When it came time for us to leave Belgium the journey home was as much an adventure as the rest of the weekend had been.
A tram first of all to take us to Gent Sint Pieters station.
Then a double decker train to Brussels. I’ve never been upstairs on a train before so this was very exciting (and gave me my favourite travel related photograph above).
Then finally the Eurostar back to St Pancras to be greeted by the newly unveiled (and dressed) statue.
Then…as if by magic…we followed the signs for Arrivals and found ourselves back in the concourse exactly where we had started from.
When you tell people that you’re visiting Belgium it seems most people reply with ‘Bruges is very nice’. When I replied that I was going to Antwerp and Ghent someone commented that the only thing they knew about Ghent was the poem “How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix”. So, with profuse apologies to Robert Browning here is my tale of our adventure.
How We Took Ourselves To Ghent For Cake
We woke up one morning and started our day,
On train bound for Harrow we rumbled away;
Then dragging our cases we hurried along
To underground platforms with commuting throng;
Our line Metropolitan, we got on board
A slow train to London, through tunnels we roared.
At King’s Cross St Pancras we next disembarked,
The statue was shrouded in black we remarked;
With passports in hand, now security bound,
The Eurostar terminal easily found;
The train sped away and to Brussels we flew,
It would carry us there in an hour or two.
Our first stop in Belgium excited went we
Toward the Atomium eager to see;
Then later that evening we boarded a train
To take us to Antwerp for panto again,
Admiring the buildings without traffic jams
We happ’ly spent afternoon playing on trams.
Two nights we stopped then returned to the station,
To journey this time to our last destination;
Arrived at Gent Dampoort and damp it was too
But here as before we found plenty to do;
Espying a café towards it we went
The sign it said ‘pi’ we had found cake in Ghent.
Needless to say we found plenty of things to do in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent (not just eating cake) and I’m sure I will post something more sensible about them all soon.
When you discover you have a free all day (off peak) ticket for Chiltern Railways what do you do?
In this case the answer was to plan a route that took in as much as possible of Chiltern’s route map while simultaneously avoiding the use of any trains which arrive in Birmingham or London before 10:00 (because that’s what off peak means). Here’s how our day went:
We arrived bright and early to catch the first train to Aylesbury (the 07:27) only to discover it had been cancelled due to ‘disruptive passengers’! We took the opportunity to grab a (very pleasant) station coffee and waited for the next train at 07:56.
We arrived with enough time to nip across the road to Morrisons to stock up on a few provisions before heading back to the station to see our next train arrive. Imagine our delight to see it was a real slam-door train and look at the British railways logo.
No time for more than a quick stroll about here before catching our next train.
We had a lovely chat here with a charming gentleman who was travelling to collect a canal boat and resisted the urge to go shopping in Bicester Village (if only the day was longer).
A lovely and surprisingly tiny station we stopped only to change trains to start our shortest journey of the day (11:06 to 11:09).
We took a break from the railway here to walk up the Hatton flight of locks. We took time to enjoy the view and to chat to a homeless chap who regaled us with his recent life story. Finally the rain drove us to retreat to the Hatton Arms (a delightful pub). At this point the timetable compelled us to walk back swiftly to the station to catch yet another train.
Birmingham Snow Hill/Moor Street
We arrived at Birmingham Snow Hill and decided to walk through the city to Moor Street station to take the Mainline train. On the way we took the time to look at Birmingham Cathedral. I was thrilled to discover that it contains some amazing Burne-Jones stained glass (he’s my favourite Pre-Raphaelite artist).
After the longest journey of the day we took a break to grab some supper before regretfully taking our last train home.
Stoke Mandeville Again
Just after midnight we arrived back where we started having been travelling for over sixteen hours and having had an amazing day out. Thanks must go to Chiltern Railways for making it possible.