4th August 2016
Well this is a thoroughly British start to my adventure. The morning kicked off with a bacon sandwich and a 45 minute train delay. The latter was a most tense affair whilst Nat and I tried to calculate whether a speedy drive to Reading or Bristol would enable me to make my Reading connection. Either looked highly unlikely.
As I boarded the train the heightened level of stress was topped off with a wrench of sadness and guilt as I watch my teary family wave goodbye. Nevertheless I remained hopeful that I might make an alternative connection in time to catch my flight.
At Reading station there was just enough time to make a straight forward change and catch another train. Running an hour late was less than desirable but I was hopeful of a quick blitz through check-in. The train slipped in to Gatwick a few minutes late in a final attempt to detain me from my flight and I ran for the check-in desks.So much for ditching the coach in favour of a more reliable train journey! My first plan had been to take the much cheaper Megabus, but the 2am start and a sense that ‘you get what you pay for’ put me off.
Check-in greeted me with long snaking queue that looked like it was ‘digesting’ passengers at an alarmingly slow rate. Nonetheless keeping my ‘chin up’ I considered that sometimes looks can be deceptive and having printed my baggage label I enquired politely of an attendant as to how long it might take. Noticing my flight number she promptly passed me to another attendant for what I assume was meant to be fast track processing. A few odd questions later I was promptly sent to the back of the queue like a dejected rodent to await the digestion of the snaking behemoth.
Fortunately I caught the first attendants eye again and queried her initial intention. With that classic British roll of the eyes she whisked me over to the oversized baggage portal where I snuck an extra book into the luggage to make the most of my 15kg allowance.
A quick passport check and my bag disappeared though the plastic curtain leaving me wondering, “Would I see it again?” Well of course I did!
Dashing for the departure lounge there was no time to stop for food, and only the briefest of moments to grab some duty free whiskey. Well you have to get your priorities straight! Within minutes of getting to the gate I was boarding the rear of a Norwegian Air Boing 737. Now what is my seat number? 2F! Great! So now I have to fight my way down a packed plane to get to my seat. Still, I’m here. Patience is a virtue and all that!
After an uneventful flight I landed in Stockholm and attempted to withdraw cash but without success. So I resorted to an exchange booth and accepted that it would probably sting me for more than I wished. I reckon I’m less than a tenner down though so no great shakes.
I now had a few minutes to meander through the luxurious Sky City mall and find the train platform. Unfortunately I had developed a cracking headache so didn’t feel in the slightest bit inclined to have any food. Despite only having had some juice and an apple on the train I was surprisingly un-hungry. Nonetheless I thought it would be wise to eat before boarding he night train so grabbed a pastry and coffee. Yes you knew cake would feature swiftly in this little diary entry!
The night train is one of those rugged old fashioned Canadian style trains with a gangway down one side of he carriages and 6-berth cabins leading off. Finding my seat I was relieved and having some water my headache starts to dissipate. I’m sharing with three guys around my age and two slightly older women who are surreptitiously finishing off a bottle of Carling. I suspect it is not their first as its clearly lubricating their giggle muscles! It brings a smile to my face – at last I’m on my way!
The train glides through the countryside. I’m acutely aware of how smooth it is.
Once the train sorts a fault with its payment machine the buffet opens and I let the queues dissipate before tucking in to a meal of stewed Reindeer and potato purée. Really yummy! A small incident with the plastic knife left me wondering where the tip went. Just hope it doesn’t hurt passing through!
Then it’s to bed in my top bunk. I’d recommend top bunk as there is a little more feeling of privacy – albeit I will have to climb down at 5am when the others are all sleeping.
I’ve set an alarm but Marcus, the gentleman opposite me, is getting off at the stop before me so I shouldn’t miss Jörn. Hmmm. Famous last words …. Night night!