Through the English Channel
A bus journey through the AtlanticMy entry into the continent of Europe was by bus. Much as it amuses me to think of it, I totally loved the bus ride instead of a flight or the train ride. For a weekend journey to Amsterdam, I went into London's Pancreas station to flash my Eurail pass and get in free of cost, but was almost shown a finger for my ignorance of the upcoming weekend. Hence started the brain storming of Su to put me alone on National Express and relieve the rest of the travel group from the Amsterdam obsessed me.
National Express was easy. A bus ticket from London to Amstel station. After doing many a over night journeys in semi sleeper buses, I thought this wont be a show stopper. Almost went to board the bus without checking in my backpack and obtaining a boarding pass. Yes, just like boarding an aircraft.
After I placed myself next to a Indian looking female traveler, I dozed as soon as the bus started. I didn't wake up until I sleep talked and my own voice woke me up embarrassingly enough. And then came Dover. The wonderful port that shone all its yellow lights under the twilight. The bus along with many other vehicles got into a train and the train chugged along its custom track in a tunnel under the English Channel. i didn't realize we were all in a train until the driver announced all the people who need to use the bathroom can walk up to the end. I got off the bus thinking we were waiting to board the ferry but felt a slight movement of the entire surrounding. The Pakistani Co passenger explained we were already in a train. This amused me! Oh heck it did! I definitely used the train bathroom for the excitement :)
As the bus exited the tunnel, the immigration authority at Brussels asked all passengers to hand over passports. Of all the passports that were returned with a entry stamp, I was questioned where I came from and if I had a visa. Ofcourse, I flashed my fresh passport and the second stamp on it to be smiled at. Eh! Was it my brown skin that made the guy ask questions? Yet, another brown guy with Muslim name was called into the Office for interrogation. I noticed the Pakistani co passenger indeed had a card for passport, issued by Netherlands.
I have to mention the snack break at a fuel station where I picked up a cheap apple cake in the supermarket and offered a pound in the middle of the night. The lady at the counter said she would accept Euros only. Hurray! the Europe travel dream was indeed not a dream even at that time of the night :) Not even remote embarrassment felt on my sleepy face as I happily dug out my money pouch and pulled out the Euros. The driver smiled at me.