Well let me tell you what a blooming surprise this little baby is! The train leaves London Paddington at 23.50 and makes it's nocturnal way down the southwest coast through the night. You arrive between 7am and 9am depending on your destination. If you have had busy day up in the big smoke, and let's be honest, when is it not? then this is what you're looking for.
Do this. if you can.
First of all, it's not much more expensive than a normal ticket to upgrade to a twin or single berth should you wish (£35 and £50 respectively). I went for a twin and boy do you get the extra bang for your GBP. Thirty five pounds extra means several things: chilling out in the first class lounge, bed and breakfast in your super cozy cabin and bright and bushy tailed safe arrival to your destination the following morning.
THE FIRST CLASS LOUNGE
When you buy a berth, you can hang out in the first class lounge from 9pm. This appealed to me, and even more so to my husband who wasn't travelling with me. He didn't like the idea of me sitting around at Paddington station on my own 'after hours' and to be honest neither did I. I got there not long after nine and was greeted by a friendly chap at reception who let me in through the locked glass doors. He checked my ticket and told me to head in and make myself comfy. I also found out that I was able to board my train from 22.30 .....ahhhhh, like music to my ears. I could already feel the pillow under my head.
The room is white and bright but still warm and inviting. Plenty of refreshments were available. An assortment of really rather posh pyramid bag teas - jasmine, green, camomile, mint - freshly ground coffees, biscuits, a variety of nuts, fruit, bottled water and sodas. The far end had two bottles of chilled white wine and a bottle of red. I wasn't going to touch the wine but the reception dude asked why I am not 'making the most of it' and after a little banter I decided to I pour myself a few sips worth (into one of the sparkling glasses all laid out on white linen) and sat down in the faux leather armchairs with some travel and design magazines. I was expecting it to be some some sour vinegary plonk but actually it was surprisingly quite decent. A Shiraz-Malbec blend.
Neatly lined up along the wall in the news racks were weekly political and business prints. The telly was on quietly, tuned into BBC NEWS with subtitles. There is a separate boardroom with flip charts and office facilities for faxing, printing etc..
The toilets had a nice hand soap and lovely scented hand lotion. Its the little things that count.
I even saw the gentleman who greeted me at reception gingerly rearranging the fresh flower display.
At half past ten and feeling very tired but relaxed, I packed up my bag and bid farewell to my hosts. I couldn't wait to hit the sack. And guess what? the train, and my allocated carriage, were right outside the door. No need to traipse around the station to find the platform. Right there, on my doorstep. I couldn't have been more grateful.
Booking a berth means that instead of facing your fellow seated passengers all night, squished awkwardly into a rigid upholstered chair and waking up with a stiff neck or a bad back, you can instead slip into your comfy pjs, hop into a very cozy bed complete with crisp sheets, fluffy duvet and two pillows and get a very good night's rest. I mean it when I say I wasn't expecting it to be this comfortable. Ok the beds are fairly narrow and short so maybe not as comfortable for some people as it was for me but overall I suspect it would still be better than trying to catch a few Z's whilst cramped into an upright position. After all, the body prefers to be reclined whilst asleep. I didn't end up having a roomie for the night so in a way I got the full upgraded version. At the time of booking you can indicate your gender and they pair you up accordingly, like with like. Makes sense. I also had the option of choosing upper or lower bunk, The rooms have a decent sized sink (on the large side actually) with hot and cold water and a fold down top that doubles as a table. A shaver outlet, Clean white towel and little prepackaged soaps. Bottled water. Adjustable thermostat. Bed light. Night light. Laptop/ desk top pull out airline type table rest by the bed. Coat hangers and enough under bed/ overhead storage for larger luggage. And an 'inflight' magazine.
You can also hang out in the buffet carriage if you like and get all sorts of complimentary drinks when you present you berth ticket I believe. If you are a bit of a night owl or need a night cap before bed this is a sensible option but for me, it was all about the sleep.
A train attendant comes and meets you upon arrival and escorts you to your room. My gentleman that evening was a lovely guy called Steve and his gentle Cornish voice and soft smile was enough to make me feel right at home and almost lullaby me to bed there and then. He goes through everything with you if it is your first time, as he did with me, and keeps his tone quiet to respect the other passengers. He double checks your details, confirms your final destination and asks if you need any other travel arrangement on the other end. Steve took my breakfast order (a choice of bacon baguette, muesli, croissant, tea, coffee, orange juice) and asked at what time I wanted my wake up call. It was late and all these extra little touches really made me feel so well looked that I settled in immediately, Steve wished me 'good night' and softly shut the door behind him. I brush my teeth and night-night lights out it was for me.
I don't know if it was the exhaustion, the rocking of the train - although I didn't feel particularly rocked about, just a nice smooth ride - or the peace of mind and overall comfort of it all, but I slept like a log. Vivid dreams and everything. Woke up bang on 7am (half an hour before my wake up call) feeling completely refreshed and very well rested. I opened my window blind to let the bright sunny morning flood in, and watched the beautiful green hills and meadows of the Cornish country side whizz by. Wonderful way to wake up. The sink overlooks the window so as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready I had that magnificent view in front of me, the scattered flocks of sheep and cows grazing, and the ever changing colourful spring scenery to keep me company. I was utterly and truly elated. And this was all before breakfast.
Steve gave a gentle tap-tap-tap on my door exactly at the prearranged time and there he was all friendly and full of smiles just as he had been the night before. He was holding an appetising breakfast tray all laid out with steaming pot of tea, fair trade sugar, and hot bacon baquette and sauces. The best room service ever! there I sat with the sun streaming in, breakfast in bed, still in my pajamas, all warm and toasty, with a a big smile on my face totally ready to start the day.
Honestly guys this really is a must if time is limited and you need to fit it in around a busy lifestyle. All in all a real gem that us south westerners should really keep making the most of.