Monday, 18 August 2014

24 - part one

I'm writing about our mega train journey now because if I leave it much longer the detail will get forgotten.

The intent behind this blog post is to inform. I'm imagining a reader who's conteplating this journey and wondering whether it would suit them. Also this post will be split into several parts, partly because it makes it more digestible for the reader.

Firstly, it was our choice to take the ferry to the Netherlands. I think that if you were to look at elapsed time driving and Eurotunnel would be quicker.

Whilst the ferry journey itself was excellent, getting off the ferry and through passport control wasn't great and probably took an hour.

Driving to 's-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch) was easy and took just over an hour. Finding the right turning for the Autoslaap (Motorail) wasn't quite as easy. It's clearly a niche service and, as such, had discrete signage.  However, a couple of wrong turns and a lot of finger crossing seemed to work.

You need to remember that this isn't a big ferry port or airport used by thousands daily but is a small service used by a very small number of customers. Have faith and look for the tiny signs for Autoslaap. When these signs stop and you think "It can't be through there" it is.

We thought we were early but actually we almost the last to check-in. Bizarrely we were required to drive along the same platform used by passengers. All but the driver exited the car and took the luggage we'd need for an overnight stay on the train. Dave, our driver, then carefully drove the car onto the carriages designed to take cars on two decks. We were told to disable the alarm to prevent any embarrassing flat battery incidents.

We had time to kill before boarding and ate some amazing sandwiches we'd bought at motorway services just before the Den Bosch exit.

The station waiting area was unprepossessing but we weren't there long before required to board.

The train wasn't up to Richard Branson's standards and I think a fair description would be "ageing rolling stock". Everything was just a little bit worn but perfectly serviceable.

We left on time, and before long our attendant arrived with a choice of welcome drink: Lambrusco or orange juice (with bits, as the kids would say).

The train carriages were divided with a corridor along one side with cabins on the other. Our cabin had five chairs that could be transformed into four bunks.

We think there was a fifth bunk for someone short but it didn't have a mattress so we used it for luggage storage.

We started in seat mode but it didn't take long for the children's excitement to require that half of our cabin be turned into bunks.

We sat and watched the countryside roll past the window and then when the children bored of that they stuck their heads in books.

It's quite relaxing to sit and watch the countryside and towns and cities go past the window, and that's how I spent the few hours before dinner.

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