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March 30, 2012 10:03 pm
How often do you kick off a new week and have one of those moments of self-reflection where you ask yourself “Why aren’t all my Mondays like this?”. It might be a subtle shift in your routine that triggers such an epiphany or perhaps it’s a random act of human kindness that makes you smile and sets the tone for the rest of the day or week.
After a relaxing and glorious weekend spent in sunny St Moritz, I wasn’t looking forward to the ding of the alarm clock at 5.30am, the shuffle to the shower, the early cab to the train station and the long journey from the high Alps to sea-level London.
Several hours later I felt rather different about the start of the week – I bounced out of bed, did a quickstep to the shower and didn’t even need to wait for the cab to buzz as I was already kerbside. High above, the sun was already starting to alter the profiles of the peaks and the ice-melt was surging down the slopes. As the taxi rolled up the hill towards our building, I filled my lungs with the chilled air and was half-tempted to turn around and spend another day on the terrace – but before I managed to fully develop the thought, Mom had already hopped into the taxi while Mats loaded the bags into the boot.
Minutes later the actions were reversed as we pulled up at the railway station and I sorted out tickets while Mom and Mats dealt with luggage and coffees. Inside, the little station was just coming to life: the café staff were firing up the grill and grinding beans, the kiosk manager was cutting the string around bundles of the NZZ, Il Sole 24 Ore and the FAZ while locals were taking up positions at favourite tables and unfolding copies of Swiss regional newspapers. On the platform sleepy-eyed snowboarders were making their way to carriages while partners and parents waited to wave off loved ones. At that very moment it was surely the most civilised commuter scene in the world.
Coffees collected and luggage in hand, we made our way to the carriage and settled into a block of four seats in a two-two facing formation. On the tracks outside, the rail workers were shifting the station into life as wagons were repositioned, engines were washed and produce was unloaded for the local grocery stores.
As the carriage was too toasty for our liking, I pulled down the windows on either side of the carriage to get a cross breeze and leaned out. I saw a straggler struggling with her coffee, ski-boots and laptop bag being helped aboard by the conductor; another taxi pulled up with yet another latecomer and down the platform, a gentleman in a red uniform was watching the second hand on the clock to give the order to get moving.
A few minutes later we pulled into Celerina’s station, then it was on to our connections at Samedan and we were rolling through one of the longer tunnels that connects the valleys. As we arrived at the handsome little station at Filisur, I realised things couldn’t be more perfect: Mom was dozing, Mats was reading and napping, I had a pile of my favourite newspapers and magazines, we had homemade sandwiches and cookies nearby and it was a stunning day outside.
The little red train continued its journey through the mountains at its consistent but unhurried pace: just the right speed for a Monday morning – purposeful, confident and on schedule.
An hour later we pulled into the connecting station at Chur and boarded the SBB (Swiss federal railways) connection to Zürich. While the carriage was a bit busier and there was more chatter, it was just enough buzz to suggest we were about to speed to a peppier metropolis before the vault over France and the Channel to frenetic London. Seventy-three minutes later we pulled into Zürich’s Hauptbahnhof with just enough time to get Mom into a taxi (she was staying in Zürich for a round of shopping before heading back to Toronto) and dash into Sprüngli for tuna sandwiches and boxes of Luxemburgerli [mini-macaroons] before boarding the train for the airport.
As the train pulled into the airport’s subterranean station, I was about to utter how smooth everything had been until now but suppressed saying anything for fear of jinxing a blissful morning. Fortunately the airport’s new security system was a breeze (how clever to have proper fixed benches and tables so there’s room for everyone to pull together their belongings and sort themselves out after security – other airports please take note) and the flight to Heathrow was only slightly delayed.
As the little Airbus crossed the Channel, we were of course greeted with what’s become the UK’s official welcome: “It’s a busy day at Heathrow (when isn’t it?), so we’re going to have to hold for 15 or 20 minutes.” As the sun sparkled on the Serpentine below I was fine with this slight delay – rail travel had already elegantly eased me into the week.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
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