Passing Trains

Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
Trip End Feb 24, 2008

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What a time it's been since I left Mum and Dad! We got to Dresden Hbf on time and I hopped aboard the sleeper train, which arrived about 5 minutes late. My bed was in a double cabin with its own shower and toilet on a Czech carriage (train had originated in Prague and was travelling through to Basel). Once the carriage attendant had got my tickets, asked when I wanted breakfast and brought my welcome small bottle of sparkling white wine I talked to my parents on the platform through the upper section of the window, which could be openned inwards.

The discussion was all farewells and me expressing my excitement as I explored my new surroundings. I kept the window open as far as Leipzig to get the cabin to cool down after I turned the heating off. During this time I looked out the window and gazed at the stars (constellations were the right way up!), which were much more visible as we travelled through the countryside.

Nobody else entered the cabin at Leipzig, the last pick-up station so I dozed off for a nice sleep while we had some carriages removed. Fulda was our next stop, 4 hours later and I woke up here. I was almost back to sleep when I thought we had been sitting in the station for quite a while. From platform displays I saw out the window I noted that other sleeper trains from the north we running 40 minutes late. A check of the DB website on my phone revealed that my train was hooking up with another and that we were both expected to arrive at Frankfurt 40 mins late!

At one point I was woken from my light snooze by the train beginning to move again. This was short lived as we just moved up into the yard then were shunted back to another platform. Eventually, after an hour and 20 minutes, we left and sped onward to Frankfurt. Arrival into Frankfurt Sud was 40 minutes late, which was just not enough time to make my desired and reserved connections.

I managed to catch an ICE direct to the airport, meeting Belinda at the station just 10 minutes after our train to Brussels had left. We were stuck in a very annoying situation but were determined to make it to London as planned. The next ICE to Cologne was not far away so Belinda and I swapped stories as we waited on the platform. Seats onboard weren't hard to find and we chatted away during the nice trip but signs of tiredness were starting to show with Belinda.

At Cologne our priority was to get reservations (compulsory) for the next Thalys to Brussels, which we achieved some 10 minutes before departure. The trip was not as nice as the ICE and Belinda noted that toilets were far worse. We had tried to book a new onward trip from Brussels to London (we were going to miss our non-refundable, non-exchangable original booking) at Cologne but the ticket officer said that there were no more youth or Eurail passholder fares available.

Once in Brussels we picked up the tickets for our already-departed earlier trip to London and also our return London-Brussels tickets from one of the automatic machines. We then went to the international ticket office who informed us that the only youth fares at 60 euros each were on a service departing at 9pm. This was also the case for trains from Paris and Lille. We wanted to get to London soon, preferably on the next train at 14:59, so that we could rest and clean in the hotel room and not miss the show we had booked for that evening. The lady told us that tickets on this service would set us back a hefty 200 euros each! As such we tried to investigate other options.

Air France has an office at the station but their fares were the same as the far more convenient train. There was no netcafe and the minimum we had to pay to use the station's wireless was 20 euros so more research was limited. Our next idea was to find a netcafe in town but the tourist information booth was closed and the lockers at the station wouldn't take our bags!

By this point we were tired, hungry, stressed and pissed off so we thought it may just be better to pay the money and go. With some parental consultation on the phone we decided that this would be the best way forward and thus we returned to the ticket office. This time we had a different lady, who told us there were youth fares available on the next train for 120 euros each! I don't why this was the case, I'm guessing they were standby tickets or something because the previous girl had shown us on the screen the lack of tickets.

Regardless, we checked in, went through security and passport controls and sat down to enjoy lunch in the waiting area. The train trip was fine and it was good to travel on the last section of British high speed track into St Pancras International.

We tiredly walked through to our Travelodge hotel where we crashed. It's a bit of a tired place but good for the price we paid. Belinda had a shower and I tried unsuccessfully tired to get the wireless internet to work before we had a quick Burger King dinner and took the Tube into Leicester Square.

We found the theatre for Avenue Q pretty easily thanks to the locality map in the station. They openned the theatre doors as we collected our tickets so we could get seated, in the centre of the front row of the dress circle pretty quickly. The theatre was relatively small which was nice because that meant that our seats were the perfect height and distance from the stage.

What a funny, yet interesting and insightfull show. Songs such as 'The Internet is for Porn', 'Everyone's a Little bit Racist' and characters like the Bad Ideas Bears and Lucy the Slut made us cry with laughter but at the same time think about life. A short Tube ride back to Kings Cross brought us to our hotel for some much needed sleep.

This morning was a late start; we didn't get out to breakfast until 11am. It was them out in rain to the tube to get Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum. The Museum was closed when I was last in town so it was good to visit now, while it's still relatively fresh. There was a nice collection of historic items presented in a modern, interesting setting. We had fun collecting stamps on our entry ticket on the stations around the museum.

We're now in a nearby Esprit so Belinda can get a new jacket, she left the hood of hers in Perth. I've been typing this entry on the phone all day. Heading to London Dungeons now, will fix this entry on internet terminal in hotel foyer.
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