08.01.2020 | London Calling…

I’m on my way to London. Quite literally while I type this, though I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post it from the Eurostar as well. [Yes, posted from the train as well. Nice] Anyway London once again. And it’s not about Frank Turner this time, imagine that. A friend reminded me that Frank in a roundabout way still has something to do with this trip, because I’ve heard of “Operation Mincemeat”, the musical I’m about to see twice this week, because two of the people who have created it, are also in one of the bands who toured with Frank in the past. I mean they played at his wedding reception last year, for crying out loud. In terms of ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’, that round’s over very quickly. But… still, no Frank in London for me this week, which is fine.

That wasn’t what I wanted to write about though. While I was breezing through Brussels Zued / Midi station earlier this evening I remembered all the times I took the same train ride last year. In March for a work trip to Manchester (with a bit of Frank on the side *g*). In May for my vacation in Scotland and my first “Operation Mincemeat” experience on the way back. In October for another work trip to Manchester. In December for Frank’s No Man’s Land Tour. And I’ve taken the same trip at least once a year several times since 2015. I can’t imagine flying to London anymore to be honest. I wouldn’t rule it out categorically, for example in case of a short – notice special Frank gig happening *g*. But in general by now I very much prefer taking the train. And to be honest, it isn’t even my main motivation, that it’s the a more environmental / climate friendly way of travel. But for me that does factor in of course, maybe even more these days than it already did in previous years. And even though the train now costs about 150 – 200 € instead of the estimated 100 – 150 € (if you include costs for transfer to/from either airport) of a flight, I think it’s worth it, because it so much less hassle and so much more comfortable in my opinion. Yes it probably takes about an 1.5 hours longer each way, but still…

I’m not the most experienced and thus relaxed flight passenger. I worry too much to be that kind of person. So I tend to schedule enough time buffer for getting to the airport, for checking in, for security control and all. In many cases all of this took less time than I expected, so I usually have lots of time to kill in airport malls or at flight gates. Ever since I’ve learned – not from own experience, but from fellow travellers – that if you miss the Eurostar because your connection was delayed etc you often get a seat on the next Eurostar train without any extra fee, I’m even more relaxed about the whole endeavour. If you miss your flight, you’ve missed your flight, haven’t you? Anyway, I have an established booking routine now, which gives me enough time to change trains in Cologne (a bit over an hour) and in Brussels (1h 20 minutes). You’re supposed to arrive at the Eurostar Terminal about 45 -60 minutes before departure, so 1h20min is plenty. Last time in December that train was about 45 minutes late at the time we arrived in Brussels, which cut the changing time down to 35 minutes, which is… less than asked for. But the Eurostar staff knows about those delays of course and even though the train as such does not wait, they make sure everyone who changed from that train to the Eurostar could do so. We didn’t have to run / rush through the gates, it was still all very ordered. But it was almost straight to the train after the passport controls, so I couldn’t use the bathroom or top up my coffee, which was a bit annoying. Still, it worked out well after all.

Anyway, this evening I went straight from my train, which arrived at 17:45 (a few minutes delayed) to the Eurostar Terminal. There was a queue of about 20 people. The ticket gates opened around 17:55. I scanned my ticket, went through security check, which is less strict than on the plane (no need to unpack all your electronic devices or empty your water bottle), both passport control points in about 10 minutes. And then I was directly at the waiting area of my chosen means of transport. I had about 45 minutes to spend with the usual stuff (bathroom etc). We could get up to the platform and onto the train around 18:40, the Eurostar left on time around 19:00. It’s less crowded than I’m used to on Fridays or weekends. Maybe it’s the early January lull. Anyway, it’s a train, which means it’s a more spacious situation to sit than on a plane. I’ve booked an aisle seat at a table, all the other seats at that table are empty, so I’ve got it all to myself. Luxurious.

The trip from Brussels to London takes about two hours (only 25 minutes or so “under the sea”), so when I’ll arrive there at 20:00 local London time, I’ll just grab my big suitcase (because… no real size / weight limit for your luggage either) from the luggage rack and will be in the St. Pancras concourse in less than 10 minutes as well. A quick stop at M&S Foods to get some hummus and maybe some fruit for tea in my hotel room. This time I was smart enough to buy some ciabatta / bagles already in Germany, because the fresh bread / rolls shelf at any supermarket is usually quite empty at this time of day. And then I’ll hop on the tube for a few stations, check into my hotel in Aldgate and get comfy before 21:00, hopefully.

I only slept for about 5 hours each of the last three nights, so I’m absolutely knackered already. And I’ve got quite the itinerary for the next few days, but that’ll be content for another post this week….

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