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My incredible jet-setting yr, without using a plane – from Newcastle to Stockholm via Ibiza

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I’m a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs. Our family nurtures and socialises tiny pups until they’re ready to go away for full-on training. We take care of one dog at a time, and I’m the first carer because, unlike my hospital doctor wife, I do business from home. (I’m a contract journalist.) 

Our latest pup left to begin her latest life in March, and we’re not getting one other until the tip of December. It was achingly sad to say goodbye to Berry but, on the upside, I then had the most effective a part of nine months wherein to travel on commission for magazines and newspapers. 

I reported from the European Commission in Brussels, penned business stories from the Tour de France’s visit to Denmark and, courtesy of a Sunderland-based factory, swanned around Sweden on a swanky press launch for a latest electric automotive. And for MailOnline Travel, I wrote stories on trips to Ibiza, Belgium, Switzerland, and more.

As a sustainability specialist, I felt it could be hypocritical of me to fly on any of those European trips. Despite the fact that I travelled as far north as Stockholm and as far south as Sardinia, I didn’t use any budget or scheduled airlines. This was a self-imposed flight-free pact made easier — but not cheaper or quicker — through the use of high-speed trains and slow-speed sleeper services. I didn’t at all times stay on the bottom. Sometimes, the one option was to take to the water, and I island-hopped by ferry and even crossed the Dover Strait on a catamaran.

Carlton’s Brompton on a street in Ibiza’s old town. He reached the island via a ferry from Barcelona

Carlton visited Ibiza for a 'ride with legends' experience with luxury tour company LeBlanq, which offers amateur cyclists the chance to cycle through stunning locations with top riders - and eat food prepared by top chefs. On the White Isle Carlton rode with professional cyclist Mark Cavendish (above right, on the final night of the tour) and met DJ Pete Tong (above left), who has a road bike and joined the group rides

Carlton visited Ibiza for a ‘ride with legends’ experience with luxury tour company LeBlanq, which offers amateur cyclists the possibility to cycle through stunning locations with top riders – and eat food prepared by top chefs. On the White Isle Carlton rode with skilled cyclist Mark Cavendish (above right, on the ultimate night of the tour) and met DJ Pete Tong (above left), who has a road bike and joined the group rides

On a lot of the trips, I travelled with a folding bike, a last-mile vehicle that didn’t faze any of the hotels I kipped at, including a capsule offering in Zurich and a five-star residence in Rome. With my very own sets of wheels — normally a Tern Verge, a folding bike with a clean belt drive as an alternative of a grimy chain — I never needed to worry about infrequent buses, round-the-houses taxi drivers or the precise payment card for Metro systems (I’m taking a look at you, Paris).

On the 2 trips that I didn’t pack a motorcycle, I hired one in London. For a fiver, you may hire a Brompton folding bike for twenty-four hours, pick one up at a rail station and drop it off at one other. En path to Sweden — where I planned to do some open-sky camping — I hired one in all these nifty little folders at King’s Cross and rode 22 miles to Runnymede to spend the night in a sleeping bag beside the tranquil Thames. Tranquil, until I used to be woken by revellers on a strobe-lit party boat singing drunkenly to Nineteen Eighties dance tunes.

Coming back from a summer trip to the French Alps, I arrived at King’s Cross at midnight, which was too late for a train to Newcastle, so I hired a Brompton and rode greater than 90 miles through the night to Peterborough before getting an early LNER train north on the swift East Coast Foremost Line.

In June Carlton took the Bernina Express (above) from Tirano to Zurich

In June Carlton took the Bernina Express (above) from Tirano to Zurich

Not everybody desires to travel by bicycle and flying is routine but, inside Europe at the very least, it can change into increasingly tougher to fly. For example, the European Commission has just given the go-ahead for France to ban flights between Paris-Orly Airport and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux – more cities will certainly follow.

Initially of December, my last long trip for the yr involved a seven-hour 20-minute train journey between Milan and Paris. With the opening of a 36-mile tunnel currently being built under the Savoy Alps, this time will soon be cut almost in half.

