Say what you like about TfL and its bus timetables of complete randomness and mystery. Feel free to bash London Midlands or South East Trains. (Heaven knows I have in the past...) By all means rage against the congestion charge or the fact that after almost a year of traffic lights and general chaos by Warren Street the Euston Road junction is still an epic shambles. But let it never be forgotten that in London it is possible to leave your home and within mere minutes be on your way to a whole other country. I am not speaking of the hilariously tiny and ancient single carriage trains that slowly trundle you out to Wales. I am talking about the lovely, sleek Eurostar - our route to the European mainland, to decent wine and foreign holidays.
My, but it is such a joy. And so damned easy that every time I travel on the Eurostar I wonder why I don't zoom across to Paris more often. But then I remember unless one is a loathesomely organised forward planner it's pretty costly. But, that cost buys you a pain-free check in, mere minutes of bag scanning with none of this tedious unpacking and repacking of one's bags and surrendering of tiny bottles of perfume that you forgot you'd stuffed in with your socks. I wrote this blogpost having just left the country with a large bottle of prosecco and a bulging washbag full of bottles with a larger than 100ml capacity - in your face, British Airways! I had no ticket or boarding pass to lose, instead merely waving my iPhone in the general direction of a scanner which found my e-pass within its digital depths and slid open to allow me on my way. I carried a bag, and a handbag, AND a gift bag for my charming host...all of that luggage and no one made me stuff it into a size gauge or repack one bag inside another. A family on my carriage really did appear to have packed adequate supplies for a month (I noted a cheeky wine bottle poking out of a changing bag; kudos, parents!) and why should they not?! Aboard the train, leg space is plentiful and the drop-down tables are big and sturdy enough to blog away on an iPad, without depositing your phone/bottle of water/book in your lap as the train jerks along its international track.
And then there is Europe - nay, the world - beyond. It's just waiting for you. You can head straight into Paris or Brussels and disembark there for a weekend away, or a business trip, without feeling too nervous that London is suddenly miles away. Or you can hop off and change onto another train and continue your exploring. Last year, the Accidental Mother - who would probably rather sacrifice her first born (i.e. me) rather than get on a plane - and I took ourselves all the way to Luxembourg from St Pancras station, just because we could. And it was blissfully easy. Even if the three hours we spent trundling through an oddly empty Belgium did make us wonder just where they keep everything in that country. (And why does no one have an actual garden? Oh, the acres of tedious lawn!) But we didn't care because then we were in Luxembourg City, a fairytale place dusted with snow...mere hours from London.
On Friday morning I woke up, went to work, caught a train, and when I got off it I was in Paris; with a weekend of long overdue chatting, joyful exploring, and delicious eating and drinking ahead. What could be better? I'll suffer a city with frustrating tube line closures for that. Actually, maybe that's how we should all manage the Underground's weekend engineering works in London - we could all just decamp to Paris for the weekend. Come on London, what are we waiting for?