Friday, August 20, 2010

18 August 2010 On the way to Paris and on arrival

Mick standing by the Eurostar - check out the dead bird on the front

Lyn by the Eurostar

Inside the train speeding along...

Lyn in the bath

Sexy Lyn in the bath, again!

18 August 2010 Paris, France

Up early today, eager to set out on our trip to Paris. Caught the 10.09 train to London alighting at London Bridge and switched to the Northern Line for a short trip to St Pancras station where the Eurostar departs for Paris. We went to a fancy machine opposite the ticket counter and as we had booked and paid for our trip online, we were able to put in our reference code and print out our outbound and inbound tickets just like magic.

Since we had about and hour to spare we had a Costa coffee, rang the family in Australia, then Lyn went and had a look at the shops. No, she didn’t buy anything. Mick makes out Lyn is a shop ‘aholic but she doesn’t always buy stuff, just to get the record straight. Mick sat and read the paper.

Thirty minutes before departure we boarded the train and it appeared that there where very few spare seats if any. At a guess it seemed to have about 20 carriages, we were in the 16th carriage.

The train departed at exactly 12.29pm, which was the scheduled departure time, and soon we were hurtling along through the countryside. Occasionally we would travel alongside a motorway and we appeared to be traveling about twice as fast as the cars. In other words very quickly. When traveling around bends the train tilted significantly.

The train is powered by electricity transferred by an overhead power pickup and is whisper quiet even at high speed. When the train enters a tunnel at high speed the air pressure increases dramatically causing an uncomfortable feeling in ones ears, this pressure is released when the train exits the tunnel so there was plenty of swallowing going on in an attempt to ‘pop’ our ears.

There were some quite long tunnels from London to the South coast such that we weren’t sure when and if we had reached the submarine tunnel under the Channel. After a particularly long tunnel we emerged into similar countryside as when we entered it and were unsure as to whether we had actually crossed the English Channel or not.

Soon Mick spotted a couple of cars traveling along a country road and they were driving on the right. And that was the only way we knew we were in France. Mick had the idea that we were going to go down a hole in the ground and come up the other side, but in fact it was nothing like that. Land to tunnel to land was totally seamless. It took slightly less than an hour to emerge in France. Try that in a car!

At one point the train slowed to a crawl and then stopped and an announcement was made that there was some trouble with the points and there would be a 10-15 minute delay. Consequently we arrived at the Gare du Nord station (Paris) 15 minutes late at 3.05pm

Then the fun started. And all because of “no speaka da English”. There appeared to be about 20 different options as to what stairs to go up/down but eventually we made our way to the correct platform of the RER (Underground train) by asking quite a number of people for directions.

Hopping onto our train we arrived at the Chatelet Les Halles station where we had to change trains and again we were faced with quite a number of options. We managed to find the correct platform and the train took us to the La Defense area. The problem then was that the train we were on could split off into three different directions and even if we were on the correct line, it may not necessarily stop at our station. Fortunately we found a Frenchman that spoke English and he was very knowledgeable about all of this.

Having established the name of the station at which we were to alight, he advised Mick to look at the station names on the board at one of the stops to see if the train stopped at our station. As it turned out it didn‘t so the man advised us to get off the train and wait for the next train, which would stop at our station. This worked fine and we arrived at Nanterre Ville where our hotel is.

When we left the station we had no idea where we were and walked around in circles asking people for help before we decided to turn on the maps on Lyn’s mobile phone. Within minutes our route was displayed and she (the lady inside the mobile phone) took us straight to our hotel, which was just a short walk from the station. And she spoke English which was a big plus.

We settled into our nice but pretty basic room with no tea making facilities. It does have a Toshiba wide screen LCD TV with 26 channels. Only problem is, only one of them is in English and you have to like BBC World News, as that is all that is on. Mick reckons that if he finds the right channel dialog will be unnecessary! After all, this is France.

(Mick has been comparing the colour reproduction of LCD TV’s in the shops in the UK and he reckons the Toshibas have by far the best colour reproduction with Samsung second).

Feeling hungry after such a busy day, Mick asked the receptionist where we could get something to eat. About a 10 minute walk away there was a variety of eating-places. We chose a Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurant which was good as the menu was in French and English so we knew what to order. The waitress didn’t speak English at all.

We chose Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Beef and Fried Noodles, Seafood Hot Pot and Fried Rice. Sounds like a lot but it wasn’t as the dishes were pretty small and there were no left overs as we ate the lot. The food was very nice.

It was then back to our hotel where Lyn had spotted a big bath and some bubbles. So Mick took a picture.

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