Eurostar terminal Brussels on a Friday morning, 0830. Why so many people? Apparently it’s normal a stressed UK Borders passport checker informs me. Coach 17, filled with doddering pensions and Flemish children. Why can’t Eurostar do a business standard coach? And why can’t Flemish parents control their kids a bit better?
Train to Gatwick. Japanese kid playing a Nintento DS where stroking a virtual dog with the stylus is the main point. The train conductor (male) seems to have small Christmas baubles as earrings. Oh, and why is First Capital Connect at 30 km/h bumpier than Eurostar at 300 km/h?
Gatwick and a man sternly stops me approaching the check-in desks to put an orange sticker on my passport. The point remains unknown. SMS from Axel, the Europäische Bewegung server is down. Should have known. Always happens every time I go away anywhere. Last time I was at Gatwick the whole thing collapsed. Not so serious this time, but getting a wireless connection is so damned hard. How can Britain’s airports be so bad?
People watching is scary while I’m sat trying to get online. The late-40s peroxide blonde with an improbably large bust and macho boyfriend. At least 6 stag parties or hen nights, all the participants in various states of inebriation and with variously stupid T-shirts. Muffin tops abound. Pensioners dither, looking all so confused by it all.
Plane boards. Plenty of legroom, but I’m sat beside the most boring and earnest couple you could imagine. They try to be aloof and intellectual, and get all flustered donning their special socks to stop deep vein thrombosis. Small kid in the row behind kicks my seat incessantly.
See basically nothing out of the window apart from a 5 minute glimpse of Newfoundland. Cloud the whole way, and muggy fog in Montréal. But how cool is the city from above! It goes on and on and on, and the grid system is something to behold.
Montréal Trudeau is somewhat reminiscent of Stockholm Arlanda, light and airy and rather efficient. My bag is 5th on the carrousel. That never happens. But then the journey grinds to a halt. 45 minutes to wait for the ‘express’ bus to the city, and a bunch of irate passengers are left fuming at the stop. Then the bus comes, and the driver is too busy puffing on a cigarette to allow people on board, and then he frets for ages about the luggage and refuses to let more passengers on. I’m one of the lucky ones, but the mess causes some banter to develop among the passengers and I get chatting about Montréal and languages and the American paranoid approach to terror with a couple of businessmen in the bus. One askes me if I’m German. I take it as a compliment, and say, no I’m British. He thinks he’s offended me. I’m not offended and smile. Very pleasant folks, although the Quebec accent in French is really disconcerting. It will take a while to get used to.
The humidity in MTL hangs heavy, and I take a beer down by the old port for refreshment, but also because I have to take a night bus and after this day, almost 20 hours long already, I’m going to have to sleep and a beer or two will help. Adirondack Coachways, US border guards, and NYC on the morrow await. And I can’t wait.