Day 13 – back on the move

Stone – Stafford- Euston- St Pancras – Bruxelles Midi – Bruxelles Central

My week back home has passed in a flash. Bags unpacked, washing done, work and domestics dealt with and maps and timetables repeatedly poured over. My original plan for trip two was to head to the most northerly railway line in Europe, in the Arctic circle at Narvik. That was thrown into question when a rail strike was announced in Finland, which was my planned route south, which I really didn’t want to miss.

There was also a question mark on the weather. It was -20C in Narvik a couple of nights ago. That doesn’t bother me in itself but bear in mind I’m Interrailing and have to carry everything I need with me for a fortnight. It’s a lot of extra layers that will only be worn for a couple of days.

I did briefly consider a different route, travelling south through Norway but I didn’t really want to miss the Finnish part of the trip so considered the feasibility of swapping over trips 2 and 3. The third trip was planned to be south, to Spain and Portugal. It meant missing a planned concert in Madrid on the third trip, and more than likely put paid to any chance of catching the end of the Northern lights season, but I couldn’t see another way to do it, so the decision was made.

A further small curveball was thrown with the political unrest in France, but I had the option of going south via the Rhine valley, which had been part of Trip 1 at an early stage of planning, and meant I would avoid Paris. I also get to (briefly) tick off another country tomorrow.

Taking a bus to Stafford then jumping on the train there was slightly easier than going from Stone. The timings worked perfectly and I was in London almost before I knew it. From there, it became a little more challenging. I was met by a sign at St Pancras International, and huge queues of people everywhere.

Sign at St Pancras International

It looked like trains were about an hour late – where they were running (several had been cancelled) but I decided to use the time and go for a bit of a wander. I first went to see my old friend Sir Nigel next door in King’s Cross. I’d had some involvement with the installation of Hazel Reeves‘ lovely statue, though it still irks me that the planned mallard duck at the foot of the statue was omitted at the last moment, a decision that resulted in articles in the national press and on the BBC.

I spent some time exploring bits of St Pancras that I don’t normally have the time to look at. It really is a lovely station. Eventually though, I had to concede and join the queue.

Having finally boarded, we were left sitting on a train waiting for the crew to arrive (presumably on a different inbound train.) The train left an hour and 20 minutes late.

We eventually arrived in Brussels, and I felt for those who were going onward to Amsterdam and would be arriving after midnight. I’d been talking to the person next to me who was going to Amsterdam for a job interview early the following morning. I just had a short hop to Central station, a full 3 minute journey (and the only bit of the day done on my Interrail pass.)

Having dropped my bags, it was by now after 11pm local time (but 10pm in my head) so I went for a wander. It’s a lovely city by night. I spotted a number of art installations that were just photos projected onto walls in improbable locations, and also some comic book heroes, including Tintin.

The postscript to the day was a late night email from Eurostar to say that because of the delay, 30% of my ticket cost would be credited back to me. That will come in handy at the end of next week

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  1. Celia Lyon

    Great start to the trip. Did you know that I went to school with Hazel Reeves? I try to follow her sculpture unveiling around the country, gives me an opportunity to meet up with some old school friends. I love the Nigel Gresley.
    Graffiti artwork is becoming more popular, I tend to go looking for it in every city I visit. Brussels has never really been on my horizon but may include it now.

    • Absolutely, I consciously decided to beat you to it in mentioning her! It is a lovely thing, I just wish the Gresley Society had stood up to the misguided relatives who leaned on them to remove the duck. More fool them. I could and should have been a landmark, but is actually bypassed by almost everyone.
      On graffiti, I went to an amazing festival of graffiti art in Waterford a few years ago. Here is my Facebook post about it.

      • Celia Lyon

        Don’t you think that someone would have decided to steal, or damage the duck if they had included it in the statue. May have been for the best.
        Can you post a map of where you are going on your route? Or do we just need to wait and read your daily blog to find out? Keep us on tenterhooks 😉

        • Animals on statues are a thing, they are a very common device used to engage children, then the adult reads the adjacent plaque. There are examples in several other London termini, most recently one outside Euston. The plan would have had the duck well attached into the ground and being inside the station it’s extremely unlikely it would have come to any harm.
          Regarding maps, yes I did want to put one on every page, but they take ages to plot because I’m covering so much distance. I am hoping to revisit that on this trip, indeed it’s one of the reasons I brought the Macbook with me this time, but I keep spending my time having adventures rather than writing them up.
          As for a “plan,” lets just say that I’m ending tonight in a country I wasn’t planning to visit until lunchtime today! The general idea is to get to Algeciras, which is the most southerly railway station in mainland Europe, with the third trip being to the most northerly and the fourth to the most westerly. Exactly how I will get to any of them is a mystery to us both!

          • Celia Lyon

            Well that’s told me!! Thanks, do understand. I think the statue at Euston is of Flinders and his cat. I had to do a lot of research to find out why there was a statue of the man who mapped much of Australia at Euston station, and I think the answer is that it is supposed to be his burial place. Unless you know different 😉

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