I embarked on my first visit to continental Europe, to the capital of all of Europe, with a Eurostar train to Brussels, Belgium. After collecting tickets from the machine at St. Pancras International Station, I nervously waited in the frightfully long queue, simultaneously hoping that the line would move slowly enough for my husband to join me… And that it would move quickly enough for us to both make our train. He joined me shortly and we cleared emigration (and immigration, if I had paid attention to my newly stamped passport) in plenty of time since officials only permitted passengers on the next two train departures to eke through.
When platforms for our train and the train that departed for Paris 3 minutes prior to ours were announced, there was a mass exodus. J and I stayed put for a minute to finish eating my orange. I had to leave my rubbish, an orange peel and seeds left wrapped in a napkin, on the table since there were no “rubbish bins” in sight due to security reasons. (J told me they missing because someone could place a bomb in one…)
Once aboard our Eurostar train to Brussels I settled into a soft grey and coffee striped seat in time to hear the announcement in English and French followed by Dutch. I tested out the headrest, which was folded inwards like a travel pillow, but I only managed to smash my left temple into the bottom corner. My neck would have fit comfortably if my torso were a good 6 inches longer. But the sturdy plastic footrest for my normally dangling feet and the super wide desk made me feel comfortable. I grabbed the Eurostar’s Metropolitan Magazine from the netted backseat pocket and enjoyed the cosy journey with my hubby – only slightly tempted to walk to the bar, which is admittedly much cooler than ordering a drink on a plane.
A quiet whir and whistling hum filled the carriage as the train was propelled down the tracks at impressive speeds. Beyond the tall grassy banks dotted with flowers, the often hidden backsides of neighborhoods were visible. There were no signs or storefronts to see, just a glimpse of residents’ homes and their backyards, where families choose to relax in privacy. We whipped past the outskirts or cities and dove into tunnels, whose pressure made my eardrums ache as a loud wind sound dragged across the structure.
The train hurls out of the tunnel and back into nature again. The tree lines in the distance are gorgeous, but the trees near the track become a blur with the incredible speed with which we pass them. But then we approach the 31.4 mile long, partly submerged Channel Tunnel between England and France, and the urge to nap overwhelms me.
I awoke in the French countryside, and had I not known I had just arrived in a different country, I am not sure I would have noticed. The same grey sky blanketed the countryside, lying heavily on top of red roofs. But the grazing cows were more svelte and the trees stood tall in a graceful, wispy manner. The scene was whimsical, and would be perfectly captured by a muted palette and the impressionistic style of Claude Monet or the pointillism of Georges Seurat.
At Gare de Lille-Europe, an out of breath announcer panted in French, English and then Dutch. After a semi-antsy last stretch of the journey, we arrived in Brussels. With immigration already complete, we wound our way through the station to find a transportation desk for tickets into the Brussels city center.
The Eurostar train to Brussels provided an enjoyable and hassle-free trip from London, and I look forward to traveling with them again soon – perhaps from London to Paris!