A Travellerspoint blog

January 2020

Aboard The TransEuropean Express!

overcast 8 °C

Good afternoon from Warsaw where we have 30 minutes to enjoy all the delights that platform 5 at Wschodnia station has to offer.

Yesterday after getting off the Eurostar we dumped our bags and went on a 2 hour free walking tour of the Marais area. Then back to Gare du Nord for a pizza at Restaurant de Bari. I've been there a few times now and would recommend it if you want something to eat between trains in Paris. Reasonably priced and quick. Back to collect the bags then one stop on Metro 5 to Gare de l'Est where we had just a few minutes to wait before our platform was announced.


Even alongside numerous high speed trains including TGVs and DB's ICE sets, the 8 gleaming new Russian Railways sleeper coaches each with their own imaculately dressed attendant was an imposing sight. The once a week appearance of this train was even getting attention from other rail staff and has been turning heads at every station we have trundled through. We had our visas checked before we got on by our friendly attendant. The train has 2 and 4 berth 1st class compartments and 1 and 2 berth business class compartments (fares from €1000 single), each carriage conveying it's own bar compartment!
After a good, hot shower and a half decent night's sleep we had breakfast in the Polish restaurant car which has now been detached. Tonight a Russian restaurant car will join the train.


According to the Belarus page of the Foreign Office travel advice website: "The Russian government has informed the UK government that there are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the Russia-Belarus state border". So naturally we are heading straight for it. I haven't read any reports of Brits having any issues on this train but we will still be feeling a little nervous later on tonight! As far as I can tell, Belarus and Russia have a common travel area, a bit like the EU, so if we get into Belarus, we ok to Moscow!

Finally, the elephant in the room! The Mongolia-China border remains open. The China Vietnam border remains open. Most trains in China are running. Singapore (also on route) is denying entry to anyone that has visited China within the last 14 days. I have a quote for specialist travel insurance to cover my visit and I have a planned alternative route to avoid Hubei. Some news reports are suggesting the number of cases may peak next week. I need to make a decision by Monday when I'm due to leave Moscow.

Thanks for reading, update from Moscow tomorrow (if they let us in)!

P.S - The travel map at the top of the page showing our route and location is now up and running

Posted by around129 06:43 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Le (not very) Grand Départ

overcast 10 °C


On Monday 2nd October 1872, Phileas Fogg made a bet (presumably drunk) with his fellow toffs at The Reform private members Club that he could circumnavigate the earth in 80 days. He set off for Charing Cross station that same evening, leaving his pals smoking on their pipes trying to decide what they would spend their £10,000 on.

147 years, 3 months and 29 days later (and 31 years, 4 months and 6 days after the great Michael Palin), I'm attempting to do the same, admittedly by a completely different route and in a considerably slower 129 days. To be fair, Fogg had the sizeable advantage of being a work of fiction and Palin had a BBC film and production crew with him. I have forgotten to pack my copy of Around the World in 80 Days so I can't give a direct quote, but Fogg was also vocal in his dislike of tourists and tourism, preferring to travel for travel's sake or the challenge, rather than to actually see anything! I intend to see a few things on the way.

In Jules Verne's story, Fogg takes with him his "valet" Jean Passepartout (which I think literally translates as "goes everywhere"). I'm pleased to say I have my own Passepartout for the first few days of the trip, although I'm carrying Emma's bag, so again we are not sticking to the script!

The trip is the result of nearly 3 years of gazing at my phone and laptop looking at train, bus and ferry routes, cruise ship relocation moves and cargo ships wondering whether I could get away with something like this, financially, with my employer and with Emma of course! The first month or so was planned with fine detail. With 4 or 5 visas required for the first 3 weeks alone, just getting everything together on that side of things was a fiddle. Therefore it has been completely heartbreaking to watch the news and see everything fall apart over the past few days. It seems terribly ungrateful of me given the wonderful opportunity I have to be able to do this sort of trip, to be setting out this morning feeling a bit miserable. However given the timing of the virus outbreak in China, I feel entitled to feel at least a little pissed off! My planned route takes me right through the middle of Hubei province. Mongolia has closed it's border with China, but at this moment is continuing to allow trains through. The border with Vietnam is also open. However with the Foreign Office advising against all but essential travel, I would be in China without any insurance. There is no alternative without taking a flight, which defeats the object of the trip. I'm looking into specialist insurance and a 3 day dash across China staying as far away from the city of Wuhan as possible but I'll have to keep an eye on the situation.

Anyway enough moping. This was meant to be a transport blog! After a quick photo at The Reform Club, we took the Piccadilly line to King's Cross St. Pancras to meet John for breakfast. John is also starting out on his own travels to Moscow via Rotterdam and Berlin. All being well we will be meeting up again on Saturday. After suddenly realising our Eurostar was at 09:22 and not 09:47 (a good start) we made a mad dash to the check in gates and were relieved to find the security area quieter than usual! We are now safely on board Eurostar 9014 and have just arrived in France. Tonight we board the weekly Russian Railways TransEuropean Express direct to Moscow, a train I have wanted to catch for as long as I can remember. Another update tomorrow hopefully!


Posted by around129 01:58 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (4)

Not Long To Go!

7 °C


In the unlikely event that this attempt has worked... Hello! Welcome to my blog. I never understood the difference between a website and a blog, but a blog sounds more hipster and I'm not 31 yet you know.

Loads of people have asked if I was going to somehow do updates on my progress (or lack of, possibly). I was very reluctant for three reasons. Firstly I'm not sure my I.T skills or my 15 year old laptop are up to it. Secondly if it all goes tits up in the first 5 days it's a very public humiliation! Thirdly and most importantly I have read lots of travel writing during the last two years and much of it is conceited tripe. I will try to avoid the selfies with admiring locals followed by some amazing facts I (or you) could just as easily have Googled and try to make it more of an online diary. There will be detailed updates on bowel movements and probably a lot of photos of trains.

For those that don't know - My original plan was just to travel as far as possible from home by train, something I have fancied doing for years. Then I decided to go as far as I could by train AND bus. Then I found out about a cargo ship I could travel on to Australia and it quickly snowballed into a rough plan of getting round the world without flying. I'm setting off from London on Thursday morning (30th Jan).

So if you're interested in keeping track of where I am I think you can subscribe to this page by clicking the link in the top right corner. I assume that means you will get an email when I update it, but who knows, I'm learning as I go along!

I think this is already too wordy for a blog post so bye for now :)

Posted by around129 11:05 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

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