So the other Friday, I made my best stab at slipping out of the office at half four, as subtly as you can when you’re laden down with bags and wearing a big winter coat, and made my way north on a surprisingly quiet Northern line. Sal and I were off to Bruges for the weekend, you see, and I wanted to get up to the new St Pancras station (named, of course for the patron saint of the digestive system) in time to take some photos.
There’s a slight air of the unfinished about the place (or at least there was two weeks ago), with lots of metal shutters and boards all over the place covering up the places where the concessions will soon be, but it’s an impressive, imposing station nonetheless… In need of supplies for the journey, however, the lack of facilities at St Pancras forced us to walk over the road to its shabbier, smaller neighbour. King’s Cross might not have the Gothic architecture, a lengthy champagne bar, or a giant statue of some lovers snogging, but it does have Cornish pasties.
The Eurostar refurb apparently doesn’t extend to the rolling stock, by the way, which has the same slightly worn interior as it has for years, but we pulled out of the station on time, and, as Sal dozed beside me, I drank my first Duvel of the weekend, read my book and listened to Radiohead serenading me through the countryside at 186mph…
Part way through the journey, I spotted that a lady a few rows in front of us was wearing a Eurostar/Greenpeace T-Shirt bearing the slogan “I took 2 hrs 14 m to save the climate. London St Pancras – Paris, 14/11/2007”. Well that’s a relief if we don’t have to worry about that little problem anymore. If we’d only known that it was going to be that easy, then maybe we could have tried it sooner. (And perhaps then we’d have been spared Live Earth…)
Bruges itself was lovely, of course. (Cold, but lovely).
There was chocolate. There was beer. There were chips…
Sadly as Bruges is in the Flemish part of the country, I had to be typically rubbish about the whole language thing, and just speak to everyone in English, although I did get one or two chances to use a bit of my French–at one point a woman stopped us on the street and actually asked “où est la gare?” It doesn’t get more textbook than that, but sadly the answer wasn’t “go straight ahead and take the third street on the right”, it was more like “er, I dunno; it’s really far away” accompanied by lots of pointing to my map, and ended with me suggesting that she should “Suivre le canal”. I’m not sure how helpful that was.
The other opportunity was when we went on the tour around De Halve Maan, the last remaining brewery in Bruges, where I got to laugh at the tour guide’s jokes once in English and then again when she repeated them in French. Yes, I know, I am sad.
Oh, and one other bizarre incident: as we wandered the streets of the town looking for just the right chocolate shop, we passed a middle-aged American couple looking in the window of a deli.
“Look at these sandwiches”, squawked the lady to her husband. “Look what’s in these sandwiches. Oh look at what’s in these sandwiches!”
I’ve no idea what part of the states they were from, but it must be a very sheltered part. When we walked back past the same shop a little while later I had a look at these sandwiches I’d heard so much about. I can confirm that they were just normal sandwiches. With, like, meat and cheese in them.
[*] Barman to Sal as we left the bar on our first evening in town…