Subject: Re: Questions from a first timer to Europe!
Hi Brenda...

You've gotten some pretty good answers from some others, but it looked like some clarification might be needed. For instance, if you have a Eurailpass you can get a discount on the Eurostar, but you do have to validate your pass and start the clock running. Depending on your plans this may or may not be important.

We had Eurailpasses on our first trip to Europe a decade ago, and while we kind of liked the first class travel we were forced to accept we never did it again because it became apparent that were it not for the long, long trip we took, London-Brussels-Copenhagen-Stockholm-Helsinki by train, the pass would have been far more costly than simply buying tickets. In fact, compared to second class tickets it still cost too much. But I will add one thing, that for a full Eurailpass with unlimited travel the pass gives you a certain freedom. No wondering if you really want to spend 20 euros apiece for that sudden side trip. No wondering if you want to use up one of your five travel days for that side trip. Just get on a train and go. I'm glad we did it once, and on our first trip to Europe. For you the Eurailpass could be good since it also covers such things as some of the ferries on the Rhine.

Last year we flew Ryanair from Stansted to what they call Stockholm, but which is really Svasta Airport some 100 km south of Stockholm. It's barebones, stampede seating (at least we had a small child and got first chance at seats). Svasta's terminal was really just a big barn (Ryanair was it's only airline) and we had to take a very crowded shuttle coach on a more than one-hour ride into central Stockholm. I say this because it indicates you might want to look more closely at the Grodningan connection.

Stansted is rather far outside London and you will probably want to take the Stansted Express into London; the train station is right in the airport. See http://www.stanstedexpress.com/ It ain't cheap and takes you to London Liverpool Street station.

European train stations are pretty easy to use, and generally have elevators and escalators for changing levels. But for an American who has never been somewhere like Grand Central Station they can seem huge and bewildering at first. But they have clear electronic display boards showing trains, times and platforms so just relax. do note that connection times can be pretty short; yes, you can change trains in 15 minutes at most stations since the trains are almost always on time, but, yes, ti will be a hustle. When time is going to be short we get our bags and go stand at the end of the car by the door.

Train platforms are not level with coach floors, so you always have a couple of steps. Our system on arrival is that I immediately descend to the platform and my wife quickly starts passing the bags to me. When boarding we do pretty much the same, in reverse.

Some train cars may have luggage racks at the ends near the doors. This is way handy; for a certain secure sense we take a cable type bicycle lock and thread it through our luggage handles and around some part of the rack. All train cars have overhead racks above the seats, and they are usually quite more generous than the overheads on a plane. We have hoisted some rather large bags overhead, but it does take some strength.

If you want seat reservations do get them. They are only a few euros when bought in Europe and can give you the peace of mind of knowing you will have seats together. Still, with a pass it means having to go to a ticket window instead of simply boarding. of course, on trains where seat reservations are required you will have to go tot he window anyway. You can do this at almost any train station in Euroep no matter what country you need reservations for, so you can do it well in advance, something that can be wise for reservation-required trains.

Regards, DAVE HATUNEN Tucson Arizona, out where the cacti grow