This year, dating event seem to be getting bigger and bigger! First there was the record breaking igloo up the top of the Shard. Then there was the attempt to break the record for the largest number of singles playing ping pong at one time. And then Match.com announced their Love Train event.
Teaming up with East Coast Trains, Match had chartered a special train from King’s Cross to York, with free tickets available to up to 250 Match.com daters.
The day started in style, with registration in the First Class lounge at King’s Cross station. From there, we filed down to the platform, where we were greeted by a mariachi band (who remained with us all day!), and ushered onto the standard class carriages. I was a bit disappointed, as I’d expected to be travelling First Class (something which still excites me!), and I was surprised by how empty the carriage I was in appeared to be. There were probably 120 singles onboard, but they’d spread themselves across five carriages, and so people were sitting in pairs – like a two-hour long speed date!
As expected, people were quite reserved on the journey up. It was a relatively early start (the train departed King’s Cross at 10am), and people stayed mainly with friends. Train staff came around with our complimentary breakfast – slightly ropey bacon rolls, but (like everything all day) they were free, and the staff were lovely and polite. And then Scott Mills made his first announcement for the day! Match and East Coast had hired him to be the face of the Love Train for the day, and I have to admit it was rather surreal listening to a voice I know so well from the radio, echoing along the train carriages! He explained that staff would be coming around to sign us up to the free activities in York. And sure enough, team members appeared, with details of the free events – a cooking class (which seemed to have been won as a prize by some), a chocolate tour, and a boat trip. We were also given York city guides in case we wanted to do our own thing.
The administration was well-organised. On registration we’d each been given a lanyard with train times, breakfast and dinner menus and activity details. When we signed up to the events, we were then given a special card to clip to the lanyard, which had details of when and where to meet (using grid references from the tourist map in the city guide).
Entertainment on the train was upbeat and different. The Mariachi Jalisco were brilliant fun – especially whenever they played ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ (in the style of the Doritos ads), and there was a rather zany artist cutting out silhouettes of everyone on board. A roaming poet made up rhymes based on any words people shouted out.
Thing seemed a bit delayed, and so we only saw the entertainment for the last 20 minutes of the two and a half hour train journey, but they were in good spirits and even trying to matchmake people and get people mingling which was great. I think more could have been made of this – perhaps with roaming cupids on the train, or games to get people mingling (or even just by getting us all to sit closer, so that less carriages were in use), but it all ran smoothly enough, and we arrived at York bang on time.
I’d signed up for both the Chocolate Tour and the Boat Trip, the first of which started about an hour after we’d arrived in York. I think it would perhaps have worked a bit better to go straight to an event, as by this point I still hadn’t really met anyone. Lots of people were still sitting awkwardly alone, so a proper icebreaker and group event would have worked well straight off the train. I went for a wander around the beautiful city, including the touristy Shambles, and then grabbed some lunch with a couple of girls who’d been sitting near me on the train. At 1.45 I headed to York’s Chocolate Story.
It was a really interesting – I had no idea about York’s chocolate history. The tour taught us about the Rowntree family (a brand I’d only really ever linked to sweets, but who created Kit Kats and Yorkies and lots of other chocolate bars we know), the Terry’s and touched on Cadbury’s. We tasted various types of chocolate and cocoa (including cold cocoa with chilli powder in!) and were taken through some interesting video rooms. We were shown how chocolate was produced, and taught about the role chocolate played in World War One.
Once the tour was over, we made chocolate love heart lollies. It was a bit like a school trip, but was quite a fun ice-breaker, and everyone embraced the activities – Scott Mills even joined us to make the lollies. Something I found quite amusing was that only about half the daters realised who he was! The girl stood beside him making a chocolate heart just thought he was another singleton (which would have been quite entertaining, if she’d tried to hit on him 🙂 )
While our chocolate lollies set, we were given a chocolate making demonstration. The head chocolatier allowed Scott to fill moulds with ganache, and given his slightly orange Strictly Come Dancing tan, it was rather amusing when the chocolatier chose to refer to Scott as his ‘little oompaloompa’!
I raced away from the chocolate-making to board the boat tour. I have to admit I’d expected a guided trip around the City, however the York riverside is more rural. Instead, it was more like a boozy party boat – which seemed to work well to get the singles chatting. We had a pleasant trip out into the countryside and back, and with beer and prosecco flowing (this and lunch were the only parts of the day not provided by Match/East Coast), people began to mingle more and get considerably louder!
The boat tour finished around half an hour before the Love Train was due to head back to London, which left me just enough time to do some shopping in some cute vintage shops I found on the way back to the station.
The train journey home was very different to the journey up! As expected, everyone was a lot more lively (and drunk!). This time we were allowed in First Class, which was great. We were given free drinks, and then dinner was dished out. It was a bit on the early side for me (5.30!), but I appreciated the sentiment. Some groups of singles had got really merry, and so there were a couple of definite party carriages!
I took the opportunity to have a sit down with Scott Mills (who did train announcements over the tannoy at York Station before we left!). So what did our train compete Scott think of the day?
“I thought it was good! I thought it was very British and very awkward at the start. I think now it’s gone completely the other way! What I quite liked about today was that I thought it would just be two carriages on the train, but actually it’s a special train for this, which is cool! In a world of Tinder and Grindr, it’s quite old school but actually quite nice to going back to actually meeting people! Even if it is a bit of forced fun to begin with, I think it’s actually a nice thing to do, as opposed to just going ‘Swipe, Swipe, Swipe’.”
Personally I had a really fun day. I didn’t meet any guys I was attracted to, but I loved the idea, and I think it really worked well for some of the daters, particularly less confident ones. By spending an entire day together, people really warmed up and relaxed – far more than they would have at a shorter event. I watched on as a couple just next to me on the train journey up chatted non-stop for two and a half hours. I later spotted them together on the chocolate tour, and then again when the boat tour went down the river, they were together on the bank. Finally, as I wandered through the carriages on the train journey home, the pair were still sitting together, which was really sweet. Sounds like Love was found on the Love Train!
As the train pulled in at King’s Cross, I raced off to babysit for a friend, however the night continued on with an after party at a bar in the station!
It’s rare to go on a singles event that is free – especially such a large-scale event, and I think for it’s first time, the East Coast Love Train worked pretty well. Yes, if they ran it again, I’d make some tweaks, but Match are still quite new to the world of off-line dating, so for one of their first large-scale attempts, I think the Love Train was pretty good!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx