Train to Turkey - Leg 2 - London to Brussels

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Early start on our second day after arriving on the sleeper. We were up and ready for the journey ahead, day two should leave us in Cologne, Germany in time for tea which means we have some serious mileage to get through and the two tightest connections of the trip. From Paddington we took the Hammersmith and City line to St Pancras for connection with the Eurostar, oddly the tube was really quite busy, but we arrived without issue. We realised at this point that we should have stayed on the sleeper train for longer than we did, we were are St Pancras about 90 minutes early with nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs.

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So we grabbed a coffee and went for a walk! You can’t do much better than a 49p Pret filter coffee, I’m convinced this is the best value coffee anywhere in London and it’s actually very good filter coffee too. The problem is that it’s always a million degrees and literally impossible to drink, especially from a thermal cup - somebody needs to invent a dispensing machine that allows you to select a certain temperature. Perhaps I need to patent the concept and become very rich.

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Coffee in-hand we walked around to Regents Canal, somewhere that I look at almost every day but have never actually visited. It was fantastic, lots of fresh flowers, a nice hot sun and a great mix of old and new architecture which makes for a very pleasant area. Owen even said that he wouldn’t mind living here despite not wanting to live in London! I do wonder if it was only pleasant because it was 7am on a Saturday morning, I’m sure it gets busy later and turns into something quite different. Walking back to the station we passed the new Google HQ being constructed and noticed that the floor numbers on the concrete core are the Android Drone, which is pretty fun. We also walked past the YouTube offices and YouTube Space which seems to have been the venue of quite a lively party yesterday!

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Checking into the Eurostar was reasonably painless, we had no troubles apart from Owen walking through the metal detector with all of his pockets full - doh! We managed to throw them in the bag before succeeding on the second attempt. Once through we found a seat in the busy departures hall before realising that Owen’s brand new Nalgene bottle was now gone - “Well, that didn’t last long”. Luckily everything important was still in possession.

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On board the Eurostar we had a bit of a rest, the journey is one of the shortest of the trip and we didn’t really have time to get too comfortable. The train arrived into Brussels perfectly on time, we lost an hour because of the time which meant that it was now beer o’clock. We walked out of the station and found the most awful looking bar near the station, but it had some nice seats outside. Owen had his first legal European beer, unfortunately it was a Carlsberg.

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Heading back to the station we arrived in plenty of time for Leg 3, the ride to Cologne.

Train to Turkey - Leg 1 - Penzance to London

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We’re on our way! The weather in Cornwall was fantastic, a tropical 25℃ with unspoilt sunshine, it better stay like this across Europe, we’re going to have a mega time if it does. Before we could get going with Leg one we needed a final positioning trip to get to Penzance, we travelled as a four so we could be waved off in proper Cornish fashion, with a G&T! Before we get to that it was time for something new, on the train we had a brand new beer from Padstow, Freddy Has Landed, not a bad beer but not to my taste and was stronger than it needed to be at 6.6, still no complaints. We chased that with a Frog Brothers from Black Flag, a much better beer (in my view). The train was pretty quick, it’s less than an hour down to Penzance and that goes very quickly when you’re passing such stunning views of Cornwall.

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Once we were in Penzance we headed into town for a goodbye meal, the first pub was a let down but we eventually found our way to The Turk’s Head on Chapel Street. Now THIS was a pub, absolutely fantastic line up of cask ales with that real pub feeling. Regretting that we didn’t just come here first we set to work with a perfectly served pint of Bath Ales Prophecy, a wonderful light pale ale which is remarkably similar to St Austell’s Proper Job before it changed. The pub reminded me that I still need to write my scoring matrix, I’m confident this place would have done very well. After a bit of a rushed but perfectly served dinner we headed down to the station and en-route had a quick paddle in the water, as you do.

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When we got to the station the sleeper train was ready and waiting for us, we weren’t mega early so we had to run to the front for the obligatory photo with the engine. We all boarded and jumped into the onboard lounge bar, which was all new since we last took the sleeper. Newer isn’t always better and as lovely as the lounge looked, with sofas and cute little two seater tables the old one was much more comfortable, fun and nostalgic. The old one had tables service too, which sadly is now a thing of the past!

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We shared some lovely Tarquins and tonic and as the train pulled away were officially on our way! A week of trains and travel awaited us (and we were pretty excited about it!). We set to work filling out our Interrail passes, making sure not to mess them up before we’d even got on our way. As the train made it’s way we were spoilt with the most stunning sunset and red sky across Cornwall, not bad at all. At St Austell we waved goodbye to the parents and (now a little worse for wear) I decided to get off and say goodbye, luckily the train wasn’t in a rush!

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Now on our own we headed to our cabin and got ourselves some sleep. I was on the bottom bunk and it didn’t take too long before I was fast asleep which isn’t something that usually happens on the sleeper train! A few bumps in the night but nothing really to report, 7 or so hours after we left Penzance we were woken up to a bang on the door where Jean, our attendant had our breakfast and tea ready. We were in London, easy. This really is the best way to commute between London and Cornwall, while I enjoyed the 4 and a bit hour trip the day earlier waking up and being where you need to be is just fantastic. Long live the sleeper.

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After a quick shake up we were ready to get going, 6:30am and on to Leg number two!

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For the Lifeboats!

As all of the very few people who read my blog will know, I am a big supporter of the RNLI. The charity has been close to my heart since childhood, I used to build lifeboats out of lego bricks, subscribe to Stormy Stan’s monthly magazine and became known as Lifeboat Lolly. I recall with glee the fantastic opportunity I had once to sit on the Atlantic 75 stationed at Hunstanton Lifeboat Station. As I grew up into a bigger lifeboat lolly I dropped the name but didn’t drop the passion for the charity, I was lucky enough to have had the chance to ride aboard the Sheerness Trent class lifeboat in the Thames Estuary and with my friend @geekyjames visited all almost all of the lifeboat stations in the North West Wales area in one day.

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Getting married is of course a huge life milestone and it wouldn’t be right to not acknowledge the RNLI in some way during such a big event - so we did. I am incredibly proud and honoured to say that on our wedding day we were able to raise £691.43 for the RNLI. It was absolutely fantastic to see such generosity from everyone and while it may not be the best part of the day (that was marrying Mrs Andrews!) it was absolutely up there with the warmest and most lovely part of the day and year. I stomped around Commissioners House in by big stupid yellow wellies shaking a fund-raising bucket and was met with nothing but eager desire for everyone to do their bit for the lifeboats. So to all who contributed on our special day - thank you! A special thank you also to Eileen and John Allison of the Medway RNLI Fundraising branch who were incredibly helpful and kind in providing literature, goodies and the famous lifeboat buckets which made everything very special.

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As mentioned in my previous post, it was totally coincidental that in getting married at Commissioner’s House meant that we were right next door to the biggest collection of historic RNLI Lifeboats. Frankly, it would be rude to to take advantage of that fact and so we wandered over passing cheering visitors to have a few photos. My particular favourite is the photo below, where in totally agreeable circumstances we stood aboard a Arun Class lifeboat! Thank you to Mrs Andrews for putting up with me just minutes after being married!

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Copenhagen, Denmark

This was a flying trip, but Denmark is certainly worth a mention in the blog. On account of the wedding and honeymoon which proceeded my trip to Copenhagen this was possibly the least researched piece of travel I’ve ever done. It turned out that research wasn’t really necessary, Copenhagen is a wonderful small city and is very easy to navigate.

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Our office is located in Nyhavn which is essentially central Copenhagen, the trip from what felt like a rather small airport was completely painless, one metro ride straight downtown. Once in Nyhavn you find yourself in a location which feels a bit like a Nordic Amsterdam, everyone is riding bicycles, the cars are all German or Swedish, there are picturesque canals but a subtle Nordic design aesthetic which seeps into the architecture of buildings, shops and restaurants that just doesn’t seem to be present in Amsterdam. Certainly not a complaint, it was very pleasant indeed and I recall mentioning to my colleague that it’s like a ‘nice Amsterdam’ which I do stand-by.

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The small cobbled harbour of Nyhavn feels a lot like it belongs in Bruges, with colourful cafes alongside wooden barges and moules frites and seafood on the menu of almost all outlets. Walking along the harbour to the end soon reminds you that you’re in a different city, with views opening up to ultra-modern architecture of an art museum and walkways allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross the water. It was quite beautiful with much of the new constructions seemingly embracing the water and making it feel as one.

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The trip was a breeze and frankly I can’t find many negatives except perhaps the availability of beer which isn’t Carlsberg - it seemed to be in every place we went, although I suppose that is to be expected. Somehow we didn’t visit a Mikkeller, although I did take a few days off drinking so it was probably a good thing! Conversely I did almost lose my mind when I discovered that you can buy bottled Carlsberg water in convenience stores, which I don’t think I’ve seen for any other beer brand anywhere in the world. Having spent some time thinking about it since I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Would you buy Stella branded water? I’m not sure I would.