Stone – Stafford _ Euston – St Pancras International – Bruxelles Midi

Coming home between each of these trips is meant to be a bit of a break, a chance to recharge, catch up on home and work things, do my washing and plan what happens next. It was all going fine, indeed it had been a very good week for various reasons until Friday lunchtime.

Most people reading this will know that I live on a boat. Friday was very nearly the day that I used to live on a boat – in one of the scariest moments of my life I suddenly realised that the boat was taking in water – quickly! I’ll detail what happened on the other site at some point, but what matters is that I managed to recover the situation, by the skin of my teeth. I will hold my hands up and say that it was ultimately caused by me not concentrating at a time that I should have been, rather than any fault with the boat, but it took most of the next two days to clean it up.

The original plan had been to head away on Sunday morning, take the Eurostar and spend the first night in Cologne, then have time for a bit of a detour to a steam railway near Hamburg before the main part of the trip. What actually happened was I left mid-afternoon Sunday on the last bus to the last train that would get me to the last Eurostar of the day to Brussels.

Bream in Aston Marina
Heading away from Bream in Aston Marina, Sunday 16th April

I made the bus with 5 minutes to spare, and a moment of calm descended as my Euston train arrived on time.

The calm lasted until Tamworth, where the train stopped and didn’t move for 20 minutes. There was apparently a signalling problem ahead. I looked at the live train maps and could see that trains were stacked in stations they weren’t even due to stop at as far as Milton Keynes. Eventually we set off, It was fine as far as Rugby, but there we dawdled towards Milton Keynes, often at walking pace, stopping regularly. The problem now was that all the delayed services were heading for Euston and there was nowhere to put them.

We landed in Euston just under 40 minutes late. The chaos on the concourse where people were packed like sardines added another 10 minutes to that then I ran the short distance to St Pancras. Thankfully, unlike my previous Eurostar departure on the equivalent service, there were no queues and I got through check-in with 15 minutes to spare.

When we emerged from the tunnel we almost immediately made an unexpected stop at Calais. I noticed that the train in the next platform was the Eurostar to Paris, that had left London half an hour before we had. Apparently an earlier train had “hit an animal” and now nothing was moving. It must have been fairly substantial, though I guess that at 300km/h any collision could be quite serious. The Paris service was released before we were, and we finally pulled into Bruxelles Midi around 11pm, 20 minutes late.

I’d booked a hotel fairly close to the station, just a 10 minute walk away. It wasn’t cheap (what is in Brussels?) but was very nice and the staff were friendly.

In the room there was a huge mural above the bed. By the bedside lamp there was a message to say to scan a QR code and it would load an application that would animate the mural. I have tested this and it does work on a phone from the photo I took, if you put it onto a reasonably large screen. Display them on a laptop/desktop, click the image to make it fill the screen, and point a phone at the QR code. Swap the large screen to the mural and accept the app that wants to run on the phone. Start on the left – look for the Manneken Pis character.

An interesting end to the day. It was good to be back on the move, and indeed good to be back in mainland Europe.