Nonetheless, when the road between Lyon and Turin is upgraded to subterranean high-speed, travellers will kiss goodbye to glorious views of the Alps. And this visual aspect of ground travel (moot when done at night, in fact) will likely be one in all my abiding memories of those manic months of trans-European travel. I like watching the world go by from a train window, especially after I am lucky enough to travel first-class on Eurostar, a pampered fine-dining service, or sit in a standard-class buffet automotive on a Swiss train, which can be a premium offering.

As a digital nomad, I can work on trains, which is just not something I are likely to do after I fly. Short-haul European flights are over quickly, and it’s such a hassle to get through airports that I’m generally in no mood to work, preferring to doom-scroll or, like many other fliers, watch smartphone-sized comedy episodes. Entertaining but removed from productive.

Carlton's folding bike next to the high-speed train in Narbonne, France, that took him to Barcelona

Carlton’s folding bike next to the high-speed train in Narbonne, France, that took him to Barcelona

On a recent 15-hour train trip from Milan back to my home in Newcastle — 4G enabled the entire way — I wrote several articles, answered quite a few emails, and even broke the back of what I’d been pushing aside for months: end-of-year book-keeping via an app that requires a persistent online connection.

For eye-watering fees, I also stayed connected while travelling on the three DFDS ferry crossings from Newcastle to Amsterdam I’ve done this yr. These overnight trips are slow, but what’s not to love about starting and ending trips with what are, in effect, mini-cruises? I’m now particularly keen on the à la carte dining within the ship’s North Sea Bistro. Book an early sitting, and also you dine because the sun sets over the Yorkshire Coast.

All three crossings were flat and calm, as was one other crossing on a decidedly smaller vessel. The 12-metre (39ft) Mago Merlino wind-powered catamaran, which I boarded in Dover to cross to Boulogne, was chartered by SailLink, a startup that plans to run a return each day ferry service from spring next yr. 

Carlton in front of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, a city he visited by train in June and November

Carlton in front of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, a city he visited by train in June and November

There isn’t a room for cars – that is an eco service for pedestrians and cyclists. The one-way fare is prone to be £85, nearly 3 times the worth of P&O’s 90-minute Dover-Calais crossing. ‘This can be a latest type of public transport,’ SailLink founder Andrew Simons told me, ‘and a serious sailing experience at the identical time.’

We left Dover at 5pm, landing in Boulogne on schedule 4 hours later, the catamaran’s sails bathed within the faint orange glow of a rising harvest moon. There was only one other passenger on this pilot trip (an American ER surgeon heading for a walking holiday in Spain), but with the chartering of a bigger vessel, Simons plans to ferry 12 passengers and 12 bikes, with space for wheelchairs too.

With just one automotive ferry service to Calais currently open to foot traffic – and no bikes (other than fold-ups) allowed on Eurostar – SailLink says it can offer a much-needed car-free alternative.

Carlton boarded the Mago Merlino wind-powered catamaran to sail from Dover to Boulogne. His Tern folding bike, above, went with him

Carlton boarded the Mago Merlino wind-powered catamaran to sail from Dover to Boulogne. His Tern folding bike, above, went with him

Carlton on the catamaran ferry crossing from Dover to Boulogne

Carlton on the catamaran ferry crossing from Dover to Boulogne

Having never been on a yacht, I expected to be thrown around by the waves and was prepared to be seasick. Neither happened. I even ate a picnic meal of bread and cheese. We never got near any big ships, but being out on an open deck, near the waves, gave a greater appreciation of the facility of the ocean.

Once in Boulogne, there was no border control to endure – I climbed to the marina clubhouse and showered within the Schengen Area untroubled by passport checks.

Border police arrived mid-morning the next day, proving it is a more relaxed entry into France than the often-fraught journeys on the automotive ferry services between Dover and Calais.

As we arrived late, I stayed on board in one in all the catamaran’s bedrooms. Small, yes, but larger than all but presidential suites on industrial airliners.

