Monday, 29 August 2011

My Falmouth-to-Heathrow train berth

When I visited the States recently, I had yet again another mid-morning flight from Heathrow that necessitated yet another overnight train ride from Falmouth. This time around I decided I was fed up with getting terrible sleep in the upright, airplane-style seating of the regular passenger cars, so I booked myself a berth. I vaguely recall having a berth for the overnight France-to-Spain trip that I took while traveling abroad in high school, but my memories of that are so dim that this recent trip might as well have been my first.

I was expecting pretty primitive conditions, so actually I was pleasantly surprised. When I boarded the train, the porter (for lack of a better word) showed me to my berth and explained how all the light switches and door locks worked. He also took my order for a breakfast that I hadn't even been aware I would get--in addition to a hot drink, they can bring you things like muffins or croissants or biscuits, all free of charge. Once he'd left, I finally had a chance to look around.

The most important part, of course, was the bed. It was actually pretty comfortable, though the pillows were a bit flat. Regardless, it was horizontal, which is the important thing--I wouldn't have to attempt vertical sleeping until I got on the plane the next day. As you can see, I also had a full-length mirror on the back of the door so that I could primp the next day before departing.

Behind the door were two hangers and various complicated-looking strappy things that, I assume, were for tying hanging luggage and suitcases against the wall so they wouldn't move around too much during the night. To the left of the door handle, on the wall, there was a multi-button control panel with lights for the various parts of the room and an alarm button in case I needed assistance from the porter.

At the far end of the room was a window, although I kept the shade down so that I could have total darkness when I slept. There was also a counter top that you could use to set your things on, or...

...lift up to expose the sink. I had no idea I'd have my own running water in the room, which was pretty handy. It's not potable, so there was a complementary bottle of drinking water waiting for me above the sink. I was even given a towel and a small toiletries bag full of things like a tiny toothbrush and a matching tiny tube of toothpaste, a moist towelette, and some shaving equipment (presumably for male passengers).

To the right above the sink, there was even a television. However, I was more interested in doing a little reading and then going to sleep early. To help me accomplish the first of these goals, there was a small pocket next to my bed, where I could store my reading materials or peruse those provided by the train line:

Of course, despite my most valiant efforts, I was not able to sleep very well. I'm not sure why, because actually the quarters were pretty comfortable. The movements of the train weren't excessive, even though I could feel it go around bends and pull into and out of stations along the way. A little light bled in under the door from the hallway, but no more than enters my own bedroom from the street lights outside. I think the biggest problem was that I was too keyed up for the journey, so I just couldn't relax. I wish I'd anticipated that before I spent an extra 100 pounds on a bed I didn't make proper use of.

Still, it was much more comfortable spending the journey lying down instead of sitting in the awkward seats in the other car, and it was great to have a full-sized sink in which to wash up in the morning. Not to mention, I had privacy and quiet during the length of the trip--two things that are hard to put a price tag on, as far as I'm concerned. All in all, I don't regret the upgrade even if I didn't get any extra sleep. I'll probably treat myself to a similar present next time I'm stuck with an overnight train journey.

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