Euro Love Train part 10 22nd July 2018: Luxembourg and home

Sunday morning started better than it had any right to, really. I felt virtually no ill-effects from the previous day, and the en-suite shower in the cabin was magnificent in terms of water temperature and pressure. Mind you, if I was just a little bit fatter than I am I'd have struggled to fit in, and the rough floor was very unpleasant.

Getting out of the way so Andrei could shower and get dressed, I successfully locked myself out of the cabin. Mercifully Andrew was awake and invited me in to sit, and the train crew were alert enough to come serve me breakfast. They claimed I hadn't placed an order so allowed me to place one there and then, which I did. That's some serious freebie train bread they have going on.

For some reason I am also given John's interrail pass. While I eat, Andrei surfaces and his and my passes are returned to him, along with the breakfasts we'd both ordered. Woohoo, double breakfast! Tell you what too, let's open the window and see what's outside.

Looks like a river. Is that the Rhein?

Yep. That's the Rhein.

It's about 0630, meaning not fully light, plus it's a bit grey, but you can tell it would be an amazing place in decent weather. We go along its coast for ages and there are schloßes galore.

I'm mostly packed as we pull into Koblenz, a surprising 20 or so minutes earlier than scheduled. Before I know it and still in the freebie slippers, Ed and Albert are both banging on the cabin window screaming THIS IS US! YOU HAVE TO GET OFF! I mean, I know, but they ain't gonna leave early. Arrive early yes, leave early no.

Good job too. Once we're all on the platform, Mark can't find his washbag and I fucking drop everything in a serious hurry and peg it back to the bathroom of our cabin because I'd left my fucking Garmin running watch on a shelf in there. Had I lost that there would have been zero schadenforeman. None. Keine.

Our timetable for the day had a comfortable 18 minute change here in Koblenz, then an 18 minute change at our next stop too. But some of us are feeling somewhat wobbly and messed up after the exertions of the final night; apparently, 5 shots of slivovice to close the evening may have been unwise. So we decide instead to spend an hour or so on the ground here and get a faster train to Trier, giving us a hairier 7 minute connection but it's an officially sanctioned change and is not meant to even require a platform change. No-one votes against this change.

Koblenz haupbahnhof is not very haupt, especially at just gone 7am on a Sunday. The newsagent is open and vending coke zero, and there's another couple of eateries, not that anyone is particularly hungry – and certainly not me. I go outside with Albert for a quick bit of emergency tourism, checking out a small circular route of streets away from the station and back.

Lund this ain't. The only thing of note is the gaggle of hobos just outside the station who are seemingly about to kick off into full-on bumfight mode. They still look in better shape than some of us.

Hey, Albert, you OK?

Back inside, a woman is wandering around menacingly, flitting between shops and groups of people and coughing up about a hundredweight of lung every few seconds. She stops to tell us her friends died of the same cough she had. Later she asks us if we're travelling around Germany by bike. We have no bikes but 5 wheelie suitcases.

Our train is leaving from platform 9. Koblenz station is weird, it says "this way to platforms 1-109". Er, no. There's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 105, 6, 106, 7, 107, 8, 108, 9, 109. No idea why. Anyway, at 9 there's a train which looks unlike a regular Deutsche Bahn and doesn't mention Trier anywhere. On the side it says "special train". But a conductor tells us it's ours so on we get and hey, there's first class! Woohoo!

As with the tail end of the night train, we're still hugging a river, this time the Mosel. It's wine country round here and continues to be good-weather-pretty.

Moving panorama makes the joins easy to see, but you get the idea

Low mist is low. Reminds me of the drive south of San Francisco.

Andrew's choice of food makes me invent the food festival "Pretzelmania". I think I want to start a company called the World Pretzeling Federation.

I mishear "wine terraces" as "wine terrorists". "Have you tried the Syrian red?"

At around 0930 we're in Trier, on the platform, staring at the departure boards to confirm the 0937 leaves from where we're standing, as all information we'd found online had claimed. The departure board stares back at us to say "there's no 0937. Oh, you didn't know? There's engineering works today".

Cue instant giggling and guffawing fit from me that lasts for at least the next 20 minutes. We're outside, across the road at bus stop number 6 and piling onto the local bus – for which we don't have to pay because he knows he's also the replacement – to Wasserbillig via Trier Sud and Igel. This is fucking hilarious. The last border crossing we do as a group on this trip is done by sunday morning rail replacement bus. Wonderful!