Pictured above is the SailLink catamaran berthed in Boulogne marina

Pictured above is the SailLink catamaran berthed in Boulogne marina

Carlton enjoying a beer in the Flandrien cycling hotel, Belgium, a property he wrote about for MailOnline Travel

Carlton having fun with a beer within the Flandrien cycling hotel, Belgium, a property he wrote about for MailOnline Travel

Also small were the beds on the 2 European sleeper trains I took through the yr, north to Stockholm and south to Innsbruck. The sleeper to Stockholm left from Malmo. I used to be on the service to see how overnight train travel in Sweden feels ahead of the September launch of an overnight train from Hamburg to Stockholm, described to me as a ‘gamechanger’ by rail travel expert Mark Smith.

The EuroNight service, run by Sweden’s national rail operator SJ, ‘gets you from London to Stockholm in just about 24 hours,’ in response to Smith, who operates the much-consulted Seat61.com website. It’s the ‘missing link’ for travellers from the UK to Sweden, he said, perhaps persuading many to take the train relatively than fly. It starts with the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels after which transfers to a high-speed line to Hamburg, after which the speed drops but comfort rises.

EuroNight covers the 670 miles from Hamburg to Stockholm in 13 hours, starting at 9pm, stopping off in Copenhagen, and arriving in Stockholm at 10am.

An en suite bathroom, albeit a tiny one, is a luxury on any train – and available only as a first-class option on this latest service.

I discovered it a squeeze to shower on my night train to Stockholm – which runs along the identical route because the EuroNight service – and I’m small. 

Bending all the way down to retrieve dropped soap, I struggled to stand up again. ‘You have got to soap yourself throughout, and then you definitely’re slippy enough to not get stuck,’ laughed train host Jeanette Andreasson after I told her about my predicament upon arriving in Stockholm.

Boarding the sleeper train from Malmo to Stockholm. Carlton travelled on the service to get a feel for how overnight train travel feels ahead of a new sleeper service launching between Hamburg and Stockholm

Boarding the sleeper train from Malmo to Stockholm. Carlton travelled on the service to get a feel for a way overnight train travel feels ahead of a latest sleeper service launching between Hamburg and Stockholm

Inside the sleeper train from Malmo to Stockholm. Carlton reveals that his shower was so small that he had trouble standing up again after bending down to pick up soap

Contained in the sleeper train from Malmo to Stockholm. Carlton reveals that his shower was so small that he had trouble standing up again after bending all the way down to pick up soap

Breakfast wasn’t served on the train but within the hotel opposite Stockholm Central station. There I caught up, via Zoom, with Maja Rosén, co-founder of the We Stay on the Ground organisation that coordinates the ‘flight free’ movement, now with chapters worldwide.

Rosén lives on an island three hours north of Stockholm and has not flown since 2008. She said that if it needs to be done in any respect, travel ought to be by train, ferry, on foot, or by cycle. Flying needs to be curtailed, she believes, or there won’t be much of a world left to see.

‘We must be cutting emissions now, however it’s also about making a press release. Pledging to go flight-free is a really effective option to make people around you realise that we want to alter how we live. We are able to’t proceed with business as usual,’ Rosén said.

Carlton cycling through a park in North Shields before getting the DFDS ferry to Amsterdam and then trains and another ferry to Sardinia

Carlton cycling through a park in North Shields before getting the DFDS ferry to Amsterdam after which trains and one other ferry to Sardinia

DFDS ferry at North Shields at the start of Carlton's journey to Sardinia

DFDS ferry at North Shields in the beginning of Carlton’s journey to Sardinia

‘There are such a lot of ways to explore the world without flying.’

Rosén’s right, in fact, but train (and ferry) travel isn’t low-cost, which is an enormous barrier to greater take-up. Governments could level the playing field by increasing taxation on flying. It’s well understood that our addiction to short-haul flights in Europe is harmful to the planet.

In line with ecopassenger.org, my train journey to Stockholm emitted 49kg of carbon dioxide, while a plane making the identical journey would emit as much as 380kg per person. Not only is fuel used more efficiently, however the sleeper train to Stockholm runs on renewables.

