Troisième Jour de Vacances

The third day in London was the 15th anniversary of our wedding. Where have all the years gone? We were headed for Paris today. We had heard how convenient it now was to cross the English Channel by simply hopping into a train in London and emerging in Paris. We had talked about it for days. We had booked a hotel in Paris. Anil’s luck at priceline.com had held steady and we were looking forward to Hotel Scribe, a famous five star hotel on Rue Scribe in the deuxieme arrondissement on the Rive Droite (right bank).

So we took the Circle Line train to the Waterloo Station and followed the signs right up to Waterloo International and Eurostar. There was a long line for “Immediate Ticket Sales”. Someone had looked at us in amazement the night before as if we were the dumbest travelers ever when we said we hadn’t booked our tickets yet. In several minutes we were going to find out we were. We had been told exactly what the ticket sales agent said when we reached the front of the line, “You want to buy teecket now?”. We said yes. He looked at his screen and said that the round trip ticket to Paris was going to be £298 per adult and £149 for the child. After doing our mental math for conversion to dollars we felt the earth slipping from under our feet. I am sure we looked as though we needed resuscitation. This was a $1,400 shock that we hadn’t anticipated.

We had no one to blame for our lack of information in this information age. The ticket agent told us that Eurostar tickets needed to be booked three months in advance if one wanted to pay no more than £60 for an adult round trip Eurostar ticket. In our defense, we didn’t even know this trip was going to happen three months ago. When we recovered from our initial shock we started talking about canceling our hotel reservation in Paris. That didn’t seem to be an option however, since it was quite expensive and non-refundable. We were trying to work out the least expensive way out of the mess, and just beginning the blame game, “Why didn’t you find out? Why didn’t you!!?? Why do I have to do everything? Mommy, Daddy, don’t fight…for the last time, if you fight one more time I’ll look for new parents! That’s it!” It certainly wasn’t ideal anniversary dialogue!

The ticket agent took pity on us. He sensed our genuine plight and just as Anil was handing him the credit card to go ahead and hit us with the full charge, he told us to hang on. He played with his computer for what seemed like an eternity and finally turned to us and said that he had an option for us to consider. He told us that the best he could do was sell us two sets of tickets, one set to be used now and the next set sometime in the future, three months from now but within the year. Buying the two sets of round trip tickets, one of which can only be used in October and November of 2006 helped us knock $700 from what we would have had to pay otherwise. Still not ideal but certainly something the mind could rationalize more easily. I doubt there are any impetuous or rather, dumb, travelers like us out there, but if there are they will know what not to do when contemplating a trip from London to Paris aboard the Eurostar.

The train ride itself is quite pleasant.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It is underneath the channel for only about twenty minutes, otherwise we get to see quite a bit of the English and French countryside in passing. The trip lasted two hours and forty minutes and we alighted at Gare du Nord in Paris.

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I am always impressed with the majestic train stations in Europe and the number of train users. One hardly mentions trains in the US unless one lives in New York or Washington DC. Grand Central in NYC and Union Square Station in DC are also extremely impressive but trains and train stations are so much more a part of life everywhere else.

I have been to Paris before and have had the wonderful experience of lining up for taxis outside the airport or train stations. The line at Gare du Nord was at least a mile long. Anil was getting quite impatient wondering why he just couldn’t break out of the line and hail a cab like we could in Manhattan. I just asked him to chill out and enjoy the experience.

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The line didn’t seem to bother anyone else there. We stood there for about an hour and a half as the taxis kept coming and picking up passengers from the front of the line. As we got closer to the end we were able to witness the source of the delay. It was a 300 lbs woman and her friend with several pieces of luggage who the taxi dispatcher was trying to bundle up into the taxi. If the people got in all the luggage couldn’t and if the luggage was packed into the tiny Peugeot taxis then there was no room for our rather weighty passengers. They tried on several taxis for size until they were forced to give up and the friends and their luggage was split up into two cabs before the line finally moved again. It was 8:00 PM by the time we checked in at Hotel Scribe.

Hotel Scribe is quite impressive. It appears to be a landmark hotel frequented by writers. Pictures of Marcel Proust grace the hallways and the walls are papered with blown up lines of handwritten text.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I am determined to learn more about it tomorrow, our first full day in Paris. We got settled into our beautiful room which has a balcony overlooking a courtyard and windows with flowerbeds, very French, trés elegante. We left again for a nighttime walk around the Galeries Lafayette and L’Opera, followed by dinner. More tomorrow!

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1 Comment

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