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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Farewell Paris, hello London!

FRANCE | Wednesday, 2 January 2013 | Views [339]

The next morning - I´m on a mission. It´s my last day in Paris and I have to see the Eiffel Tower.

Not because I really want to, but it´s one of those things you HAVE to do.

Like watch the Twilight movies just because you´ve read the books.

And the second thing, is to see the Saint Chapelle because I´ve been told that I must by my beloved Miss Pooh.

And after my previous train experience, I decide I need to leave the hotel by 3pm ´cause my ticket recommends I check in half an hour before my departure time of 4.16pm. Should be easily done.

I plan to be at the Eiffel Tower by 9.30am - when they open to avoid the crowds and get it over and done with.

I end up leaving the hotel at 10am. No worries, I´m only doing two things, it´s all good.  I check with the concierge that I can leave my bags there and pick them up later and he says sure, no problem.

I say hello to my creperie guy & apologise for not meeting him for coffee. I tell him I´ll say goodbye again when I return to the hotel, but just in case, I´ll pray that March is here before he knows it - so he can finally bring his wife to France.

I find my way to the Tower and there´s a little queue, but nothing major.

Any other day I would walk up the stairs, but I don´t want to risk my knee which is only just feeling better.

Plus to get right to the top, you need to catch an elevator anyway. It is ridiculously cold. The elevator up is pretty cool, and so far the highlight has been the multilingual staff at the Tower.

But once again I find myself wondering why they employ people in jobs that require interaction with people when clearly they´re not people people!

Anyways, the elevator stops at the first level and we all head out.

The wind is gushing about the place and it´s much colder than below. I do a round of the Tower and take pictures of the layout. Then it feels like it´s some complex maze and steeplechase to find the elevator that goes up to the summit.

Eventually I find it and head up. Okay, here it is blowing a gale and I have visions of flying off, or worse, my camera being caught by a gust of wind and falling to its death. I try and take the pictures as quickly as I can. I know I should spend more time reading the signs, stories, etc. but I´m totally freezing to death & not interested!

I catch the elevator back down, and take some ground shots. By now the queue is stretching well past the turnstiles so I´m glad I got there when I did!

Next stop, Saint Chapelle.

I catch the train again and when I get there, there´s a sign saying it´s closed until 1.15pm.

Doh! Well, I guess that still works. I have an hour to kill - I guess I could eat.

I find a little cafe nearby and order...pizza! It´s the only thing that comes in a size I can finish!

Pretty soon the cafe fills up and it´s only small to begin with! I will the minutes to go by, and eventually it´s 1pm. I head over and now there are two queues - both saying strange things. I line up in the one that doesn´t mention prepaid tickets, but it is the entrance to the Palais de Justice. Our bags get scanned again. Now, where to buy the ticket? Okay, eventually I figure it out and I´m inside.

It is beautiful no doubt. If there was sunshine, it would have been more stunning, but also, half the windows are undergoing restoration, so it also detracts from the splendour of the place. Okay! Done!

I think the last thing I really want is to get those charcoal pictures and none of the souvenir places near where I am seem to have them! I decide to go back to Montmarte since that´s where I saw them and figure it´s close to the hotel. I get off at what I think is the closest station, only to discover I have to climb a million stairs just to get out of the station! And then...no signs! So I´m just going blind now and every turn presents me with more stairs! Eventually I recognise a part I´ve been to before & while I check out all the shops, the pictures I want don´t seem to be there! Gah! This is gonna be one of those split second decisions. Leave it, or just get what´s available. I pick a collection & even have the exact change but for some reason I pick the one shop vendor who has no interest in making a sale. She´s wrapping a picture for a couple and then decides to chat on the phone for a bit. Tick, tock, the minutes are passing by. It´s well past 3pm now and I still need to get back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. Finally she turns to me, I give her the money, put the cards in an envelope and dash off. It´s now 3.22pm.

I have only a vague recollection of how to get back to the hotel from here, so I pull out a map and I´m running and checking signs at the same time. I should totally check out orienteering when I get back to Australia I think.

Shortly I recognise a couple of streets and I´m on the home stretch! I get to the hotel, grab my bags and make my way to the station. It´s now 3.38pm. It´s okay I tell myself - they always recommend you check in early. No biggie - I just need to focus on when the train leaves - 4.16pm. I get to Gare du Nord and of course have no idea where to go!

I look up and follow the signs for "grand lignes" hoping that means my train. I can´t even run cause my pack is that heavy <okay, I´m clearly not cut out for the army!> Still, I try and walk as fast as I can, and eventually see the signs for Eurostar! Yay!

I walk some more and come across...baggage scanners.

What the?

Oh, of course, this is still an international journey, so screening and immigration still apply!

Gah! I think of the swiss army knife in my big pack but decide I don´t have time to deal with this right now!

I just dump everything on the scanner and walk through. I beep. Oh, jacket - I just take it off ad throw it through as well.

I finally get to immigration. Here´s my ticket and passport. And immigration card? What? The lady points to a stack of cards next to me.

