I've been using the Eurostar train between London's Waterloo and Brussels Midi Station in Belgium. What a great way to travel, and a great place to practise one's language skills.
For short journeys the fast train simply blasts air travel out of the water. And those are the words of a pilot!
Air travel has become a bit of an ordeal, so for short journeys I have resorted more frequently to the train.
With the Eurostar, which connects London to Paris and London to Lille, and Brussels, I would far prefer to travel by train, than by air, unless there is an immediately connecting flight. The travel time from home to the hotel or vice versa is very similar!
With the new airport blitz on one's shoes, belts, tweezers, hair gel, air travel is one huge hassle.
Before boarding a flight from Los Angeles to London in August there was a final bag search by four crew-cut sporting soldiers wearing their jungle fatigues and skull-crusher boots.
Their shirts are deliberately a couple of sizes too small so the sleeves strain to contain their rippling, guaranteed steroid-free biceps.
All four hundred and something passengers queue solemnly for the last ordeal before the 12 hour ordeal of being wedged into an Economy Class seat, between two other six-foot-five monsters for whom the Atkins diet also failed.
We've already checked in, been through two lots of scanners, had the shoes removed (...phew - no holes in the socks...), been de-belted, and had the laptop wiped by an officer with gloves and holding a small cloth with tongs, in a random check for any known explosives.
I present my brief-case and a face to show I am serious about the soldiers' reluctant role in this dreadful situation.
"Have you packed this brief-case yourself, sir?"
"Could anyone have tampered with your bags while they were unattended, sir?"
"Do you have any perfumes, sprays, gel, blah, blah blah, nail-clippers, tweezers, weapons of mass destruction or liquids, sir?"
Opens the brief-case.
Pulls out a small bathroom kit.
He eyes widen a touch.
Oh my god. I've been sprung.
He pulls out a small tub of vaseline.
Opens the lid.
"It's for chapped lips, you know the aircraft cabins are very dry... sir," I stammer.
He gives me one of those 'I believe you mate, but others wouldn't' looks.
Neighbouring passengers look up from their searches to watch the vaseline being removed from the scene of the crime, and drop into a large plastic bag bursting with hair-sprays, ladies' perfumes, moisturisers, lip-sticks, balms, tweezers and other potential weapons of a similar ilk.
"You can't take that on-board, sir."
"Quite, um, yeah, but um.. thank you sir."
See why I like the train. They have all the X-Rays too but you are allowed hair gel and vaseline...
Anyway to get back to the point, trains are a very popular means of travel in France, and Belgium and Europe...
So on my recent travels between Brussels, Belgium and London, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Eurostar... and can thoroughly recommend it.
You sit by a maximum of one person, the table is generous enough to hold my laptop, and sometimes the trains have a powerpoint-plug where I can plug in and avoid the risk of my laptop battery spectacularly self-incinerating, as featured on recent TV news reports.
OK, OK yes, sometimes you have to sit facing the rear, and sometimes there are 2 other stern-faced businessmen studying their newspapers for the latest upticks in the shares they knew they should have bought.
But you can get up and stroll about, watch the countryside pass, take an expensive drink in the buffet car, buy an overpriced sandwich, and practise your French, Flemish (Dutch) and lots of other language skills with the myriad of passengers.
So many of the Eurostar passengers are so wonderfully multi-lingual, they are all flicking from one language to another. You hear all manner of languages and accents. French, German, Swiss German, Spanish, Dutch.... and more.
The Eurostar staff all switch between French, Flemish and English.
Which reminds me, before I forget and before I get to the final bit about the free lesson - like all corporates, the Eurostar have intricate ways of extracting as much money from your pockets with a labyrinth of complicated deals and fares. But be careful - buying a ONE-WAY TICKET is nearly TWICE as MUCH as a RETURN ticket.
Yup, read that again, it's no misprint.
Anyway, in keeping with the Eurostar rail theme I have added free French, German and Spanish Memory Triggers on using the travelling. They are all words that feature in our courses, and of course there are loads more words and phrases in the courses.
Click here for your free Spanish lesson on Trains. Why is the Spanish train in RED and YELLOW? Learn a bunch of Spanish words related to the Spanish for train too.
Click here for your free French lesson on the word for train station in French. Just what is Terri Irwin doing with a BUDGERI-GAR at the train station? Learn a string of French words and phrases related to train stations.
Learn the German for journey, its gender and how to remember it. Get Condoleeza RICE to help you remember this one. Learn some related words and phrases too.
If you have not already done so, try the Eurostar.
Travelling on the Eurostar
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Travel words in Spanish, French and German. Why the Eurostar is a great way to travel in Europe.