Turkey) in Background

Mt Ararat (Turkey) in Background

This category produces an easy winner. It is my trip to Sheffield in April to watch my son playing ice hockey. The match was the playoff for the British Universities Division 1 Championship. Edinburgh (his team) as winners of the North group played against Cambridge as winners of the South pool. Edinburgh won.

Winners!

Winners!

It was the biggest achievement in his ice hockey “career” and it was wonderful for me to be able to be there to see it.

Posted by IainT 23:33 Archived in England Tagged trains england germany sport ireland transport belgium ice_hockey manchester köln krefeld belfast dundee yerevan armenia aragats sheffield Comments (0)

Best of 2019 (3)


View Athens & Krefeld & Sheffield & Nottingham & Tbilisi 2 & Belfast & Faroes & Iceland & Orkney & Tbilisi & Sheffield 2 & Sheffield & Dublin & Belfast & Barcelona & Manchester & Dundee & Vilnius 3 on IainT's travel map.

The Storehouse

The Storehouse

This category is for the various types of accommodation I enjoyed over the year.

What a variety!

When I think back over the last 12 months, that is my impression of my accommodation choices.

I had several Airbnb experiences - Barcelona, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Reykjavik and Athens. I was very happy with all of them, and indeed I went back to the Tbilisi place for a second visit. In fact I would happily return to any of them.

Apartment Terrace

Apartment Terrace

When it comes to chain hotels, yet again Novotel was my preference. I used them in Sheffield and Brussels. I used an Ibis in Nottingham and the Sofitel at Athens Airport - Accor brands as well.

I stayed at Marriott’s AC Hotel in Belfast twice and would do so again - price, location, style…

AC Hotel

AC Hotel

I stayed in quite a few airport hotels in 2019. I tried the Moxy brand at Aberdeen Airport - yes, I would use that one again. At Edinburgh Airport I stayed a Hampton by Hilton for the first time - I guess it is a budget/airport type sub-brand. It was OK, but nothing special.

Inter City Hotels seems to be a mainly German brand, part of the Steinberger group, and the one I used at Berlin Schönefeld Airport was ideal. It is a short walk from both the terminals and the railway station. It is great value for money - at least on a Sunday night.

Radisson Blu was my choice at Manchester Airport - it was good, but expensive. It is walking distance to the airport and the railway station, which was the attraction for me.

When it comes to independent hotels, my second visit to Georgia introduced me to several - 5 Rooms and Ilja’s in Tbilisi, Chateau Bruale in Tkhilitstskaro (in the Kakheti region) and Hotel Vache in Stepantsminda. I would happily go back to any of them - clean, comfortable, quiet, stylish and good value.

Ilja's

Ilja's

Chateau Bruale is a bit special because it is part of a vineyard, and I was there at harvest time. I also tried their 2017 produce. Zero air miles…

Top Class

Top Class

Hotel Vache is also special, but for its amazing views of Mt Kazbegi and the horses running free in the street outside.

Morning Visitors

Morning Visitors

I loved my first visit to the Faroe Islands and whilst my hotel (the 62⁰N) in Tórshavn ticked all the usual boxes, it was never going to be good value for money. It is a very expensive destination.

Kirkwall was an expensive destination too - at least in accommodation terms. Maybe it is an island thing. I had 2 nights in The Storehouse. It is excellent, but not cheap.

In Köln I chose the Lint Hotel. It is a small family run place, and really good. For me, the location was part of the attraction, being in the Altstadt and a short walk from the main railway station.

Lint Hotel

Lint Hotel

Last but certainly not least - I was back in Istanbul and stayed a few nights in the Terrace Guesthouse. It has been on my list of special places for a long time, and it has been a “Best of” winner before.

Sunrise, Terrace Guesthouse

Sunrise, Terrace Guesthouse

No doubt I have forgotten one or two, but I suppose that means they were not memorable.

In the end for my favourite of the year I have gone for the Hotel Vache.

Mt Kazbeg

Mt Kazbeg

In addition to the views and the horses outside my bedroom, the breakfasts were superb and the quality of the room was excellent.

Posted by IainT 00:27 Archived in Georgia Tagged barcelona greece germany athens turkey berlin istanbul belgium georgia aberdeen manchester brussels köln iceland orkney belfast tbilisi yerevan armenia reykjavik sheffield faroes kakheti nottingham kirkwall torshavn stepansminda tkhilitstskaro Comments (0)

Best of 2019 (2)


View Athens & Krefeld & Sheffield & Nottingham & Tbilisi 2 & Belfast & Faroes & Iceland & Orkney & Tbilisi & Sheffield 2 & Sheffield & Dublin & Belfast & Barcelona & Manchester & Dundee & Vilnius 3 on IainT's travel map.

The Ternan

The Ternan

This category is for any kind of transport other than flights, as they come into the airline category.

I used a good variety of train services during 2019. The one from Dublin to Belfast in March was a “first”. It is a joint venture between Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnròd Èireann. It was comfortable, but slow. That route cries out for a high speed rail service.

I got my high speed service in October, between Brussels and Köln. A German ICE in one direction and Thalys in the other. Both were delayed…

Köln Hbf

Köln Hbf

The service I used in January between Arlanda Airport and Uppsala is quick enough, although not high speed like the service into Stockholm. That made it affordable, of course.

In Britain, I used several train companies on my trips to Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham. I had mixed experiences.

I did not have as many boats trips as usual during the year. I took short ferry sailings in the Faroes (Tórshavn to Nólsoy) and Istanbul (Europe to Asia). The vapur in Istanbul was wonderful.

Vapur

Vapur

I took a couple of long distance (as opposed to local or airport) bus rides, which is unusual for me. One was a 2 hour journey from Klaksvík to Tórshavn. It was spectacular.

So was the 5 hour marshrutka trip from Tbilisi to Yerevan. It was uncomfortable, however.

Minibus Recovery Mode

Minibus Recovery Mode

I had rented cars in Georgia and Iceland, and they were definitely a good decision for getting around to see the places on my itineraries. I had a bike while I was in Reykjavík - it came with my Airbnb. I really enjoyed using it to get in and out of the city centre.

Sadcars' Sadcar

Sadcars' Sadcar

I used trams in Dublin and in Sheffield - they are still a novelty to Scots. We tore up our tram lines in the 50s and 60s to make more space for cars. Yes, quite.

I got back on the metro in Barcelona after an absence of 45 years. I got on the metro in Tbilisi for the first time. At £0.13 per journey, the Tbilisi metro has a lot going for it.

Metro

Metro

I also took a cablecar and a funicular in Tbilisi. Ideal for getting up those hills in warm weather.

Cablecar

Cablecar

Last, but most definitely not least, I took a scheduled helicopter service in the Faroes. Atlantic Airways operates inter island services and I flew from Tórshavn to Klaksvík. It was a 12 minute flight and going back on the bus took 2 hours.

Klaksvík Helipad

Klaksvík Helipad

A decision has not been easy. It came down to a choice between the minibus trip to Yerevan, or Atlantic Airways’ helicopter flight. Eventually I went for the helicopter experience for this year’s winner.

Posted by IainT 13:08 Tagged boats trains scotland ferries ireland turkey istanbul sweden transport georgia köln iceland tbilisi yerevan armenia reykjavik faroes torshavn klaksvík nólsoy Comments (0)

Köln - Travel Tips

overcast 6 °C
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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)

Krefeld

sunny 10 °C
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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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