This morning I caught the early train from Budapest to Vienna.
(I intended to go on a cycling holiday when I set out on Wednesday night, but it has turned out more like taking a bicycle on holiday. Taking it for a spin in the cities I’ve visited, between train trips, has felt like taking the dog for a necessary walk.)
Just before the frontier at Hegyeshalom, we passed a nice field of wind turbines.
(Shortly before, I saw this older building – is it a power station too?)
And soon after the frontier, on the Austrian side, there’s another big wind farm. I like the stripes on the blades, I wonder what they’re for.
I’m kicking myself because a little later, I could have had a similar picture plus an array of PV panels in the foreground. I wasn’t quick enough.
Early this morning I cycled in temperate sunshine through soft hills and crossed the Danube east of Linz at Wallsee, where there is a fine long industrial dam to control flooding. It has a narrow road over it. To avoid confrontations on the road, the traffic lights on each bank allocate cars one green minute in ten.
(Gare du Nord, December 2014)
On arrival at nine-thirty, Gare du Nord had been freezing. The greyness of the morning had made it necessary to switch on the lights in their glass globes, but Gare du Nord suits the cold. It is bleak and wintry in a painting of 1908 by Pieter ten Cate, which is on display at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. In Les Mémoires de Maigret (1951) Georges Simenon wrote of Gare du Nord: ‘In the morning, the first night trains, arriving from Belgium and Germany, bring the first load of crooks, with faces as hard as the light that falls through the window panes.’ (Andrew Martin – Night Trains, the Rise and Fall of the Sleeper, 2017)
Living in Brussels, I suppose that Gare du Nord is ‘my’ Paris station – just as Euston, coming from Manchester as I did, is my London one.
Opposite Gare du Nord, when there is time before the train north – and the focussed staff don’t need much time at all – I love to eat fish soup at the Terminus du Nord. I’ve had to find a hotel room ad hoc there more often than I’d want, having missed the last train, but always find somewhere in the end. Coming up from southern parts I hope, at Gare du Nord, to buy an English paper. The surly newsagents in the centre of the concourse is usually closing up, but recently I’ve found that the Relay at the west end of the concourse is reliable for this.
My friends and St Swithin’s way walking companions, who’d got ahead and knew it was the next one needed, laid this number out on the forest floor. I didn’t even notice it; and it is out of date order (245 is a fortnight earlier); but I am glad to post it.
France 1 was a meteorological ship that hung around in the Atlantic two and a half days out of La Rochelle. The crews’ quarters were just as 70s as the white goods…
… though the spindryer looked like my Mum’s when I was young (my Nana had a mangle; we still had one of those in the garage, too)…
… the engine room was resolutely 50s…
… and the bar through which you pass to leave (no gift shops here!) has another style again.
Cycled out from Châtelaillon, near La Rochelle, to an informal seafood restaurant out by the sea, Le Rochebonne. One of the langoustines had barnacles on its claws. Why isn’t it La Rochebonne, since roche (rock) is feminine? Because it is the name of a fonds just out there, and fonds is masculine – we were told. We passed the town hall, bureau no. 1 for today’s presidential election; there wasn’t a queue.
I had boarded the first Eurostar of the day. It had been too early even for breakfast, and I slept for the first hour. Dawn broke soon after Ashford International, but then we went into the Tunnel. When Eurostar services began, the ‘transit time’ was always given. Now that we have all become more blasé, the announcement is usually dispensed with, and sometimes, on a late-night Eurostar, you only know you’re under the sea by the disappearance of the moon. (Andrew Martin, Night Trains – The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper, 2017.)
I’m like sleeper trains so it is not surprising I like this book – but it has these poetic parts too – even non-train people might like them. I remember how exciting Eurostar was when it started; my children drew pictures of us on the train with fish swimming past. This image of the moon brings back the excitement, though I think it is more accurate for London-Paris: the last train to/from Brussels is quite early.
In Rwanda, where I was for a couple of weeks last month, the moon passed through full and was easily present. The photo was taken on lake Ihema.
The second picture shows the train on a January afternoon in 2005, when it left London from Waterloo station rather than St Pancras as it does now.