Madrid’s Grand Budapest Hotel

Hopping around Europe over the last month has been enormous fun and we are currently at the Palazzo Victoria in Verona digesting a late lunch of lobster, mashed potato and herring eggs – who knew eh? It does work in case you wondered.

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It might seem like the stuff of dreams, leap-frogging from one hotel to the next, but over a stretch of nine months, it’s normal to miss creature comforts: PG Tips from your favourite mug in the morning; BBC breakfast news; ironed clothes (rather than what’s least smelly). But what makes it easier is when staff go that extra mile to make an effort for guests and to make sure they feel more at home. And so far the place we found that was at The Urso in Madrid (click the link to read about it).

The first screw up…

It was inevitable that trying to coordinate this many trains and hotels and bookings and going square-eyed from timetables was going to cause a few glitches along the way. With all good intentions to ride the steam train through the Douro Valley it turns out that the train only runs on a Saturday and I need to hot-foot it tonight to Madrid and then on to Valencia so I’m afraid it isn’t going to happen.

But I can tell you that São Bento Railway Station, or Estação de São Bento is probably the most beautiful station I’ve seen so far. The tiles tell an amazing story but I will leave that for you to discover yourself…

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Hanging around at Gare du Nord

And so it began at London’s St Pancras station. I boarded the first of eighty trains around the world, the 14:31 to Paris.

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For most of the evening I lurked in Gare du Nord station just watching people come and go. Stations aren’t really somewhere that a passer-by can fully absorb while bolting for a train. But if you stop and look around, you realise what an incredible hive of activity stations really are. I loved watching people charging their phones by cycling and then a lovely man playing the piano in the evening sunshine. Almost all stations in France seem to have pianos for anyone to sit down and play at and I loved how he was unbothered by the crowd watching him play.