Euro Journal

Euro Journal ’21: A Train Going Down

Friday, 16 October: This time last year my wife and I were waking up in Veldhoven at the Hotel NH in preparation for the big—and I do mean massively wildly enormous—Scale Model Challenge. Thanks again go to Covid-19 for mucking the world up. Blessedly, the Williams Family has been able to avoid most of the fallout from these quarantines, with the possible exception of not being able to enjoy our normal travel experiences. Considering all else happening, our troubles amount to exactly…nil.

So then. I’ve not really written much about the train journey from London down to Folkestone for Euro. Whilst it is a lovely way to both travel and begin the Euro weekend, I admit to only mentioning it in passing. When I first kept my Euro journals the train ride seemed hardly worth a mention. Now, seeing as I have not visited Euro since 2018 and won’t see it again until September 2021, everything takes on new  meaning. Normally, I would take a few days in London. Euro typically falls right at London Fashion/Market week’s end and I was—in pre-crisis days—in The City for it. It was well timed that by fashion week’s conclusion I simply headed on down to Folkestone. I learnt early on the fastest (and most economical) mode of travel was by train.

The first time I picked up the fast train from Charing Cross to Folkestone Central was in 2003 after spending a night at The Ritz London. Off-Peak. Empty carriage. Arrived in Folkestone in less than 1 hour. It was just the nicest way to travel to Kent’s seaside. At the top of this post you’ll see my outbound ticket from Charing Cross that year. I’ve kept it in my archive 17 years on.

On the platform awaiting my train to depart from Charing Cross in 2013

Over the years riding the train was a nice time to sit and reflect. I traveled both heavy and light. I even was so fortunate to have a bellboy from the hotel accompany me to the station and carry my suitcase to the platform. An extra tenner was liberated from my billfold that morning, I can tell you. In early years I’d travel with my MacBook in a computer bag slung across my back. Later, after the introduction of the iPad I left the computer at home and this lightened the load a bit. The experience of sitting quiet on an empty train carriage watching the Kent countryside approach and fall away is one I find settling to the soul.

My next visit to Euro after the financial crisis of ’08 was for Euro 2010. I made the trip from Belfast strangely enough. I’d spent the summer in NI and travelled earlier than planned to Folkestone due to circumstances I shan’t write about just now. I ended up spending a month in Folkestone. Now this is something I really need to write a blog post about.

I wasn’t to travel by train to Folkestone for three years. When I did, for Euro ’13 it was after a pair of sensational nights at The Ritz. I think this transit became the most memorable as I wrote about it then and even made a videolog. I quite adore Charing Cross station and the delightful Amba Hotel

Charing Cross Station with the hotel above. A delightful station from which to begin the journey to Folkestone.

above it. I have only ventured into the public rooms for a coffee and a bun, but  the hotel is simply stunning. When travelling Off-Peak the station is calm and unhurried and the platform virtually empty. It’s a wonderful calming experience. Then, of course, there is the ride down to Folkestone in a 1st Class carriage. Really it’s not even an entire carriage anymore, but a section of identical seats separated by a panel of plexiglass. But that’s not the point. It’s an empty carriage – off-peak – 10am.

Below is a selection of rail tickets from various journeys over the years. I found 2003, 2004 and 2014 recently in my archive in the States. I have another archive in the Spain house with more Euro paraphernalia but don’t expect to get home until this Covid-19 mess is resolved.

What I can tell you, unequivocally, is that the ride down is something special. Transition from hustle & bustle of London to tranquility at seaside Folkestone. My first time down was in pre-iPhone days. Then, in 2003, I had a First Gen iPod loaded with my tunes. My ears filled by Sussudio by Phil Collins, The Cure, Flying Lizards, Talk Talk and The Smiths. All the while the  Kent countryside whizzed by my eyes. 

What I remember most about that first trip down by train in ’03 was South East rail using the old style 1st Class carriages. I remembered these so well from my youth. You could access and alight the platform from a door directly into your cabin. They were pretty tatty by ’03. By ’04 they were gone, replaced with what we got now. A shared carriage divided by a slice of plexiglass. Economical. And awful. 

But for my first Euro all of this meant I was ever more a fan of Septembers in England, in Folkestone, and at Euro. How could I not? Everything about it was a reminder of my youth, my family. And of times past. I look at the photograph of myself on the train that first Euro ’03 and I see nothing similar to who I am now. I don’t wear my hair long, I don’t have that hat, nor that shirt any longer. I think those glasses were replaced. Even the Rolex has been replaced by a new one. 

Folkestone Central Station. All change!

All change! And all the better for it. What I didn’t know in 2003 was life was going to go through the stratosphere for me and although it was heady times, I wasn’t going to be happy. Euro provided me an entirely new motivation. Euro Gold. For me, nothing could be a greater honour. When that very first Euro ended on Sunday, 21 September, and I said my goodbyes to new friends, I knew full well in that moment that for me it was always going to be a lifelong pleasure to know these fellows and visit Folkestone.

Some odds & sods from the archive. Images from the train seat, schedules and tickets from Euros gone by. Lastly, below is a Google Map from London Charing Cross Station to Folkestone Central by rail Click the image and it will send you to Google Maps for a more detailed map view.

A train going down from Charing Cross Station to Folkestone Central Station.


As always, be well in these strange days.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: