I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m beside myself. I just have to let it out.
Yes, the time has come for me to reveal what is probably the worst-kept secret in the entire history of truckshunterdom. (Good grief. Truckshunterdom. I love it.)
In exactly 33 days’ time, I’ll be embarking on my third Grand Tour.
Loyal and enthusiastic followers of this blog - and, let’s face it, who isn’t? - will remember my excitement before, during and after my first Grand Tour, which I unimaginatively called 'GT1' and which took me by train through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. I visited so many places that had been on my ‘shopping list‘ for decades, saw so many wonderful places and things, and met so many amazing people.
That first Grand Tour probably changed for ever my attitudes, outlook and opinions about the world and what it was possible for me to do in it - which is what Tours as Grand as that are supposed to do. And it began what has turned out to be a lasting love affair with France, its language and its people.
Last year, GT2 took me to my beloved Amsterdam and on through northern Germany to Berlin, Munster and Hamburg - again, a journey of self-discovery which this time took me deep into my family’s past.
A few months ago, I decided that my two Grand Tours had been so uplifting - so liberating - that I wanted to undertake a third. I toyed with the idea of continuing the trail I’d blazed to the east; to begin in Berlin, where I’d left off (as it were) and take trains onward to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Zagreb.
Or perhaps (I thought) I could spend a couple of weeks exploring France by train. After all, even though I visit France a lot, I only ever go to one destination - so perhaps it was time to knock on the doors of Reims, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lille…
Scandinavia - from Belgium through Holland to Germany and Denmark, then across the sea bridge to Sweden and Norway; to the Arctic Circle by train!
And, in the other direction, beautiful and (for me) largely unexplored Spain and Portugal. I spent hours researching train times from Paris through Lyon and Perpignan to Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and Lisbon.
(Incidentally - 10 out of 10 if you can identify the cities in the photos.)
But - as inviting as they look and undoubtedly are - I’ll not be visiting any of them. Not one. Prague and Vienna and Oslo and Madrid will all have to wait.
Because I’ve decided to extend my horizons for my next Grand Tour.
GT3 will take me all round the world. It will be the biggest Grand Tour of them all.
I’ll be away for almost 7 weeks. I’ll be visiting six countries and 10 great cities, only one of which I’ve visited before. I’ll be immersed in cultures and customs unfamiliar to me. I’ll see oceans and mountains and deserts. I’ll encounter wildlife I’ve only seen on film or in photographs - or read about in books.
I’m going to travel around the world - by aeroplane, ship and train (with the odd tram thrown in for good measure). The flights are booked, the hotel reservations are made.
All I have to do now is pack my suitcase and go…
Which is where you come in.
I would be seriously honoured - as well as very grateful - if you could perform the same service for GT3 as you did for GTs 1 and 2. Namely, proffer advice, recommendations, and warnings based on your own experiences or research or other knowledge of each destination.
Have you visited them yourself? If you have, what are your best and worst memories? Where would you recommend that I visit? Is there somewhere you’d like me to visit while I’m there? Are there sites to avoid? Do you know of any hidden gems?
As always, I’d be grateful for any contributions you’d like to make.
I leave on September 13 and my first stopover is Hong Kong. I'll be there for 2 days - and then I fly to Singapore...
Get to it!
And Thanks, in advance.
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Our Annual Summer Festival of Truckshuntery at the Tanfield Railway will take place this upcoming Thursday 15 August. It’ll start at 1030.
Bring your camera - I’ve ordered unbroken sunshine and a gentle breeze. So a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
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THE ROYAL OAK QUIZ
Here are the answers to Ross’s quiz in posting 477.
02 The Times
03 Francois Hollande
04 Gustav Holst
06 Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina (George), Timmy
07 Terry Deary
08 The Lone Ranger
09 Warner Bros
10 Mein Kampf
11 Ice Hockey Goal
15 Alpha Papa
17 St Peter
18 Soft Cell
20 Margaret Thatcher
I got nine this time. How about you?
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