I have lived in London for many years, and I still can’t tell King’s Cross from St Pancras station. But I know where platform 9¾ to Hogwarts is, and I also know that the easiest way to travel to Germany is by train.
Whenever I fly, I have to leave the house at the crack of dawn, rely on my train to be on time, spend an hour getting through security and passport control, and decant any liquids I need to take with me into small flasks.
It’s much easier with a train-only journey. Strolling down the platform, I can board the Eurostar with as many suitcases as I hope other gallant travellers will help me carry.
There’s no limit on liquids. In less than five hours I arrive in Cologne via Brussels. And travelling by train feels much easier than flying: no turbulences, no safety instructions, no take-off or landing.
Hot drinks on Eurostar are still overpriced, but on the whole, it’s no different from taking a train to Newcastle. Now that I have made this journey many times, I have also come to know what happens if things don’t go as planned.
On a recent trip, I left Cologne on a Swiss Thalys train. As I marvelled at the stylish red interior of the train carriage and its comfortable seats, the conductor pointed out that I was by mistake sitting in first class.
Later the train broke down. It was a sunny evening and passengers were asked to wait on the platform. We waited for more than two hours, and by the time we arrived in Brussels the last Eurostar had left.
If you have ever wondered what might happen in such a situation, here’s the answer.
Thalys put all of us passengers up in an Ibis hotel across the street, where I spent the evening watching one of many ‘Diana’ documentaries.
The next morning Eurostar booked me onto another train; and I am also entitled to a 50 per cent refund. It wasn’t my plan to spend a night in Brussels, but the breakfast was delicious.