Day 24 of 80 — Coach Station

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 24 : Coach Station

Victoria Coach Station is the most confusing place to find in London. Okay, maybe not the most confusing — London is full of hard-to-find, secret places ; it’s part of its charm after all ! But as sign-posted public places go, Victoria Coach Station is the most confusing to find.

I’m surprised any tourist ever makes it to their coach on time. I suppose they might be helped with modern technology these days ; but how anyone made it there on time before the advent of smartphones is beyond me.

In fact, when I emerge from Victoria tube station on my way to work in the morning, I always have a quick look around, just in case. And when I spot confused tourists, booking confirmation in hand, desperately trying to make sense of the indications above their head, I rescue them : “No, you’re going the wrong way, that’s Victoria Train Station, you are looking for the Coach station. No, this is the Tube station, the coaches are about 10-15 minutes walk away, depending on the size of your legs… I know it’s confusing, but trust me, I’m a tour guide, that’s where I’m going. Follow me.” And they follow.

I feel for these lost souls. I got lost on my way to VCS. Not anymore, of course. Not since my days working on “out of London” day-trips.

I didn’t think I’d like these trips so much. Large groups, little interaction. Or so I thought. But on the contrary : coach tours are like an adventure. You leave early, you come back late, and over the course of this twelve or thirteen-hour long trip, bonds are made between us all : the guests, myself and the coach driver.

Coach drivers are often underrated. Yet they are an incredibly important element of any coach tour. A good coach driver makes everything smoother, easier and more fun for everyone, guide and group alike.

I was lucky enough to work with a few such gems, some of whom are now friends. Drivers who actively helped me deal with difficult situations, who reassured me on stressful days, who were warm and helpful with guests, who told me their own stories about the places we were going to, who drove safely, who were patient with latecomers, who worked with me as a team. And so forever now, whether or not I do coach tours again, I’ll always have a fondness for the cold and invisible Victoria Coach Station.

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