I got up at 4am this morning and was at my nearby tube station by around 5:30am, waiting for the train to take me to King’s Cross St Pancras. As soon as I was at the station, I realised I’d made a fashion faux-pas by wearing a black belt with my brown suede shoes. That’s what happens when you get dressed in the dark!
I was also slightly unsure whether you were allowed to take a Swiss Army knife and a lighter with you onto the Eurostar train. I always have these items with me (amongst others) in whatever bag I’m carrying, since you never know when they might come in useful. Anyway, it’s all fine–you can carry a knife onto the train as long as it’s less than 3 inches in length.
I took the Eurostar train from St Pancras to Gare du Nord in Paris. I decided to buy both euros and Swiss francs before I left just so I’d be ready with all the currency I’d need. The journey to Paris went smooth enough, but it was a tiring two-and-a-half-hour wait at Gare de Lyons for the train to Basel. It didn’t help that I’m carrying my luggage in a holdall bag that doesn’t have wheels, so I’m always having to lug it around by hand. It’s good exercise, but not such fun when it’s hot outside and you’d like to take a relaxing wander around the shops.
I dithered a bit about getting something to eat and drink at Gare de Lyons. Everything sold in the cafes there is ridiculously overpriced. Somehow, paying €6 for an espresso seemed a bit over the top to say the least. Eventually, I picked up a few items from one of the bookshop/newsagent/confectionery chain stores that you seem to get on the Continent (a bit like WHSmith in the UK, I suppose).
Finally, I was aboard the train and on the way to Basel. I was sat in a small compartment at the end of the train amongst some Swiss German people, although I think there was a middle-aged English couple at the other end. At one point, the train came to a complete standstill and I began to worry that I’d end up missing my connection to Lugano. However, the train did eventually get moving again, and, check this, actually arrived half an hour early. Yes, the train was delayed and arrived at the destination early. Only in Switzerland, I suppose!
This is my first time in Switzerland, and I was intrigued to see all the signs in German (or is it Swiss German–I believe they’re not quite the same?). Funnily enough, pretty much all official literature seems to be provided in German, French and Italian, keeping all three official languages of Switzerland on an even footing. However, I do wonder how on earth this little nation of people with so completely different languages manages to get along. I suppose there must be some degree of cultural bonding, kinship, and sense of common identity.
It was also interesting to see all the currencies in francs instead of euros. The food–I’d never seen anything like the sandwiches they were selling at one of the little shops in Basel station–large pretzels filled with cold meat and salads of various kinds. Since, I’m boring when it comes to food, I just popped into a Coop shop to buy some bread rolls (very tasty!) and a bottle of water. 🙂
As I’m writing this, I’m on the train to Lugano and have nearly another two hours to go. The beauty of travelling by train is that you get to see so much more than if you’re stuck on an airplane at 30,000 feet. On the other hand, it does take considerably longer and can get tiring. Still, for me, it adds to the interest of the journey and gives you a greater feeling that you are embarking on a special trip.
Looking out of the window, I’ve been admiring the landscapes of northern Switzerland. I’ve been particularly admiring the houses, which have those classic chalet-style roofs that you never get in the UK. They are really beautiful.
I’ll see how I feel after I get to my accommodation in Lugano and have a shower and a change of clothes. Maybe I’ll pop out for a bite to eat or just take a little wander before turning in for the night. Tomorrow, I’ll spend all day exploring Lugano.
PS: Some off-duty Swiss soldiers, though still in full uniform and guns, have just come onto the train and are settling down. They’re clearly in a jolly mood. A sight rarely seen in the UK, and even if you saw a soldier in uniform in public transport, he absolutely wouldn’t have his weapon on him.