(Written earlier this afternoon)
Hello from a TGV train towards TOULOUSE. The little girl across from me has just finished droning, very bored, a renditioning of Gangnam Style (“eeee, exileidee”, I doubt she knows what she is supposed to be singing thankfully), whilst the guy behind me had just stopped listening to Gentleman (Psy's new single) very loudly on his earphones.
But so, yesterday. A day of travelling, definitely. Car – bus – train – walk – train – bus – ferry – taxi – train – train – metro was our way of getting from Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire, Britain to Lille, Nord-pas-de-Calais, France.
After just over three hours of sleep, I woke up at a bit after half six in the morning in Hannah's Barley Hut, where the group of us seven young people were sleeping. Surprisingly warm sleeping on the floor in an outside 'hut', two of us on a single mattress, but the duvet was very warm!
|Barley hut & hot tub in the foreground!|
Breakfast was a traditional breakfast-sandwich made lovingly by Hannah's dad OM NOM I LOVE BRITAIN.
|Yes I will take the words out of your mouth OM NOM NOM|
I left all my junk at Hannah's, so now we started our “proper” Interrail-trip just with little backpacks. Exciting! Hannah's dad took me and CC by car to Benson, a nearby village where the bus to reading would leave. Experience #1 of random British niceness: We encountered an old lady at the bus stop who offered to pay our bus fare if we happened not to have enough change. (Luckily Hannah had known the price right though and we had enough.)
There we were taken to Reading, where we got the train to London Paddington. Our next train would be leaving from St Pancras, and we decided to save £9 altogether by walking instead of taking the tube. It was quite a walk, about an hour, but good practise walking with backpacks! Both CC and I came to the conclusion though we could never live in London because it was PACKED and seriously what is the point in sort of zebra crossings which are clearly not zebra crossings, but do indicate a crossing point for pedestrians, but with no lights for pedestrians, sometimes even no lights for cars!? If you practise safety, you would end up waiting at those roads for the rest of your life. Oh well.
|On the way to St Pancras|
|Hotel St Pancras!|
St Pancras brought us our first little bumps in our trip – our train to Dover Priory decided to be some sort of special train that needs a high-speed upgrade or something like that. We missed our train (well, we'd already missed one because walking took longer than I thought), but luckily we had a lot of time, so CC sorted that out and we got onto the next train to Dover – high-speed, sleek and sexy. We were in Dover in just under an hour.
Experience of random British niceness #2: There is a port bus from Dover train station to the ferry terminal. When we came to Dover on our way in a few days back, the bus driver stated the price (for two) as “four quid or five euros”, ok cool. We got into the bus and handed the driver five euros. “Sorry we don't accept euros,” said the driver. “Oh,” said CC, “we don't have any more pounds...” (obviously had used them on the bus to Reading earlier) But instead of telling us where the closest cash machine is, the drive just waved us in. Did we get in free?? me and CC looked at each other confused. Yep, we did. We even offered him euros again on the way out but he refused them.
Even though we were two trains later than what we had originally planned, we were still very early for the Dover ferry. I asked the guy in check-in if we could already check in for the 17.25 (the one we had reserved), he said yes, or you could even just get the 16.40 one. Ok, cool, we thought. Also, this would save our friend Max from having to drive an hour and a half to pick us up in Calais – I had stupidly booked a ferry so late that there was no way we would have time to catch the last train to Lille, where we were supposed to be sleeping.
The ferry was awesome, so much cooler than the previous one! We got seats at the front of the ferry, facing out to sea, seeing all the ships in front of us (including the exciting cargo ship I mentioned yesterday) and the cliffs on the French coast (yep, there are even cliffs in France!) We even found out there was wifi!
|Our luxury seats :)|
Getting into Calais was an adventure, since us and the five (!) other foot passengers were not allowed out till after the passengers from Calais were already piling on – it was too windy outside, and the stairs we would be using would be a hazard or something... Finally a bus picked us up, took us to the terminal, where we then followed the official lady (she had the fluorescent vest-thing on so we knew she worked there) until we realised she was not expecting to be followed – she went back to sit behind her desk and we were free!
|Arriving into Calais|
Well, free and free. I did realise already earlier that it wouldn't be supereasy to get from Calais ferry terminal to Calais train station. The thing is, Calais has two train stations – Calais Ville (the station in town, about 30min walk away), and Calais Frethun (the 'international' station out of town, mostly used by Eurostars and other high-speed trains that just have a really quick stop). Our train was from Calais Frethun. How to get to Calais Ville, let alone Frethun, in less than an hour?
Supposedly there should be a shuttle bus from the terminal to Calais Ville, and then a free shuttle from Calais Ville to Frethun. We checked the timetables for the shuttle bus. Doesn't run after six, nor on Sundays (we are in France in any case). Wow that was useful.
The lady said the only option is a taxi. Luckily there was a taxi waiting. “39-40euros to Calais Frethun,” said the taxi driver, “it is 16km out of town.” We decided to go by taxi just to Calais Ville (12euros), and hope there would be some way to get to Frethun from there. If not, well, running it would be good exercise...
Shared the taxi with one of the foot passengers who had been on the ferry – he had left to the centre by foot, but CC had the taxi stop when he noticed him stood on the pavement, looking confusedly at the map on the way, and told him to jump in. Bless you CC. :')
Got to the station, the taxi driver trying to convince us there is no shuttle service to Calais Ville. We got to the station at 20.02, thanked the driver, said bye to the random other foot passenger, went into the station and thank God saw there was one, last, final train leaving at 20.08, going via Calais Frethun. Hurrah!
Jumped in, got to Calais Frethun, which was an eery, empty, posh station I'd never been to before. And we got the last train, 20.47, to Lille. I realised just before boarding that I at least would have needed some extra upgrade “de grande vitesse” here too... but luckily no conductor came to check. Well, typical France.
|The out of town Calais-train station|
In Lille, we had a nice final dinner with Max (the guy who was supposed to pick us originally) and my very good friend Nicola. A perfect way to end a hectic day.
|In reality, they are very happy together|