I have no idea where to begin. I really haven’t properly logged my experience in Cornwall, and I don’t have my notes with me and I’m bushed. For the moment, we’ll leave it at incredible. Newquay was a gorgeous piece of earth, as was all of Cornwall. It was the quintessential English experience, even if the Cornish don’t consider themselves English. Rolling hills, tiny country lanes, dotted with centuries old homes, and one charming hamlet after the next. We spent our last night in the city of Bath. Bath is an incredibly walkable little city. Very upscale, which I wasn’t expecting having read nothing about the city that owes its name to the ancient springs the Romans built their spa on. It was apparently a special place even to the ancient Britons before the Romans came. And it’s another place I could definitely wander again. I did the highlights, Bath Abbey and the ruins of the Roman baths and wandered a lot of the Georgian town, but we rolled in about 5pm and left at noon the next day, that’s definitely a taste.
More than I expected to share, but it’s a bit of a catch up to yesterday, when we slipped back into London. Amazingly little traffic, but made up for by a brief scare when the bus driver pulled off because the steering went out briefly. It mysteriously started working again and they were told to bring it on in and it would be checked today. I think this was a portent of things to come for me.
A few of us walked to Victoria train station together and said our final farewells. They announced something about the Eurostar service being canceled. I didn’t think much of it because I was leaving from St. Pancras, not Victoria Station. I got to Kings Cross / St. Pancras and arriving there heard more about the Eurostar service being down but little details. I didn’t stick around, I wanted to put my bag down first. I walked to my hotel for the night and noticed that every hotel I passed, including mine, had signs that there were no vacancies. I got in and checked in and the desk clerk said that all the rooms were booked because no one was leaving St Pancras for Europe. He said I was lucky I had a room as there were none to be found remotely near Kings Cross that night. He didn’t know much more other than there was a fire at 2pm local time.
I went upstairs and watched the news. The Channel Tunnel takes cars and trucks as well as passenger rail, but everything that goes through the tunnel is on a train. A commercial train had a truck it was carrying catch fire and soon out of control. No one killed, and no passenger trains in the tunnel at the time. So some good news. This happened before in 1996 and the tunnel was partially closed for 6 mos for repairs. I didn’t have a good feeling as they said the fire was under control but still burning and this was like 7pm…
I went over to the station and managed to find someone to talk to. I was told to watch the news and if they didn’t cancel service the next day to return at 4:30am (when they opened) to be assured of confirming my seat and not losing it. I had dinner and wandered awhile before returning to the hotel. The news that night was still the same, service canceled, fire still burning… I went to sleep and set an alarm. When I got up in the morning, the fire was still going. No point walking to the station. I still need to get my refund since I obviously can’t reschedule this trip in the next 60 days.
I went back to sleep and slept as late as I could before leaving. I came to the Ace Hotel, the hostel I was staying in here after getting back from Paris. I was dead lucky, as they had one bed available tomorrow night. I have to move tomorrow morning and again the next morning to the bed I originally booked. Not fun but at least I have a place to sleep.
All in all, I put this in the lucky category. Lucky no one was hurt, lucky I wasn’t in Paris already when this happened and having to try to arrange another way back to the US next week. They may start limited service to Paris this weekend but gosh knows if I could get on that if I was over there. I am lucky I wasn’t one of the people who had important things to get to Europe for this weekend (marriage, school, and a pile of others listed in the paper). Thousands of peoples lives disrupted, I can handle a vacation going a bit awry. On that same note, this morning when I watched the news, I soon found the tunnel fire was the second headline. A major travel agency went bankrupt this morning. Around 50k people are apparently stranded away from home with no immediate way to get back. The government is sorting that one out. There are also tons more who have yet to leave on vacations that no longer exist.
A very strange end of the week to say the least, but I’m here and I’ll make the best of it. Today was just a long wander with the camera. A nice sunny day with some excellent cloudy but magnificent skies. No idea what I’m going to do tomorrow. My feet are telling me to chill. We’ll see if I listen to them (or what they say in the morning). I didn’t have plans for what to do with myself when I got back to London to begin with, now I have more time than originally! Oh well, it’s a city with an impressive number of options.
One day I’ll look back on all this with a smile. I’m already able to see the silver lining, that’s a start.