OK, I promise London highlights are coming soon, but there are a lot of pictures to deal with for that post and I don't want to get too far behind on what we're currently up to. So here's the latest.
We are changing countries at a rapid rate these days and it's getting a little dizzying! In just the past few days, we've been in England, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Germany again. But it's fun to be back on the Continent for something new.
Thursday we spent our last morning in London at the British Museum, had one more lunch at Wagamama, then took a cab to the train station around 1:00. We weren't looking forward to the train journey to Cologne, since we've gotten so spoiled by having a car, but it went quite smoothly.
The first half of the trip was on the Eurostar, a high-speed train that goes from London to Lille through a tunnel under the English Channel, then on to Paris or Brussels. I hadn't realized that the Eurostar had moved to a brand new train station in London (St. Pancras International, completed in 2007) - it was beautiful! I've only ridden the Eurostar once, back in 2000 when it left from the Waterloo station. St. Pancras is all shiny and new, with lots of nice shops like a good airport.
The check-in and security process was also similar to an airport, but at least we got to keep our shoes on! However, David kept setting off the metal detector despite having removed everything from his pockets, so he was treated to a vigorous rubdown from a security agent. The agent never could find the source of the metal, and eventually gave up. We're guessing the metal grommets on his cargo pants might be the culprit.
The train was really nice, the ride was smooth, and David loved the high speeds (up to 160mph, I believe). I had found a good deal on the Standard Premier class, so we had two facing seats and a table to ourselves, which was nice and roomy. Also like an airplane, a nicely-presented light meal was delivered to our seats and it was crap. The roll was good, though.
The trip from London to Brussels took just under two hours. In the Brussels-Midi train station we bought our tickets and waited for about 30 minutes on the platform for our German ICE (Inter-City Express) train. Thankfully it was direct to Cologne so we didn't have to change again.
This train was very full but new and nice, and we had a really comfortable two-hour ride. It got dark soon after we left and it felt cozy in our well-lit car, rocketing through the night. An electronic reader-board informed us that it got up to 130mph at one point.
Our one-night stay in Cologne was short but sweet. We lived in nearby Bonn for four months in the winter of 2007-08, so Cologne is familiar, and we both love Germany to pieces. We stayed in a little hotel called the Domstern, which was close to the train station but remarkably hard to find nevertheless - we wandered around in the dark for awhile with our luggage, but were still in good spirits. Our room was small but clean and comfortable, and we slept very well.
It was fun to practice our very basic German a bit at dinner that night (at a small, friendly joint called Zum KÃ¶bes), where no one spoke English for a change. We were able to read almost the whole German menu and were quite proud - but food is always our strong suit in foreign languages. I had a standard Wiener schnitzel and David had thick noodles with mushroom cream sauce; both were very good.
After a light breakfast in the hotel Friday morning, I uploaded some pictures of Oxford and London to Flickr and took some new photos of Cologne Cathedral. Meanwhile, David took the train to Dusseldorf to pick up our new rental car.
We met outside the cathedral at noon, which was kind of romantic, then picked up delicious hot pretzels from the train station, hopped in our shiny new chariot, and headed west to the Netherlands.