27.9.08

Ghost train...

Insular realization.

Living nowadays in London with the Eurotunnel makes you sometimes forget that Great Britain is actually an island... French in London, a fellow citizen and blogger based in London - as it says on the tin, posted recently an article (in French sorry) about his own realization of this insular status: after the early September blaze led to condemn one of the two chunnels, everyone was trying to find alternative ways to leave or come to London and the only "viable" alternative to the overbooked flights were good old boats.

Before the Chunnel, you indeed had to enjoy the ferries ad nauseam (literally). 5-6 hours with on one side red-burnt English tourists returning from their week off on the French Riviera and indulging their greasy chips; and on the other side buses of drunk French pupils sizing the opportunity of a week away from their parents to experiment the impact of cheap beer on their bowels... Lovely. But what great memories! Engraved in your mind - and your nostrils- forever.

Now with the Eurostar you are a little more than 2h away from Paris, which means that you could even commute faster than some people actually in Paris...

All by myself.

The train is definitely a great alternative to travel to mainland Europe. Faster than the ferry, greener than planes (I must admit less green than the fellows bending overboard on ferries, but still not bad), extremely convenient as it picks you downtown and drops you downtown... Nothing to complain about, unless you end up in one of those coaches where you have to share your compartment with hords of toddlers and talkative Chinese tourists crossing the Channel to complete their round-Europe-in-32-hour tour.

But let's be fair, most of the time you can easily screen out these noisy parasits and enjoy a moment of relaxation. You just need to forget that the reason why your Blackberry is no longer synching is because a sea and some tons of rocks are hanging above your head.

Another option is to travel during these awkward times when the traffic is partially interupted... Most of the people decide to look for alternative routes (some even opt for a pilgrimage on a Ferry), which means that when you are lucky to come onboard the yellow and black train, you can sometime enjoy the following view:

I came back from Paris on Tuesday 16th September evening and had to share the whole carriage with noone but myself. These two hours might have been quite enjoyable as a result. But in all honesty, I am some kind of a social animal, and I almost came to miss the toddler who starts crying in Gare du Nord and finaly fall asleep in St Pancras. Almost.

4 comments:

  1. Everything is different in the UK when you think about it... the metric system, cars, automatic gear sticks and roads... This is why I love this Island so much!

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  2. French in London11:51 am

    Question is: when you're alone in a coach. Do you try every single seat to find the best one?

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  3. Well you may know this economics rule that says that and over-abundant offer kills the demand. Facing this overwhelming choice of seats, I opted for my booked one, a mere two seater squeezed at the back of the coach, next to the luggage rack and 1m away from the stinking toilets... Maybe after two years plus in the UK I am getting too British, i.e. respectful of the rules. Who knows!

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  4. it took me more than 5 hours to travel from London to Paris yesterday! Well, I am definitely unlucky: first, the tube was delayed (what a surprise in London!), then the Eurostar travel agent was extremely slow to deliver my booked ticket... I rushed to the check-in desk where her colleague decided to change me to the following train: "I'm afraid, 2 minutes too late..."
    End of the story? Unfortunately not! The customs agent finds me so strange that she asked me whether she could look at my suitcase.
    She asked me to open it and took absolutely everything out! I was so happy to show all my underwears to all the passengers... She was quite upset not to find any weird thing inside so stared me as I was re-packing.
    When we eventually left, the train stopped just before the tunnel. The information in respect of the arrival time was different every 5 minute. "One hour delayed", "35 minutes", etc.
    it was the most terrible trip in all year.
    I am not looking forward tomorrow as I am travelling back :-(
    Well, it can't be worse, can it??

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