Ed and I both decided not to fly any more, independently, about 4 years ago. It was an easy decision for both of us. We both enjoy slow travelling, slow living, eating etc, and zooming around on a jam packed, stuffy aeroplane isn’t our cup of tea. And like cars, we really don’t see flying as any more convenient than any other form of travel.
We love travelling by train and bus. It is easy, increasingly cheap, eco friendly compared to flying and really relaxing. And it can be a wonderfully convivial, friendly experience.
After our wedding last September we decided to go to Spain for our honeymoon. Spain has great memories and significance for Ed who spent months walking around the country and walked the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.
He wanted to take me to some of the places he had loved and we decided on a circular route through Spain, starting at Santander, going through Madrid to Grenada then on to windy Tarifa. From there on we would explore the south west of Spain for a while before returning slowly to Santander via Seville. There were so many more places we wanted to see but three weeks was the maximum we could afford (thank you to family who generously funded most of our honeymoon!).
We travelled to Spain on the ferry from Plymouth to Santander, a 20 hour crossing. We got the train to Plymouth from Bristol (unfortunately Stroud, although having great direct trains to the east and London has no south bound line, meaning changing in Swindon or Cheltenham). We were completely shattered after the wedding and the big clear up day the day after, so getting on to the ferry and being able to do absolutely nothing for a whole 20 hours was a real luxury! and the ship was pretty luxurious too, the Pont Aven, more like a 4 star hotel than the ferries of old. We boarded, found our cabin and then settled down on deck with a drink to watch England drift gently away.
That evening we ate a fantastic meal in the ‘posh’ restaurant – complete with grand paino and a huge buffet of various delicious things including wonderful seafood… as many langoustines as you could eat! – and drank a brandy out on the deck looking out over the blackness and sea foam behind the boat.
Our cabin was tiny but very comfortable and in the morning i was treated to a cup of tea in bed by my new husband! greatly refreshed we arrived in sunny Santander mid morning and found our pension. We managed a swim that afternoon off the spotless Playa de Sardinero beach outside the city.
From then on we travelled by train: fast, comfortable and on time! We bought one-country eurorail passes which saved us a huge amount of money. Although the journey to Santander was a slow one it was so much more pleasureable and relaxing than checking in at an airport and zooming off crammed into a stuffy aircraft cabin. It felt utterly civilised and a real luxury. There is something very romantic about travelling by ship, it feels like a big adventure!
We made sure that wherever we stayed in cities was within close walking distance of the train stations so we didn’t have far to walk and only took with us a rucksack each (still plenty of room to pack a smart outfit or two for romantic meals out!). We were lucky to travel in the summer and needed very few clothes.
The return journey was less comfortable as we had not booked a cabin. I won’t go into details but it would have been worth the extra money to upgrade from the sleeping lounge to a cabin. A lesson well learnt! (especially being a few weeks pregnant and just starting to suspect i was, and feeling the start of the incredible tiredness and sickness).
Obviously staying in the UK would have meant a cheaper 3 weeks and a smaller carbon footprint, but we wanted to travel a long way in the most eco friendly manner possible to us in this timescale. We have dreams of cycling to Istanbul (with baby… it is possible!) and of taking the trans-siberian railway through Russia and Siberia. Maybe one day soon we will walk and cycle through Spain visiting the places we missed on our Honeymoon.