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1600: As I was ready to check in, I realized that I had once again been in such awe of Georgina’s presence that I was forgetting what I’d really need to do to save this memory forever – an autograph! I have a lot of emails from Georgina and many kind things she said to me are in my inbox forever but I didn’t have anything tangible. I couldn’t believe myself when I met my favourite author last summer and didn’t remember to take an autograph!
Remembering it right before giving Georgina the final, goodbye hug until I see her again, I pulled out the yellow envelope which had my train ticket and requested Georgina for an autograph, she gave the most perfect one despite the hurry.
While walking to lunch, I had told Georgina that I was truly hoping to see snow before going home at the end of the month. I said that I loved the idea of snow and how romantic and beautiful it is, to which Georgina said “it is not always a romantic thing as aged people often slip on ice and hurt themselves terribly, it can be very painful too.” I had never known this side of snow before and I didn’t think I’d be introduced to it so soon!
Georgina had also told me of a wonderful story about a school in Iasi, Romania that was then managed by a ‘handsome, young man.’ Georgina’s latest book ‘The Painter of Silence,’ is set in Iasi. I had told Georgina that I would try my best to visit this small Romanian town, I really wanted to but I couldn’t. I have resolved to visit Iasi at some point.
After the autograph I said my final bye to Georgina, with a heavy heart, I knew that it will be quite a while before I see her again. I soon entered the immigration check. This was my first time at an international train station. It was hard to imagine that in just a few hours, I’d be in a new country! And transit via another. Now, I have been on trains before but it took days of patience, poking fellow-travelers, buying almost everything that hurried vendors with mobile carts entered the train in a rush at every station trying to make quick sales, and silly chat to keep us from boredom before we reached a neighboring state or my grandmother’s house.
1615: Fancy International Train
Beyond the immigration check, the station was pretty much like an airport. It is here that I spotted my first large Christmas tree at a train station. Since then, there were plenty of these lovely, big trees everywhere I went and in my head, I always tried to rank ‘em – my own personal ‘Best Christmas Tree in a Train Station/Airport Among Select European Cities’ – I will publish those ratings later.
I was beginning to worry a little as it was only 10 minutes to the train’s departure and the boarding hadn’t begun yet. But when it did, I made sure, I got on the right train unlike in Liverpool when I successfully boarded the most wrong train.
1645: Boarding the train to Brussels via Paris, was not like boarding any other train. This was my first train from one country to another via another. This was a big deal to me. A 27 year old middle class Indian woman – unmarried and traveling solo internationally. This is a real big deal because it wasn’t likely to happen but it was happening. I couldn’t help but think of the earliest train travelers and this very St Pancras 50 years ago. I was perhaps there, perhaps I made such a journey.
In my long winter coat, I felt a little bit like those gentlemen in old movies who get on steam trains and are bade farewell by their prim and petite wives. I wished I had a more colourful, feminine coat but that was fine. Only there was no steam
I was entering Continental Europe. For the first time ever in this life of mine.
1700: After checking the train at least a dozen time to make sure I was on the right one, I put my luggage on the luggage rack between coaches and made my way to my seat – 21 in Coach 02. The coach strangely had a lot of middle aged women.
Soon I will be in Paris for a bit before reaching Brussels, where a kind stranger’d be waiting to pick me up and take me home. My heart was full of gratitude, deep deep gratitude for everything the moment encompassed.
I found my seat and was curious about who’d be on those next to mine. It was a young, blonde, homely-looking woman. We exchanged smiles until she asked me where I was headed –
“Paris or Brussels?”
“Brussels,” I said, and smiled.
The woman beside me on the train was very hungry. She’s a special woman. I do not remember the name of this innocent woman nor do I remember what she called her beautiful village but I remember her words and the picture she painted in my mind – of a small little village in Belgium, the kinds I had only read in books.
1704: Eurostar train from London to Brussels, departs from London.