Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tues 16 Feb - Fri 19 Feb: Travel

...so we arrived at Mons train station nice and early and hoping to get the first Eurostar train we could from Lille, only to discover that the train departure board was blank, the platforms were dark, because Belgian trains were on strike. I guessed it had something to do with yesterday's crash, and I couldn't really complain considering they had a damn good reason for going on strike, but it did mean that we were left with no idea as to how to get to Lille.

We tried, in vain, to buy a ticket for the high speed (which it isn't) Thalys train which travels directly from Mons to Paris every morning. Usually, unless you've booked in advance you have no chance of boarding it. However, C didn't have to say too much to the train manager to convince him to let us on, but "you don't sit in first class." Mate, we'll sit in the toilets the whole way if it means getting to Paris. Yup, next option was train to Paris and then board the Eurostar to London from there.

We didn't leave Mons for a good 30mins though due to train workers at the station staging an impromptu strike of their own by standing on the tracks in front of the train, with 2 large red flags stuck in to the ground (I guess the colour isn't a coincidence?!) You've got to love 'em. Can you ever, ever, imagine in a million years this kind of thing happening in England? No is the answer, and that's why we get the public services we do. Don't get me started.

Anyway, €126 lighter, we finally arrived in Paris, jumped on a Eurostar service within 20mins and spent the next hour travelling past the same scenery we had just passed on our Thalys journey. In the end we didn't arrive in Sussex much later than we had envisaged this time yesterday.

The journey back on Friday was fine, until we got off at Lille. Eurostar services to Brussels were still disrupted due to extensive damage to the track caused by the crash. At Lille, the plan was again to take the direct train back to Mons. Except nobody at Lille seemed to know what was happening, or which train to catch. They were all severely delayed and none seemed to go anywhere near where we wanted.

For most of the journey back I couldn't really tell whether we were travelling in France or Belgium. The station names or local language hardly gave you a clue. In the end, a 45mins journey took over 3 hours, via 3 different trains. And so far I've taken 4 Eurostar trains since I've moved to Belgium and have yet been on the one I was booked on.

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