The weather improves en route and as we go over the bridge into Wasserbillig it is, improbably, the 3rd way in which I have entered Luxembourg. By train in 2002, by plane in 2015, and now by bus.

The road speed limits are dictated by type of road, whether you're in a town or not, and what the weather's doing.

At the gare the train is leaving at 1010 whether everyone makes it or not. That gives us 6 minutes, so naturally we walk virtually the full length of the platform until finding an empty first class upper deck whose ceiling and luggage racks are so low we all bump our heads repeatedly.

Beer comes out. We have to toast the border, after all, plus we have beer to get rid of. Andrew gets out the bluetooth speaker and we're treated to a range of appropriate songs to mark both our current status plus the end of this trip. My request for Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train is not honoured, but I do get a bit of Johnny Cash on the go.

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more, for dessert

Already later than we should have been, this train is also a stopping service into Luxembourg City. Turns out it's not quite a postage stamp like Liechtenstein but there's other real towns with their own stations and that, and we've got 40-odd minutes on here.

This is the only view of Luxembourg City we get.

At just before 11am we're there in Luxembourg City. Ed has booked us into a place for brunch at 11, out back of the station. It is a much longer walk than any of us had planned for or wanted to do, but at least enables us to find this "it's cheaper if you bring your own scissors" barber.

Service at brunch is confusing. Four people go for Bloody Marys (I am not one), which Andrew turns from average to amazing by wielding all the extra condiments and ingredients we're still in possession of. Some people order food, I just opt for an orange juice and mostly sit quietly in the corner. I'm still not hungry, I could order a craft beer, but instead I'm staring at my watch and my phone. Y'know what, I should go...

Yep. It's true. I'm flying to London at 1405 and am paranoid about missing it, despite also holding a ticket for 2130 BA service. There's no Uber around here and the local "webtaxi" wants 37 fucking euros so I'm trying to figure out buses. It's a 10 or so minute walk back to other side of the station and the buses are only every half hour so bollocks: Gentlemen, it is time for me to make like a daytime-Cinderella and get out of here in time for the 1200 bus.

The original plan – by which I mean the original original, mooted way back last year when plans started to first crystallise – was that Luxembourg was merely another stop, after which we'd be heading to Paris then on south to do the other half of the continent, finishing with a flight from Cyprus to Malta. But cost, complexity, and commitments all saw to it that Luxembourg is where we're all splitting up.

In 10 days, myself, Andrei, Ed, Mark and John have just visited:

  1. Dublin/Ireland
  2. London/UK
  3. Brussels/Belgium
  4. Amsterdam/Netherlands
  5. Berlin/Germany
  6. Copenhagen/Denmark
  7. Stockholm/Sweden
  8. Helsinki/Finland
  9. Tallinn/Estonia
  10. Riga/Latvia
  11. Vilnius/Lithuania
  12. Warsaw/Poland
  13. Prague/Czechia
  14. Bratislava/Slovakia
  15. Vienna/Austria
  16. Luxembourg/Luxembourg

Pre-fucking-posterous. And let's face it, any more and we'd all have fucking died of liver failure anyway. So Hands are shook and hugs are exchanged and promises to never ever do any of this again are made. Alone, I walk back to Luxembourg city gare. Pour moi, Euro Love Train est fini.

Prologue: flying home

Being the guinea pig on the airport run I'm the one who can make the mistakes and suffer the stress. Upstairs and most of the way through the walkway to the front of the station, I consult the bus timetable again and notice it starts off with a 6 minute walk from the front of the station to "Gare rocade" which... is the rear of the station. Fuck it!

At the stop there's a ticket machine which won't sell tickets, only credit for an Oyster-card-thing that you should already own. The local transport website only mentions buying from some types of shop or a few machines or online in an app that my phone refuses to download. I see no evidence anywhere that cash is accepted. In a bit of a panic with 3 minutes to go I download another app that claims to allow ticket purchase, and try to register. This fails, multiple times, and the bus turns up. Most people get on the middle or rear doors and beep their phones or tickets. I sheepishly get on the front and, oh, they're more than happy to take cash for a ticket. Why did nothing give me that impression?? Gah!

Anyway. Relax. I'm on a bus now and it takes just 20 minutes to reach the airport. Grabbing a seat I decant various things between my two pieces of luggage to prepare myself for an easier trip through security. Past the first desk with the really unhappy and surly woman who's attaching labels to wheely suitcases, I'm at the security check where nothing sets off any alarms and it ends up taking me way longer to put everything back in my bag and pockets than it had to take out.

