By the time my train finally pulled out of the Gare de l'Est last Saturday morning, I think I could have been forgiven for believing that my trip to Berlin (if not the whole of my life in France) was doomed to failure. I dragged myself out of bed at 4.30 am to catch the 7 o'clock train and at ten o'clock it was still sitting in the station. Vandals had caused some kind of damage on the lines and no train could depart.
Luckily, I had had a crazy week at work and been out in Paris until midnight the night before, so I was completely exhausted and slept for most of the 3 hour wait. (I spent Friday night at a clothes-swapping party, which all my male friends found hysterical, but was actually just a group of girls exchanging their second-hand stuff. Honestly.)
The second lucky thing was that, because I booked my ticket so late, I ended up travelling in first class. And boy, was it first class. On French trains, first class means you get a wider seat. On German ones, you get a wider seat that is completely separate from any other seat, reclines far enough back that you can sleep on it, and is equipped with a little TV screen and radio. They bring you a free breakfast that puts most airlines to shame. On my second train, I was attracted by the display of freshly ironed newspapers at the end of the carriage and went to help myself to one. What a faux pas! A few minutes later, the steward appeared to offer me one, before also bringing coffee to my seat in a real china cup. I was a first-class convert.
The train was held up for a further half hour by a “scheduled delay” in Germany. I could not have cared less, though. Curled up in my seat, staring out of the window and watching the countryside go by, I was perfectly content.