Sunday, 1 September 2019
05:30, Brighton. I arrive at Brighton station as the last few stragglers from Saturday evening noisily leave. Having developed a horrid cold, I suspect this drawn-out journey will be less enjoyable than I had hoped.
07:18, London Victoria. Wait 15 minutes for a Victoria line train to arrive, a feat of endurance given the oft-repeated announcement about escalator repairs.
08:19, London St. Pancras. Board the Eurostar. A rare chance to travel on one of the (not-so-new) e320s.
10:48, Paris-Nord. Gare du Nord seems to get more beautiful with every visit. I have an hour to dash south to my next connection via the RER to Port-Royal. The ticket machine seems designed to test the patience of users, remaining unresponsive for just over a minute before serving the next customer. How French!
12:34, Paris-Montparnasse. After a brisk walk from the Port-Royal RER station, I arrive at this modern carbuncle with about 10 minutes to spare. The French railway system is now a mishmash of different brands, so I board an SNCF TGV INOUI service to Hendaye. The double-decker Duplex’s are incredibly spacious. My reclining seat has a large pulldown table, desk light, USB and power sockets. All undone by a low-hung luggage rack which I repeatedly hit my head against.
18:35, Hendaye. Having arrived 45 minutes earlier, I board the Sud Express, a Renfe/CP operated train hotel that has seen better days. In one of the carriages is a small bar/restaurant, lorded over by portly gentleman fond of rules. No photos. No video. No card payments. I inadvertently break the first rule before seeing the sign. The third rule is not apparent until I try to pay for my meal. I have visions of doing the washing up as payment. Fortunately, the train manager is able to bring a card payment machine to my compartment later in the evening.
Monday, 2 September 2019
07:55, Lisbon Oriente. Arrive after a rough night with little sleep. My throat is sore, my nose stuffed up, and my ears have endured a night of rattling doors, squealing rails and the wheezing plumbing of an adjacent toilet. Sections of the route were so bumpy derailment seemed a distinct possibility. I briefly explore another of Santiago Calatrava’s extravagant railway stations, before making my last connection via the Lisbon Metro.
09:00, Saldanha. Seven trains, four countries and 27 and half hours later, I arrive at my hotel, where I’m able to check-in early and have a shower. I do it all over again, but in reverse, in a week’s time.