Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Brussels – Ashford: one hour and thirty minutes

What happened before.

While I was snugly sitting in my seat, watching the landscape flash by, the stewardesses started serving supper. This is what we had:

From left to right:

- Greek pasta with finely chopped vegetables and sliced artichokes
- A crispy ciabatta bun
- Poached salmon with green asparagus, a sun-dried tomato and a delicious tarragon sauce
- A miniature coconut cake and ‘éclair’.

Beverage-wise there was red, rosé and white wine, beer and an assortment of soft drinks. As you can see, I choose the white wine, which was a Chardonnay from south-western France. It came in a plastic bottle with a screw top. Although the wine was nicely chilled, I found it slightly too sweet.

After we had finished our meal the stewardesses offered us coffee or tea, or another cold drink. Then they quickly started collecting the empty trays as the train was about to pull into Lille Europe station. I realized that this first lap of the journey had taken hardly more than 30 minutes. Amazing! At Lille Europe more people boarded the train. Just when it was ‘sounding its whistle’ (which actually sounded more like a deep groan) announcing the train’s imminent departure, an English couple came bustling into the coach. They looked flushed and clearly had trouble catching their breath. At first I only saw them from the back, but when they turned around I could hardly believe my eyes.

Lille Europe seen from the Eurostar. Not a very good photo, I admit,
but the best I could manage under the circumstances.

This couple was the spitting image of Onslow and Daisy from the television series ‘Keeping up appearances’, except perhaps for the fact that the man wasn’t wearing a vest, but a nice striped polo-short. The woman was dressed in a colourful frock with a very low neckline showing a lot of cleavage and a severely sunburned back. Pretty soon they were chatting with the man who was sitting in the seat across the aisle. They were speaking in very loud voices, and I therefore had no trouble overhearing that they were on their way home after a week in the Bordeaux region where they had been doing a lot of walking (hence the lady’s sun-burned back) and wine tasting.

The stewardess showed up with a meal for this cheery couple, and they fell silent, enjoying the tiny gourmet dishes, while the train was picking up speed again. Half an hour later we entered the channel tunnel, and I could feel the increased pressure on my ear drums. It was pitch dark outside, with just an occasional flash of light every now and then. For twenty-five minutes the train raced at its hair-raising speed through the tunnel under the seabed of the English Channel, the average depth of the tunnel being 60 meters, the maximum 120 meters. Just for the record: when I travelled to England in the seventies the channel crossing by ferry from Ostend to Dover would take 4 hours!

Shortly after coming out of the tunnel on the other side, the train started to slow down and the train manager announced that we were about to pull into Ashford International. Not long now before I would see my long-time friend Teresa again …


Bob said...

So far so good. Food looked appetizing and obviously a way to pass a little time. Do they allow a second bottle of wine? It seemed like you barely got comfortable and you were there. Okay, ready for the next course--the meeting.

Craig said...

What a civilized way to swim under the channel! Sorry about Daisy and Onslow - but what a perfect description as I could visualize them instantly. Thank God Rose or Hyacinth wasn't with them. :)

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

I beg your pardon Craig! Hyacinth Bucket is often mistaken for moi. Isn't Eurostar marvellous? Why would anyone fly to London these days. And the new (-ish) terminus at St Pancras is fantastic. I highly recommend the fish & chips at the Betjeman Arms in the station. I always try to meet a friend for lunch there just before I'm travelling back to Brussels.

Anonymous said...

How nice that you took first class! I've only taken economy and have brought my own picnic; not nearly as nice as your lunch.
My mind still boggles over the idea of travelling under the channel.

Craig said...

:) Daphne! Good tip about the fish and chips. I love St Pancras too!

Anonymous said...

A much more elegant way to travel and a far cry from those terrible Sealink ferries. Some things have improved haven't they.


ladybird said...

Bob, The woman in the seat across the aisle had three beers, so I suppose it also applied to the wine. I only had one, though!

Craig, Don't apologize! They were actually great fun!

Daphne, Eurostar is fabulous indeed. I enjoyed every second of the trip, although I didn't go all the way up to London. Maybe the next time ...

Dedene, If you book well in advance, the price difference between economy and standard premier isn't all that much. And really worth it, believe me.

Veronica, The Sealink ferry was OK when you're 16 or 17, but today I like to travel 'in style' :)