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

Monday, 11 July 2011

Where to begin?

I’ve given this question a lot of thought. That’s why I didn’t post yesterday. But now everything is properly archived in my mind and I can start writing it all down. I’ve also downloaded the 563 photos I shot and have already photo shopped some to illustrate this first post.

So, fasten your seatbelt, and here we go.

At half past three last Tuesday I said goodbye to my mother and set out on my first solo trip in 25 years. I was less nervous than I thought I would be and really enjoyed the sense of excitement it gave me. I got to the Brussels-Midi station much too early: 4 p.m. to catch the 6 p.m. train. However, check-in had already started, which was lucky as there were only ten or so seats in the waiting room.

I sat down for a while to take my ticket and identity card. While I was rummaging through my bag, there was some loud disagreement at the check-in desk. A bulky, yet elegantly dressed British gentleman was giving the two girls at the desk a hard time, because he wasn’t allowed to check-in on an earlier train than the one mentioned on his ticket.

The Eurostar crew ready to board the train.

When the girl told him that he would have to wait and take the 6 p.m. train he crushed up the ticket, threw it into the girl’s face and red-faced stampeded out of the waiting room. He returned ten minutes later and humbly apologized for his earlier tantrum and docilely asked to be checked-in on the 6 p.m. train.

I checked in myself and went through the identity control. All went smoothly, until I arrived at the safety check. I put my new trolley case, shoulder and belt bag on the conveyer belt to be scanned. Then I walked through the security gate and … set off the alarm. Immediately a security guard carrying a body scanning device walked up to me. When he held it to the pocket of my jacket the machine started beeping. I had no idea why it did that, because I had no metal objects on me. They made me take off the jacket and ran it through the scanning machine. There was no new alert, and I was allowed to carry on. Ooofff! Later I discovered what had set off the alarm: a completely innocent aluminium strip of mint tablets.

The Eurostar, with our stewardess
waiting by the door of coach 12.

For the next hour and a half I sat in the large waiting room, which by quarter past five was bursting with people. I’ve never seen so many trolley cases in one room. They came in all colours and sizes and were pulled or pushed by a wide variety of people, old and young, well dressed in tailor-made business suits or wearing torn jeans and T-shirts. This was a very mixed crowd and therefore interesting when you’re into people-watching, like I am.

Around five the Eurostar crew arrived and was let onto the platform. Not long now … At quarter to six the gates were opened and the army of trolley cases moved towards the platform. I was one of the first, which gave me the opportunity to shoot a photo of the empty platform and our stewardess waiting by the door of coach 12 in which I was to travel.

A 'Standard premier' coach on the Eurostar.

I boarded the train, stalled my case and quickly shot a photo of the empty coach before the other passengers got on the train. I settle into seat number 21, and did some more people watching while the coach was filling up. At 6.02 p.m. – two minutes later than scheduled – the train pulled out of the station. For the first 10 km or so it travelled at ‘normal’ speed. But then, as soon as it had left the suburbs of Brussels, you could feel that it was building up speed. When I saw the landscape flashing by, I understood why the Eurostar is a HST (High speed train). It was very impressive, and yet very smooth … the ideal way to travel.

That's why the Eurostar is a HST ...

(more to come … but you already knew that, didn’t you?)


Bob said...

Good beginning. A little excitement even before the train leaves the station.

GaynorB said...

Looking forward to it!

Craig said...

Looking forward to more Martine. Eurostar is such a (normally) hassle free and elegant way to travel. A glass of wine or champagne as the world zips by. It's all so different from awful airports.

ladybird said...

Bob, The rest of the journey was less eventful, as I didn't see the troublemaker again ...

Gaynor, Hope it'll live up to your expectations!

Craig, You are so right. I just couldn't get enough of it.