So... back in harness after a good break. I went to Bruges for six nights first. It meant passing through central London, which, considering it was the first week of the Olympics, I found strangely quieter than it is usually. The Euston Road is always jammed with traffic, but it was all flowing quite easily. I head for the very flash Eurostar terminus at St Pancras (left). I've never been through the Tunnel before, and was very much looking forward to the journey. It felt strange to go through passport control and security in the middle of London, and the waiting areas are a bit characterless, but the wait was worth it.
When your train is ready, you travel up a moving pavement on to the platform, and my carriage was just there, so I found my seat and settled down. We slowly pulled out of the station and were soon on the new underground tracks built for the High Speed Train. We flew through Stratford Station where the Olympics were going on, back underground. Here the track has been built underneath the ordinary train tracks above. At around Tilbury we were back above ground again briefly before zooming down again under the Thames and into Ebbsfleet Station.It was after that that we really started to fly through the countryside, and in no time were shooting past the Shuttle terminus at Folkestone and down into the Tunnel. This took 19 minutes and then it was full speed again, and suddenly we were in Lille. This is where the trains for Paris turn right and those for Brussels turn left, as we did, once more flying across the flat countryside into Belgium, and on to Brussels, 2 hours and 10 minutes St Pancras to Gare du Midi.
I'd been warned that negotiating this station needs careful attention to the signs, but I soon found the way to the next train for Ghent and Bruges. Loads of bikes on the train, but it was clean and efficient and we arrived in just under an hour. To find it drizzling. However, the hotel publicity said it was only 10 minutes from the station so I set out walking. 10 minutes in teh rain carrying an old-fashioned suitcase without wheels can feel like for ever. Note to self - buy new suitcase in order not to be only idiot at Gare du Midi carrying a suitcase instead of wheeling it! (Done now, thanks to Debenhams sale...).
And so I arrived at my hotel (left), where I was assured I had a room overlooking the garden rather than the sometimes noisy square outside. So I found my room, settled in, made a cuppa and, with the Olympics on in the background on Flemish TV, started to plan my stay in what everybody had told me is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And so it turned out to be.