Remembering my fail from the last time I flew from here, I opted not for the stairs but the corridor with bad signage down which is the lounge. I am not flying business class nor with an airline with whom I have any status, but I do have a Priority Pass card which lets me in anyway. Hurrah! What's more, this lounge has self-pour beer so I can pour myself a beer.

My attempts do not succeed. Fuck it, I'll have a bottle. It is rough. I move to the local sparkling wine and a couple of snacky meat and cheese. On our Facebook messenger group there is faux woe doing the rounds; And and And have gone off on the TGV to Paris, except they had to start with yet another rail replacement bus service, while Albert was doing some city tourism and seemed to be stuck at the far end of a funicular railway.

I'm not in the lounge for long. I know my gate already and boarding starts 35 minutes before the flight, so I'm told. Flying to London means the non-Schengen gates – fun fact, our bus into the country took us pretty near Schengen, the tri-point town the treaty is named after – so there's passport control to contend with.

On the other side there is fuck all. Word reaches me that Mark and John are also in the airport in time for their 1450 flight; I advise them that there's fuck all beyond immigration, but also that when it says "boarding" it means it - unlike many airports, the screens change the second boarding is announced rather than ages before.

No airbridge here, everyone on LG4595 to LCY is bundled onto a bus for a remote stand. Oddly, the monitors hanging from the ceiling which would normally be adverts for the airport or city or some shop or whatever are showing the stops the bus will take en route to a hospital near Chadwell Heath. Eh?

This is a DeHavilland Dash-8 Q400. 2x2 seating and cosier than a Baltic minibus. You are allowed a small bag onboard, but most "cabin baggage" actually needs to be thrown on a trailer and when you get off at the other end you go hunt for it yourself.

I've picked seat 13F because in economy on LuxAir you can pick your own seats even without status. Take note, BA. I chose it because it's a window seat and also a bit like Friday the 13th, a film franchise I'm quite partial too plus also the date of the previous Friday when this stupid trip started. Symmetry, innit.

The man in 12F reclines before we even move away, and is scolded by the staff for doing so. He is the only person in the whole cabin in front of me to have done so. Later when we come into land he will be scolded again, also the only person to still be reclining when we descend. How the fuck I am sat behind the only (other) twat in the cabin I do not know.

There is a giant 100+ page inflight magazine, in which I find documentary evidence of a claim I had read online: that even in very short-haul economy, LuxAir will provide you with a free snack and drink. Take note, BA.

It's sunny everywhere and Europe looks all nice and patchworky and lovely. When the seatbelt signs go off the snack arrives, it's just a little biscuit but very welcome.

Is this Dusseldorf? Dunno. Anyway, as well as the solids we get a choice of drink and fuck yeah in LuxAir economy even on very short haul legs you get free sparkling wine in economy. Take note, BA.

I am so fucking exhausted. Essentially I spend the flight blinking for 20-odd seconds at a time, then taking pictures of cities or fields or boats.

I like this one.

After a while, England arrives. I'm trying to remember what it's like to arrive at London City airport by plane and I can't. Think I may have only done it once before.

What it's like is that you fly up the Thames staring at Southend.

Then you stare at container ships and other industry and remember that the Thames is commercially important.

Then you see a billion shipping containers and think about buying that book about shipping containers.

Then the wheels come down and you think, I guess we're coming into land then.

Then you come into land, mildly concerned that you're not over land until almost the very last moment.

Immigration at London City airport is nice and fast, so long as you don't find yourself at the rear of a long queue of people who don't understand how the gates work mixed with those who've queued up for ages only to be told they don't have ePassports and should've been in one of the other queues.

The DLR has engineering works but will still take me to Canning Town, where a Jubilee Line loudly speeds me to Waterloo from which I can sit on a sweltering South Western Railway service to Surbiton. The weather is viciously hot and I open the door to no greeting at all; Helen is up north on family business, and I've just woken Buster the cat up on the sofa. He gives me a "where the FUCK have you been, and what kind of fucking state are you?" look before a couple of stretches then 4 hours of demanding attention and food, jumping on me and miaowing in my face any time I close my eyes for longer than a blink.

I muster the energy to write up the Saturday, with WWE Extreme Rules on the TV and a pork pie to sustain me until Helen returns from Yorkshire a few hours later. By fuck I am glad I booked Monday off.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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