Sleeping on the right side of the tracks

Late yesterday afternoon I experienced the onset of wanderlust again. If this gets anymore regular I shall need to coin a phrase for the itchy feet I experience just as the working week ends. The challenge, as always, is to do something different, out of my normal frame of reference but also, especially in this case, not taking up the entire weekend. I have a day’s work to do on Sunday.

Flying somewhere, after a day business trip to Zurich on Tuesday, had limited appeal although the prices to NYC did make me consider it. Instead I opted for a more traditional and romantic adventure. The Great Western Night Riviera sleeper to Penzance. Since it does not depart until 2345 I would have plenty of time to finish up work, relax, have dinner, shower and then make the five minute journey from home to Paddington Station.

In my mind there were a couple of thoughts which led me to believe this was going to be fun. Firstly, it’s always good to pack for a different journey – the sleeper called for fresh pyjamas, a new book (‘You are not so smart’ by David McRaney – I never even cracked the spine it turned out), a small thermos (bought in Japan so the perfect size) filled with coffee and of course some midnight snacks. Secondly, Paddington Station really means only one thing usually, the start or the end of a journey which includes Heathrow Airport. Lastly, falling asleep in London and wakening up to the sights, sounds and smells of the extreme south-west coast of Britain seemed like a good contrast.

And so to sleep. Well not quite yet. You can access your berth from 2230 so I made myself comfortable, a steward takes you through everything along with your breakfast order and wake-up time. After that I went along to the lounge car for a glass of wine and a catch up of the newspapers. Such was my level of relaxation I barely registered the train starting to pull out Paddington.

Back to my compartment (the steward unlocks it for you), on with the PJs and then I settled down for some episodes of Modern Family (genius show) which were playing on the entertainment system. Midway through the 2nd one I fell asleep and only wakened the train rolled to a halt at Reading where we waited some time. (NB the overnight journey takes just over 8 hours whilst the normal day time journey – which I’m on back to London as I write this – takes about 5.5 hours, so you can appreciate the pace is moderate to ensure a longer, better sleep.)

Cozy, snug, secure and with a surprisingly comfortable bed and pillows. It’s designed for sleep.

At Reading I opened the window blind and kept it open for the remainder of the journey ensuring that the compartment would be filled with fleeting light and make the journey seem all the more real. That said I was soon back to sleep and did not waken again until just after 6. A dozed a little more until my fresh coffee and bacon roll arrived at 6.50am, exactly as requested. By now the gloom outside had turned brighter and very rural.

Finally up and dressed as we pulled into Penzance exactly on schedule at 0753. As expected and hoped I could smell the salt tang and hear the seagulls as I walked the short distance to the seashore and got my feet wet.

A couple of hours of exploration and breakfast later I’m back on the train marvelling at the journey in daylight back to London.

Without doubt the journey was the largest part of the fun. Sleeping AND moving just seems like the most efficient thing to do. But it has also whetted my appetite for a long weekend in Cornwall. And that’s the problem with travel it just fuels the desire for more……..

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