I won’t easily forget my very first visit to Geneva. At the airport I was met by the international marketing manager who drove me in his cabriolet red Mustang to the head office and later to the Mövenpick hotel where I would stay overnight. In the evening he invited me to one of Geneva’s most famous restaurants: ‘Les Armures’. A few weeks earlier US President Bill Clinton had eaten at the same restaurant and my host, who was a very courteous man, managed to get us the ‘president’s table. We had a traditional ‘raclette’ meal which was beautifully served with jacked potatoes, cured ‘grison’ meat, gherkins, sweet and sour onions and a local ‘Fendant’ white wine.
But back to my most recent train experience! The advertising agency which had been chosen to produce this famous catalogue was located in London. This meant that I had to travel across the Channel too. The Eurostar Brussels-London line had officially been inaugurated on November 9th, and I thought it would be fun to be one of the first to try it out. Early in the morning I drove to our local train station where I caught a train to Bruxelles-Midi, from where international trains such as the Eurostar to London and the Thalys to Paris and southern France operate.
Back then, the journey took a lot longer than it does nowadays. The tracks outside Brussels and in the UK had not yet been upgraded to the high standards required by High Speed Trains. But it was a pleasant journey, yet slightly stressing as I wasn’t sure about what it would be like crossing the Channel through a tunnel under the seabed. The last time I had made the crossing was in the early eighties and then I had taken a ferry!
However, there was nothing to be afraid of. The ride through the tunnel took a mere 20 minutes and the train was travelling so fast that I hardly saw the wall lights flashing by. I was met at Waterloo Station (yes, in those days it was Waterloo, not Saint Pancreas) by the manager of the agency. We took a typical black London cab to drive to his office. On the way we crossed Waterloo Bridge which reminded me of that classic movie with the same title featuring the lovely Vivien Leigh.
On the return journey I travelled first class and was served a delicious supper by a very kind train hostess. It was almost 8 p.m. and already very dark outside when I arrived in Brussels with my precious ‘cargo’: a large folder with the graphical designs of our new catalogue. A local train ‘delivered’ me safely at the station of my home town.
Why am I telling you this? Well, tomorrow morning I have to get to the other side of Brussels to attend a seminar. Taking the car would be a complete waist of time and energy and I’ve therfore decided to use an alternative means of transport. I have two options: car-train-underground or bus-underground (or taxi). I'm not really looking forward to this as the weather forecast is predicting rain and strong winds. Moreover, the location is not a very nice one, in a not-too-secure area of Brussels. Maybe I should take a large umbrella to protect me against the rain and possible aggressors ... Full report on Thursday!