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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Travel 2000 – 2004: Europe beckons!

The new Millennium’s travels got off to a start with the Seabird Group Conference at Wilhelmshavn, Germany, 17-19 March 2000. Travel was by boat from Harwich to Hamburg and then by train to Wilhelmshavn. Memorable was the long passage up the Elbe River where I saw hundreds of wintering Goosanders. In Wilhelmshavn my accommodation was a berth in a former lightship moored alongside the quay. Notable was a day trip to Helgoland, well known as a bird observatory on the migration route of many bird species. Noted also for its duty-free alcohol, imposing cliffs and the only place in Germany where seabirds breed.

2001 was the year I discovered the Eurolines bus service, departing from Victoria bus station to various points in Europe. Eurolines got me to Paris a couple of times to see the Paris Opera Ballet (Paquita and Manon) in the imposing Palais Garnier. My accommodation in Paris has always been at Mister Bed, Bagnolet (see footnote). Then two trips to Ghent in Belgium on sparrow business, the first by Eurolines and the second (April 22-28) I drove, took the car-ferry Dover-Ostende and camped just outside Ghent. Took in a ballet, Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' in Bruges.

March 2002 (24-26) saw me again on Eurolines for a trip to Paris to meet up with sons and partners to celebrate Carwyn's birthday, including a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower (and Mister Bed). Then began the start of my love affair with Ryanair with a visit to Berlin (April 19-21) with my PhD student Kate for an international conference on sparrows (yes I said sparrows). We saw a good deal of the city, including a boat trip tour on the River Spree but I was disappointed that the Brandenburg Gate was under wraps for restoration so I resolved to return (see My Ryanair Year).

Quick on the heels of Berlin (20-23 May 2002) was Ryanair to Germany via Salzburg (my only time ever in Austria) to visit a student Fiona on "industrial placement" (though surveying Golden Eagles in the Berchtesgaden National Park in the Bavarian mountains is hardly "industrial" in my parlance). This included a walk from my accommodation in Ramsau up a mountain to glacier level in a quest for Alpine Accentor (but this species had to wait until January 2005 in France). Notable for the trip was acquiring a taste for schnapps, but I have yet to find a British source of my favourite sort.

In December (12-15 2002) Ryanair conveyed me to Oslo Torp in Norway, then onward by bus and an internal flight form Oslo to Kristiansund. This was a spontaneous treat to myself to meet up with a young ballet dancer I had been corresponding with for some years on the internet. She danced memorably in the Nutcracker on my birthday, and her family spoiled me with magnificent Yuletide hospitality. Notable was a flock of some 100 Waxwings outside my bedroom window one morning.

The year concluded with another Eurolines trip to Paris (28 Dec - 1 Jan 2003) to see Paquita again at the Palais Garnier.

Mister Bed Mister Bed at Bagnolet is an institution unto itself. I discovered it because it happens to be two minute’s walk from the Eurolines coach terminal and on my first visit, with no accommodation booked, I asked the first person I met “Est-ce qu’il y a un hotel près d’ici qui n’est pas trop cher?” I was directed to Mister Bed. It is a basic but cheap and cheerful hostel type accommodation, with good serve-yourself breakfast. Moreover, it is not difficult to conceal a bag under the table into which can be secreted croissants, bread, cheese, ham, jam, in fact plenty to keep you going without having to buy lunch! The other good thing is that it’s right next to the terminus of Métro Line 3 (Station: Gallieni), the very line which goes into the city centre and has a stop at Opéra, the very target of my visits to Paris. Strongly recommended.

See also:

2005 - My Ryanair Year
200-2004: The World at my Feet


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