No one died and there was no dapper Belgian detective aboard, but still I was living my own Murder on the Orient Express fantasy last night.
To get from London to Barcelona, I left home about 9:05. Lots of waiting and then the 12:25 Eurostar through the Chunnel to Paris Gare du Nord.
I was worried the cross-town trip to Austerlitz station might be a problem but it went so smoothly I had a couple of hours to explore an unexpected treat: the Jardin des Plantes, with its botanic gardens, rock collection, iridescent glasshouses and a few roses still in bloom.
My train to Barcelona was the Trenhotel Joan Miro. That name is pretty close to the Orient Express, only a few different letters. If we were playing Scrabble you could spell either name equally well.
In welcome contrast to my last long train trip (across Canada in the Middle Ages), this time I had a bed! And my own room with a bathroom and a shower. Luxury.
The fare included dinner and breakfast, and the food was very good indeed. A creamy cold tomato soup from Cordoba, a duck leg confit, a selection of cheeses and 375 ml of Sangre de Toro to lubricate the process. I was very satisfied by the end of it all.
The room felt a little stuffy by morning but I found it comfortable for sleeping. Well, for sleeping without falling asleep. Despite the fact that the trip was made entirely in the dark, I couldn’t stop looking out the window, where lights from towns and highways helped me see a surprising amount of detail.
As I sat alone, transfixed by the ink-blot scenery, I remembered that Chris DeBurgh had a song called “Spanish Train”, but that’s all I could recall, just the title and a spooky, half-sung, half-spoken, mystical ballad feeling.
I looked it up today. Chris’s song is about the Devil and God playing the eternal poker game for souls, with the Devil being better at knowing when to hold ’em and knowing when to fold ’em.
Rather than dwelling on the road to perdition, I prefer to share an imaginary journey with Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. In particular, I like the part where he calls us all together in one room to reveal whodunnit. I propose we meet in the dining car. Eat first, then reveal the murderer. We’ve got all night on the Spanish Train.