diamond geezer

 Monday, March 11, 2013

À Paris: le grand départ
It's a fairly bonkers thing to do, I'll admit. A day out in Paris, that's there and back again, cramming as much as possible into the hours inbetween. But when it's your birthday, hell why not? And Eurostar makes it possible, even convenient, to make a day trip, so long as you don't mind keeping unsociable hours. The first train out of St Pancras on a Saturday leaves just after 6am, and the last train back arrives just before 10pm. That leaves ten hours to explore the French capital, which is more than long enough to do a heck of a lot, so long as you don't restrict yourself too much. I last tried this stunt back in 2005, and crammed in tons, which I'd urge you to go back and read if you're interested. This time I didn't whizz around quite so très vite as then, and picked a trio of places to explore in a little more depth, as well as nipping about widely on the Metro inbetween.

Getting to St Pancras for 0545 requires dedication, or an overnight hotel room, or one of the very first tube trains of the day. Alas Bow Road's doors were still firmly bolted when I needed to depart, so I took the nightbus instead and shared the early part of my birthday with inebriated folk stuffing kebabs down their gullet. Whilst most were heading home, a select group of travellers descended on the check-in beneath St Pancras's platforms. I had a proper ticket, but most were attempting to gain entry by waving a home-printed sheet or a mobile phone QR code at the barriers. Then the metal detector shuffle, then smile for French passport control, and into the lounge where hundreds of pairs of bleary eyes were waiting. I wanted a newspaper but it was too early - WH Smith had only empty shelves. And I wanted a Metro pass for later but held off - it's apparently cheaper if you buy it aboard the Eurostar.

I settled into my window seat with a smile, then had to withdraw when a couple arrived waving tickets saying it was theirs. Damn, they were right, I'd misread one badly printed digit under inadequate illumination - either that or my eyesight's failing, and had chosen my 48th birthday to announce the fact. The train was packed with couples off to spend a day, or more likely the weekend, in la belle Paris. They had overnight bags and pink wheelie suitcases, and that look in their eyes which said "this is going to be très spécial." Meanwhile I had an empty seat next to me all the way, which was a result, and suggests the early train always has room for a last-minute booking.

After 20 minutes beneath the Channel we hurtled out into France, which was temporarily invisible thanks to something the deep recesses of my schoolboy brain reminded me was brouillard. Eventually the fog thinned and lifted, revealing a rural landscape that was somehow definitely not Kent. The hedgerows looked different, and the farmhouses, but it was the electricity pylons which were the true giveaway. Occasionally a town appeared, with unfamiliar takeaway drive-thrus and warehouses on its outskirts, but mostly the view was of ploughed fields, distant villages and the occasional water tower. That is until we pierced the edge of Paris, first les banlieues with their highrise flats, and finally the commercial mix of the metropolitan arrondisements. From St Pancras to Gare du Nord in two and a half hours flat, plus an extra hour for entering the Central European timezone, and it still wasn't 10am. I had the entire day ahead - best make the most of it.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream