Saturday, August 19, 2006

off to Brussels

You just can't beat the Eurostar. It is one of my favourite things that I have done while living in the UK, and I will miss it terribly.

You book it a little in advance, and the non-flexible ticket is still a reasonable price compared to flights out of a London airport plus the cost of getting there. You take your travel bags to work on Friday morning making sure the house is locked up as you leave. Towards the end of the day you simply make your way across London to Waterloo station via the Underground. You arrive at the check-in area where you collect your tickets from a machine, swipe your ticket, clear security in a couple of minutes, clear both sets of Passport Control (for both departing the UK and arriving into France or Belgium at the other end, all at once), and then if your timing's right you can walk straight through to the train.

There's no long airport transfers, no need to get to the airport hours in advance, no long queues to deal with, no onerous security requirements which the UK has been implementing in the last week, you can use your mobile phone (except in the Chunnel), and best of all no annoying safety demonstration that you sort of feel bad about ignoring!

Potentially within an hour of leaving the office you are making your way up onto the Platform and boarding this sleek, impressive train. If you've thought ahead you've brought with you a nice bottle of Champagne or wine which is fantastic to have while the train trundles its way through South-east London and into the countryside - everyone around you is nice and jealous at this when they realise they should have done that too! This time around we had a fantastic french white wine I got from my work collegues for my birthday - it was damn good and the perfect way to start off the trip..

At the comparative time that you are racing across Kent and into the Channel tunnel, you would still have been waiting in the departure lounge at Gatwick or Stanstead, or possibly even still clearing security. You just can't beat it..

As I write we are travelling at what feels like full speed across the Belgian countryside towards Brussels Midi station, and our traditional weekend away to celebrate our birthdays. I'm really excited to be heading to what feels like the most under-rated city in Europe - only my boss at work, Richard, seems to really like the place, so it will be good to develop my own opinion of it over the next day or so. It seems a bit surreal to be heading to Belgium and its bars, which I am sure will be nothing like the mocked up Belgium Beer Café we used to spend a lot of time in in Brisbane.

More to come tomorrow after we have a night out tonight to see in Carly's birthday..



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