Are you kidding me? I move aside and complete it in record time. Thank goodness I´ve had to look up Nick & Davina´s (friends who I am staying with in London) address so many times that I have it memorised, except for the postcode.

I suspect when they say "complete information" on these cards it´s more a guide, really. I go through and arrive at the gate. It´s 4.06pm.

Do we wait here or go down to the train? I ask a lady who is also on my train. She asks those waiting in the same area.

They are all on later trains and tell her she needs to head down to the platform now.

We both take off and of course my compartment is about five carriages away!

I can totally do this, I convince myself.

I´m sure I´ll get on and there will be 3 mins still left!

I eventually get to my carriage & put my pack down (extremely gratefully!) at the end of my carriage and head to my seat.

It is 4.12pm. Oh, thank goodnes!

I´m sweating and exhausted, but relieved to be on the train! It takes off - thanks goodness in a forward direction! There´s an english couple in front of me. I practically drink my entire bottle of water in one go, and start writing in my journal.

After a while, we engage in conversation and I find out that the couple have been together only since June and have spent the weekend in Paris where they walked everywhere (!).

That would explain why the guy has been massaging the girl´s feet since before the train departed.

Turns out he´s a rugby player and was at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne!

Ha! How cool. He´s retired now, but still has a few matches that he plays and runs tournaments.

The girl organises events at some rooftop bar in London owned by Richard Branson.

Turns out they both come from the same little town, but only met this year for the first time! Neat. They do look very good together.

They start giving me advice on where to go and what to see in London. Rugby guy, especially, seems to take this very seriously as he keeps coming up with new places in random spots during the conversation. They are both lovely people. I tell rooftop girl that if I feel like clubbing, I´ll drop by her place.

We finally reach London and I´ve got instructions from Nick to catch the train to Holborn where he will meet me. There should be wifi there, so I should be able to get in touch with him.

Okay, so I get an oyster card and figure out where I need to go. I get to Holborn. I go upstairs cause I figure we´ll meet somewhere at the entrance, but I can´t see him anywhere, nor can I get messenger to work on my phone, and of course I have no credit to send any texts.

Okay! Desperate times call for desperate measures! I spy a girl standing next to the entrance & ask if she could please help me out & call my friend for me? 

She looks a bit wary but agrees to do so. Of course it goes straight to voicemail. Okay, can she send a text? I'm at Holborn at the entrance. We wait. This is crazy! There's like hundreds of people here - it's going home peak hour! I suspect I could probably get to their house by myself and its got to be better than waiting indefinitely at the station.

I ask the girl to send this text to Nick and she's happy to do so cause she gets free texts on her phone. Great! Her friend has arrived by this stage, so I thank her and head down again to catch the train.

As I'm walking along the platform, I hear someone call my name. I turn around and it's Nick! OMG!!!! This moment feels so surreal! I feel like I'm in a movie or something. I'm so relieved I wanna laugh and cry all at the same time! Eeek!! I give him the biggest hug which is quite difficult on account of all the bags I'm carrying.

What are the chances that we would ever find each other amongst all this chaos, I exclaim!

Well quite good actually, Nick tells me as that is what he'd sent me as a message, which of course I hadn't received cause I couldn't log in!

Anyway, I'm just so relieved and now we get to go home! I'm so happy I don't even really notice the masses of people around us exuding their "don't mess with me, I'm on the way somewhere" vibes.

Eventually we arrive at our station and its just a short walk to their home. It is lovely! It's what's called a terrace house and there's an empty apartment downstairs and theirs is the one upstairs. It's the coolest entrance! I always feel like I'm going into a secret attic or something, going into their house.

I hear Davina inside. She's feeding their baby, Darcia, who is just the most beautiful thing ever! She's got the biggest eyes! They're like Davina's, but the colour of Nick's. And when she smiles, the whole room lights up!

Unfortunately, Darcia's now completely distracted by the new arrivals and refuses to eat anymore! Oops!

Oh well...Nick then sets about getting ready for Darcia's bath while Davina makes dinner. I feel completely useless but it's okay cause I figure now is a good time to give Nick his BBQ shapes! Dinner is sweet & sour chicken and it's delicious, even though I need to give Nick half my meal cause its just too much!

I still need to organise my tickets to Derby where I'm supposed to be going the next day, and when I checked, the tickets were about £14 one way. But when nick looks it up its about £85! What the??

So turns out my starting station was completely wrong! Hmm...now what to do? He checks a few more options and the cheapest is around £65. I think...I AM really looking forward to seeing Gillian who lives there & we've been talking about it since I started planning my trip. I do a mental check of my budget. I'm sure I can fit this in from somewhere. Okay, let's do it! We book the tickets.

We stay up and chat and I update some of my journal online.

When it's time for bed, Davina puts fresh linen on the mattress in my room and I even get my own set of keys so I don't need to worry about when I get home! Wow! That was unexpected, and completely brilliant!

I repack my bag so I can just take a single pack and go to sleep!

Tags: eiffel tower, eurostar, london, saint chapelle

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