The Long Way

There are many ways to London. Visiting Northern Ireland for my friends Phil and Esther’s wedding, I found myself with a day to get from the cottages where we staying in Newtownards down to London to visit my cousin Eric and some other friends from Bangladesh. I love trains and given the choice, I always choose them if it’s halfway possible. I had heard rumors of a land route to London, time wasn’t scare, which made an easy decision to try to find it. The day started with early cup off tea. Phil’s Aunt and Uncle took me into Belfast on their way to the airport and dropped me off at Belfast Central train station… Which was wrong train station to buy that particular ticket so I walked across Belfast to the Great Victoria Street station where I was able to buy a 60 pound combined ticket Train and Ferry ticket to London. Which left from the first train station. So I had to hop a commuter train back across town arriving with enough time for a chocolate croissant and a hot beverage.

The first train went from Belfast to Dublin. The great thing about trains is that they tend to follow more scenic routes. So I watched the scenery go by and started reading a book. The only piece of the journey that’s a little tricky is that you have to catch a bus from the Dublin train station to the Ferry station. It was fairly easy to navigate and I listened in on some backpacking culinary students talking about their amazing meal they were going to make that evening. Checking into the ferry was almost like checking into an airport, but much more laid back. I went through “Passport Control” which was very lax, got another cup of tea and waited to board the ferry. This was one of the largest ferries I’ve been on. I think there were 4 levels and it a duty free gift shop, a food court with several food options and slot machines. The ferry was full of passengers and I shared a table with a middle aged Australian who was on holiday who was sporting many bandages learning how to mountain bike in Northern Ireland. It was exceptionally grey and cloudy so I read a book got a sandwich and a beverage. Guess what it was?

The ferry lands at Holyhead and a shuttle runs you to Simmons’ there is a two car diesel train across to Chester before a larger train that heads down to London. Unfortunately the our train was delayed and I missed my next leg, which was more significant because that’s a leg you need a reserved ticket for, but was able to catch a train to Crewe and from there hop on a train operated by Virgin. There are many operators that run trains as part of National Rail and I think Virgin has the nicest trains in England, they are newer, the inside is very futuristic with a nicer fit and finish. They also have a decent tea. They go out of Euston and at that point I was in the rabbit warren that makes up the London tube and rail system. Between the underground, overground, and National Rail London is a web of steel transportation. Two more quick rides on the tube and I was at Old Street, a short walk from Eric’s flat. It was about 14 hours, 500 miles, 7 trains, a ferry with two short bus and car rides thrown after I had started. Or maybe I should say it was halfway through Dan Simmons’ series and 5 teas later. Fortunately, unlike the buses of Bangladesh, trains and ferries have bathrooms.

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