Carlton's Tern folding bike at the port of Olbia, Sardinia

Carlton’s Tern folding bike on the port of Olbia, Sardinia

The view through a window on an LNER service, near Lincoln

The view through a window on an LNER service, near Lincoln

Until recently, Swedes were amongst essentially the most profligate flyers on the planet. This love affair with flying is fading fast since the climate crisis is especially noticeable in Sweden.

Travelling by train as an alternative of flying is deemed by many to be ‘virtue signalling’. There’s even a latest Swedish word for this virtuous feeling: tagskryt – ‘train bragging’ – or how some people, myself included, crow about their long-distance journeys by train when others fly.

I actually did greater than my fair proportion of long-distance train travel in 2022, however the only tagskryt I’ll be doing in 2023 will likely be of the local variety. As a Guide Dog puppy raiser, I get a free travelcard to be used on the Tyne & Wear Metro system.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Carlton Reid booked his rail travel on the Omio smartphone app. He also benefitted from reduced-cost train travel with an Interrail pass. The long-lasting pass celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this yr. Launched in March 1972, the Interrail pass was originally for young travellers only, enabling those of as much as 21 years of age to explore 21 countries by train with only one rail pass. Since 1998 the Interrail pass has been available for travellers of all ages. Greater than 10million travellers have enjoyed ‘interrailing’ across Europe.

Carlton’s long-distance journeys this yr included:

APRIL — Flight to Tenerife for the British Guild of Travel Writers AGM. ‘Tenerife is off the coast of Africa so I didn’t consider it a European flight,’ Carlton said. His only other flight this yr was jumping off a volcano with a bloke strapped to his back taking off from Mount Teide in a paraglider.

MAYCaledonian Sleeper train from London to Glasgow. DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam; sleeper train from Amsterdam to Innsbruck; high-speed train to Rome; ferry from Civitavecchia, near Rome, to Olbia, Sardinia.

JUNE — Ferry from Olbia, Sardinia, to Civitavecchia, near Rome; bike ride from Civitavecchia to Rome; high-speed train from Rome to Pompeii; high-speed train from Rome to Milan; slow train from Milan to Tirano; scenic train from Tirano to Zurich, Switzerland, via the Bernina Express; high-speed train from Zurich to Paris; Eurostar from Paris to London and LNER to Newcastle. While motoring journalists flew to Stockholm for the launch of the Nissan Ariya, Carlton took the train: Newcastle to London on LNER; Eurostar to Brussels; high-speed train from Paris to Hamburg; train from Hamburg to Malmo; sleeper train from Malmo to Stockholm.

JULY — Train from Stockholm to Copenhagen for the beginning of the 2022 Tour de France. Train from Copenhagen to Roskilde after which on to Nyborg. Nyborg to Brussels; Eurostar from Brussels to London; LNER to Newcastle. DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam for family trip to Belgium; return by Eurostar and LNER to Newcastle.

AUGUST — LNER from Newcastle to London; Eurostar from London to Paris; high-speed train from Paris to Lyon for press trip in Courchevel; high-speed train from Lyon to Paris and on to Newcastle via East Coast Foremost Line from London on LNER. Newcastle to Paris via LNER and Eurostar for Rock en Seine concert courtesy of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programme. First-class Eurostar from Paris to London; Megabus from London to Newcastle.

SEPTEMBER — Newcastle to London on LNER to remain within the Royal Lancaster London hotel. London to Dover train; catamaran ferry from Dover to Boulogne and back. Train from Dover to Newcastle via London.

OCTOBER — Newcastle to Amsterdam on DFDS ferry; train from Amsterdam to Brussels, after which return to Newcastle on DFDS ferry via Amsterdam. LNER train from Newcastle to London after which Eurostar to Paris; high-speed train from Paris to Barcelona via unscheduled overnight stay in Narbonne; high-speed train from Narbonne to Barcelona; ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza to ‘ride with legends‘ including Mark Cavendish and DJ Pete Tong on a luxury cycling break with LeBlanq. Ferry from Ibiza to Barcelona after which the subsequent day high-speed trains from Barcelona to Paris after which Eurostar to London and LNER to Newcastle.

NOVEMBER — Newcastle to London on LNER; London to Paris on Eurostar; high-speed train to Milan and return the identical option to Newcastle.

 

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