London, England to Southampton, England

Victoria Station

The train leaves from Victoria Station. The train ticket costs more than our first-class overnight journey from Shanghai to Beijing.

Waiting to leave

We sit across from each other with a small fold-down table between us and a large, clean window to our right. Trees go by and we eat bread with cheese. Disembarking at Southhampton, we watch the other passengers board shuttle buses or climb in cars. We start to walk.

Guided by an overly optimistic hand-drawn map we walk down Western Esplanade to West Quay Road as it slopes towards the water. We still have five pounds and we are determined to spend it. In a supermarket we debate away our precious travel minutes in the beer aisle, finally buying a six pack of Wells Bombardier because the package says “£5” in white in a big red circle.

Where the public road and private dock meet there is a small security hut monitored by a man in a navy blue jacket. We arrive sweating under over-full backpacks and clutching white plastic bags of beer. We have been wearing the same clothes for so long that the dye has etched itself into our skin. The security man asks to see our tickets. We dig through our packs past worn and stinking clothes for the embossed leather -bound folders holding our tickets. We are waved on.

Once again in the not many pedestrians zone

Twenty minutes of walking later we reach a garage filled with cars and British flags, the foyer to the soft-lit wall to wall carpeted terminal where we stand on several lines and present our papers to deferential people who give us plastic identification cards that will open the door to our room and track our spending. Then we pass through a series of tubes to a series of escalators. We are on the boat.

The shore, from the boat

As the boat launches passengers stand on the deck and make the traditional champagne toast. At least according to the photographs displayed for sale along the corridor between the dining area and the main staircase. As the ship launches we are taking showers and changing our clothes for the first time in four days.


3 Comments on "London, England to Southampton, England"

  1. I am unutterably tickled to see my home town featured in the same epic adventure series as, say, Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. Sorry to see you were so horribly fleeced on the tickets – it can be much, much cheaper if you’re able to book in advance, but maybe (given the numerous past accounts of ticket window shenanigans) I’m missing the point and that’s not in the rules.

    Also I think eagle-eyed readers will already have noticed from your picture that trains to Southampton leave from Waterloo, not Victoria.

    You were quite right not to stop in Southampton though, there’s f*** all to do there. ;-)

  2. I grew up in Weymouth, the end of that train line. I’ve ridden up to London and down so many times, passing through Southampton, Southampton Airport Parkway and all the rest. I’ve always loved train travel and every time I made that journey I wondered about all the other people going about their lives. It’s cool to know that you and Mr Chen saw some of the same sights I did in years past on your great adventure.

    Now I live thousands of miles away in Silicon Valley, but I take the Caltrain to work :-)

  3. Figuring out ticket pricing in the UK is hard. Enough so that (honestly) they are currently advertising new “simpler” tickets with easy to understand prices and rules. The price you paid sounds like full price standard single fare, which essentially no-one pays. I think the “right” way to do this would have been to buy the Southampton tickets with the Eurostar ticket. Then you qualify for a discount that treats all travel as “off peak”. But you might have needed to buy the ticket in French. In any case it’s a shame that you paid so much money and didn’t even get to sit in the nicest part of the train for your final few hours in my country.

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