Thursday, January 21, 2010

National Rail

People in Britain complain about National Rail ALL THE TIME.  It might as well be a national pastime.  They also like to complain about their local bus services, the Tube, and any other method of public transportation available to them.  Sure, they all need improvements and yes, sometimes "planned engineering works" can seriously mess up your weekend plans to go outlet shopping in Bicester Village.

But the National Rail services are one of my favorite things about Britain.  When I say favorite, I mean I'd happily pay for and take a trip to anywhere in the UK on the train, just for the sake of travelling by train.  I love everything about it - the cleaniness of the interiors, the quiet, civilised nature of Coach B, "the Quiet coach" (note to self: do NOT ever take a trip from London to York or vice versa when Newcastle is playing again ... *shudders* at the memory of the shaved-head thugs in steel-toed boots chugging Strongbow and screaming football songs for the 3-hour journey back), the food cart coming by mid-journey - and my absolute favorite part - the countryside whizzing by.  I'll never tire of watching the miles and miles of green countryside dotted with sheep and occasionally cows or other livestock becoming increasingly blurred as the train hurtles towards my destination.  I love the conductor who comes by and checks my ticket, the voice that announces which train is arriving into which platform at my origin, and the comforting "whoosh" sound of the train as I stare out the window.

I've also met some fantastic people on trains travelling by myself, including:

1) A kind TFL worker who called his colleague at 11:58 pm for me to find out when the last Hammersmith and City train from King's Cross to Aldgate East was leaving as we were arriving into the station at 12:01 am.

2) A gorgeous MAC makeup artist who gave me six "empties" she had on her and told me to "treat myself" next time I was at a MAC counter (*MAC offers you a free product when you bring in six empty containers to any counter) after I loaned her my phone.

3) A squaddie from the British Army who helped me with my bags and told me stories about his time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

4) An elderly couple who, upon my arrival into York, insisted their son drive me to the door of my student accommodation before taking them home as it was "just so late, dearie, we can't have you travelling back with all your bags in the dark."

I suppose you don't know what you've got till it's gone though.  Have you ever taken a train or a Greyhound bus in the States?  Or a public bus for that matter?  Harrowing experiences.  I'll stick to my travel options around here, thanks.  Look out for a post on buses soon ...

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