In 13 hours and 40 minutes one could reach Cape Town or Los Angeles or Tokyo or Singapore. I should know since I have done all of these. Of course, that would be by aeroplane from Heathrow. As an alternative one could spend that time getting to Lisbon the capital of Portugal. It would not be by plane and not from the London airport. Rather, it would be by train and from Irun in Spain which is across the river from Hendaye in France. The question is, why would one wish to take this alternative? The answer is a love of train journeys and the alluring romance of an overnight sleeper through the wilds of Northern Spain and the mountains and valleys of beautiful Portugal plus delicious food such as only the Spanish can provide.
But wait. What sort of train is this? What quality of restaurant car food is on offer? What will the new day’s awakening breakfast consist of? Best of all, will the sleep be long, relaxing and the perfect opener for a furlough in Portugal?
Life is full of disappointments. The night sleeper to Lisbon is one of these. The rolling-stock is old, the carriages way past their sell-by date, the staff very nationalised-postured and the food extremely poor. Worse than all this: the noise and shaking and rock-and-rolling makes the worse air turbulence over the tropics a veritable piece of cake. A piece of cake that was not on offer.
Should you wish to visit Lisbon, and by the way this is not a good time, my advice is take the next plane. It will not take 13 hours 40 minutes and it will be more comfortable. Believe me, it will.
Jgs 04 August 2013