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Taking the A train

My sister-in-law, what a Star she is, drove us to Grantham (birthplace of Margaret Thatcher). We arrived just in time to get our pre-paid tickets, get directions from a very helpful porter and be issued onto the platform as a “High Speed” train whoooshed by! Ours arrived 5 minutes later and we were on our way!

Getting around by train is easy to do in England, compared to North America,

Grantham train station

England and a lot of Europe has very comprehensive networks. This of course is driven by a higher population density and less of a reliance on cars for getting around.

What we did find out is that prices vary immensely…… peak rush hour times and routes can cost in the hundreds….. pounds sterling not $. You can buy a rail pass, if travelling a lot, however it does not make sense for us. What does make a lot of sense is taking advantage of “advance booking”. This information came courtesy of our local family…… Traintimes is a great online site where you can pre-book journeys at steeply discounted rates.

We knew we were going to take the train to Dover, however were not sure of our starting point; Boston is a little more disconnected than other towns and cities. Once we knew Grantham was our starting point we logged on, punched in the route and time, great…two tickets for £73!  Ever had one of those frustrating computer glitches? You know the whole thing freezes up and kicks you out of the system!!!!!

Yep we had one of those, by the time we got back in the same ticket, same destination, same time had jumped to £144………. Yikes! Yvonne being Yvonne got on the “Blower” to the online help centre for traintimes…… not sure if it should be called a help centre. As the gentleman explained that all the Advance tickets were now sold and we would have to pay full price. He could book it for us, for an extra charge of course…….

By the time the conversation was over Yvonne had been told that there had to be a name on her debit card, they were not issued without names (Want to bet?) and that her debit card had to be either a Visa MC or Amex card???? Maybe in England mate! After explaining that it was Canadian issued, she gave the number only to be told it could not be accepted and that the best thing to do was to buy the ticket at the station. Note you get charged extra for booking with a credit card!

Kay to the rescue! She suggested we try redspottedhanky (thank God for people in the know, we would never have found it by ourselves). Similar online booking site, who Lo & Behold had the same times etc. for £73 !!!!!! Almost 20 hours after Traintimes had bumped their prices…….

Lesson learned, book early and use redspottedhanky!

We whizzed through the English countryside, the landscape becoming more rolling hillside as we went, then changing into industrial and residential areas. England and the rest of Europe’s population seen so far, tend to congregate in towns and cities. It is a distinct contrast between the relatively unpopulated countryside, with only the odd farm house seen in the distance, to the villages and towns where the houses huddle together as if for protection.  A legacy of our past maybe……… after all many 16th or even 18th century Europeans never travelled more than a few miles from their birthplace.

Our first change was Kings Cross Station, London, our task to get to St Pancras Station…….. complete with luggage and no we are not travelling light! St Pancras is only across the street from Kings Cross, easy right?

It is not quite as simple as that, you have to go underground to get across the street, so head to St Pancras Underground and from there to St Pancras International. The station is an inspiring work of art with a great arched, vaulted roof and it is enormous…………

Scurrying through this huge place like a couple of ants we realise that we have no idea which platform we need and no information boards or porters in sight! Park the bags and do a reconnaissance…. Aha! Platforms 11-13 just up this flight of stairs………

We made it! Three high speed trains sit waiting for their ants…… which one though? The porters and staff were all extremely helpful, platform number 12 it is. We flop hot, flustered and victorious into our seats! Dover here we come!

More pictures to come, watch this spot!

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