A Game of Dominoes

Dominoes can be a frustrating game. Just are things are going along smoothly, you unexpectedly experience a setback. Just like the Euro-Domino, in fact.
What is the Euro-Domino? It’s a train ticket which allows you to travel anywhere within a certain European country during a particular period of time. You can buy them for three, five, seven or fourteen days and you can use up those days any time within one month. For those who enjoy carefree train travel, the Euro Domino is ideal, but not always as straightforward as it seems.
The advantages are obvious. You buy your ticket in advance and it is considerably cheaper than buying as you go along. You also have the flexibility of being able to decide on the spur of the moment where you want to go – in theory at least.
The disadvantages only become apparent as you go along and, to be fair, the average Euro-Domino traveller is probably the sort of person who doesn’t particularly worry about setbacks. The biggest problem is that many fast and main line trains require supplements to be paid. These are not covered by the Domino ticket, so pockets have to be dug into.
That, however, is not all. Many trains, especially in busy seasons, get so full that seats have to be reserved several days in advance, thus effectively negating your alleged flexibility. It’s best to be aware of this before setting out, because otherwise (and I’m here to tell the tale) you can find yourself far from home, with an apparently valid ticket which won’t actually allow you access to the train because you have omitted to obtain a reserved seat. This can be just a little bit frustrating.
The first Domino week I did was in Switzerland. Everything you have ever heard about the magnificence of this country’s trains is true. They run to the millisecond and cheerfully trundle up and down the steepest and most snow-covered mountains. The Domino system works perfectly and can be recommended without reservation.
France was a little more problematic, in that the entire railway system is so fixated on Paris that it is well-nigh impossible to continue anywhere in a straight line. You keep having to return to Paris in order to travel from region to region. The TGV, though as fast as legend suggests, can get very full and needs to be booked well in advance. The regional trains can be almost as slow, unreliable and uncomfortable as ours, end even less frequent.
Both the above points apply also to Spain. While the branch lines are nicely uncongested and the stations (frequently in the middle of nowhere) can be quite beautiful, standards of service can be disappointingly casual. I’ll never forget a horrific two hours spent at Granada station in a queuing system not dissimilar to a supermarket deli counter, waiting for a surly, chain-smoking clerk to issue an expensive reservation.
So, Dominoes is a great game. The Euro-Domino is a bargain, but it pays to be well prepared.
From the Hampshire Chronicle

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