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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
I like this one.
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.