Lisa's week: Through the tunnel
This week sees me going home to Birmingham for a few days to catch up with friends and family and I’m driving over through the tunnel. So many people ask me about using Eurotunnel and what it’s like to drive on the “wrong” side of the road - although for us of course, it’s the “right” side – that I’m going to talk about the tunnel today and the driving next week!
First of all, it takes me about 4 hours to get to the Eurotunnel Calais terminal but the time goes quickly as you drive through Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. Although going through the tunnel is a more expensive way of crossing the English Channel, the ease and speed of it wins me over every time.
When you arrive at the terminal, you have to check in. You are booked onto a particular timed “crossing” and if you’re early, you might be offered an earlier train, which can be a great time saver. There isn’t much to do at the terminal building itself – of course there’s the obligatory Starbucks, the toilets, the Duty Free shop, a newsagent and somewhere to eat but not a lot else so I tend to get the first train I’ve been offered.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. After you’ve checked in you have to go through passport control. And this is where the international border is a little different than usual. First you leave the Schengen area by going through French passport control and then comes the British control just a few metres later. By going through the Eurotunnel, you are actually on British land while you are still on the continent. This always makes me smile a little. No one knows if this “border” will change when Brexit happens but for the time being, it makes my arrival “home” just a little quicker!
Once passports have been checked for entry to the UK, you must go through security and some cars will be searched or checked in more detail. Controls have become stricter over the years but it still doesn’t seem to take as much time as the checks at an airport these days!
Your allocated time will be called, much like for boarding at the airport and you drive to the trains. Regular car trains are double-decker and you drive along the inside of the train until you are told to stop. The sides of the car train are closed so the train is a little like a tube with safety doors every four or five cars. You sit inside your car for the duration of the crossing although you can get out and stand at the side if you like. But there’s nothing inside the train except for the cars and a few toilets. Yes, there are lights on inside the train and small windows but once you are inside the tunnel itself, there’s nothing to see except for a light whizzing past the window every now and then.
The time in the tunnel is about 35 minutes which is just about time for me to have a coffee and a sandwich, get out to stretch my legs and change the settings on my navi (UK: satnav) to English and miles. People tell me that they would be nervous being under the sea but you don’t really notice it except for the lack of view through the window. You don’t feel the train going down or uphill and the time inside the tunnel itself is so short that I’m often surprised to see daylight through the windows again.
Once there, unloading only takes a few minutes and you are almost directly on the motorway and heading north. At this stage driving on the “other side of the road” is no problem at all as you are naturally guided by the lane onto the left hand side of the motorway itself. But more of that next week!
For a great infographic about the tunnel and its construction, check out the Eurotunnel website here. https://www.eurotunnel.com/build/.
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky