There is a Star Trek film by that title (which I am sure some of you will know), but it fits today's post so well that I simply had to use it.
Saturday, the 30th July, began bright and early for us. I had not slept well that night, as I rarely do before a long trip, but I was not overly tired and felt fine after my mug of coffee and a shower. The last bits went into our suitcases, the dishwasher was switched on, and when my sister-in-law arrived at 8:00 to take us to Harrogate train station, we were ready.
The drive was quicker than expected, and we were able to catch the 8:37 train to York instead of the 9:05. After a tearful good-bye from Angela, our trip started in earnest.
Of course, it was the day of a nationwide railway strike, but not all train companies took part. I had been able to change our booking online after I had been given notice by email a few days earlier that our originally booked train wasn't going to run. Funnily enough, the change meant that the ticket from York to London was cheaper 1st class than regular, and would I like a refund for the cancelled journey? Yes, I would, so I quickly clicked through the application, and guess what - the refund was on my account the very next day!! None of this would have happened with German railway companies...
Anyway, most people had been heeding the advice not to travel by train that day unless absolutely necessary (it was absolutely necessary for us), so there was hardly anyone about during that part of the journey.
The 1st class seats were good, but not all that different from what we had had on the Azuma train from London to Leeds when we arrived. The difference was that there were two ladies with a trolley passing through several times, offering hot and cold drinks as well as various snacks - for free! We gratefully accepted a snack box each, although my sister had prepared sandwiches for us, and of course we had brought our water bottles and bought cans of coke at the station.
|1st class coach. The carpet looks not exactly 1st class, does it.
It was in London that the fun began...
From King's Cross to St. Pancras only takes a few steps across the road, but then we met with the longest queue I have ever personally been in, and the biggest number of people I have ever seen at a train station (and believe me, I have seen loads)!
It was really our own fault for having timed our trip without considering that the school holidays in England had just begun. Plus there was an airline strike with German Lufthansa, so that many passengers who originally had booked flights were now using the Eurostar instead.
To cut a long story short: We queued for a full TWO HOURS, only to go through ticket, passport, Covid pass and luggage checks in about 10 minutes... Everyone in the queue was well behaved, though, with only a few trying to get in front of others. Staff was constantly patrolling along the queues to make sure everyone was in the right queue for the train they actually were booked on, with one of them even keeping folks motivated by saying things such as "You're doing great" and "Almost there!". I replied to him that he and his colleagues were doing great, too; it can't have been easy for them to handle those crowds, either.
|Finally on board the Eurostar!
We made it to our train which was of course delayed by about an hour, having us worry about our connection in Paris. But the Eurostar driver did his or her best, making up for at least part of the delay, leaving us with about 20 minutes in Paris - which turned out to be just about enough to get out of one station, along busy streets and down a flight of stairs to the next station, finding our platform and boarding the TGV. All that was not made easier by a) luggage, b) throngs of people everywhere and c) temperatures of around 30C. But we made it, and the train left almost as soon as we had found our seats. Phew!!!
On board the TGV, we could relax, as we knew that once in Stuttgart, we'd get home somehow. Crossing the Rhine near Strasbourg meant being back in Germany. In Stuttgart, we missed the local train home by seconds - it was still at the platform, but the doors had already closed. The 20 minute wait for the next local train to Ludwigsburg was not too bad; it was Christopher Street Day in Stuttgart, and there was plenty of colourful folk about at the station to do some people watching.
Finally, a few minutes before 10:00 pm, I shut the door to my flat from the inside.
Would I do it again? Certainly! But next year, we will look up holiday times in England before we book our tickets. We can't always know in advance what will happen in terms of strikes or construction work, but all things considered, I much prefer trains to planes. And our trip there went so well, it really deserves a repeat.
(All photos on this post were taken by my sister.)