Friday, July 13, 2012

Run silent, run deep

I hop back and forth across the Channel a lot – I didn’t realize how often until I was discussing it with a colleague yesterday who said that he hasn’t been on a ferry since college.  I do it monthly.  I don’t mind it – it’s a nice break on the trip from Cambridge to Maastricht and, if the seas are calm 9rarely), I can get a few thoughts organized after a couple of hour’s windshield time getting to the docks.

Today I had afternoon meetings out towards Oxford, then needed to get to France before 9 pm.  The veerboot timing simply wasn’t going to cut it, but aferry.com threw up a good fare on the EuroTunnel options.  I’d never done it before, it’s only half an hour across the channel (as compared with three times that much by ferry, so I went for it.

In some ways, it’s a lot like getting on the ferry.  Exiting at Folkstone (after the same dash along the last motorway after traffic jams on the M25 Orbital), there’s a short, dedicated road to the layers of ticket check and passport control.  You get a card telling you which line to join.  You queue up ahead of being allowed to board.

 

Then it changes.  The rail cars are rolling stock, fully enclosed with a portal in the side to admit vehicles.  Once inside, you jam up against one another, four to a narrow cylindrical compartment with small portholes.  The doors are valved shut, the staff checks that everything is locked down, and the announcements begin.  You stay in the car throughout the trip, barely room to open a door and no room to open the boot once inside.

 

 

The train glides forward gently, then angles a few degrees down at the nose. I don’t know how to describe it other than like a submarine: the windows go black and there’s a perceptible feeling of diving under the Channel.  Staff comes through every 10 minutes to check that nobody is smoking or taking flash pictures (apparently it upsets the fire detection system) and the whole compartment gently sways and bumps through the darkness outside.  It’s stuffy, even though its well lit.

France comes quickly and cars are of and onto the highway without the 20-minute delays common at the Calais docks.  In that sense, it’s really nice: there’s more time for the really important things on the other side.

 

 

Cheap French goods at Auchen,  Good French veggies at Carrefour, and picking up the new lease car Winking smile

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