Totty Trains

Paris with Zoe
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Having gone to bed at about 1 o'clock, we woke up at about 05:45, in order to catch the 06:49 train from Langley to Paddington. We considered catching the 07:49, but decided that it would be cutting it a bit fine. We both showered before leaving, but Zoe broke my bathroom light. I had cereal and a banana before we left, and then suddenly realised that I didn't know if I had travel insurance. I turned on my PC, but couldn't find the documents (and my PC didn't connect to the wireless router, so I couldn't check my Hotmail). I looked through my bedside drawer, and found my insurance documents (I'd taken out my last policy just before going to Florida at Easter). I also found my European Health Card, which I put in my wallet, but still couldn't find my USB chargers.

We had to walk really quickly, because we only had 20 minutes to walk to the station, and I wanted to transfer money from my normal current account into my Nationwide account on the way to the station. We arrived with a few minutes to spare, and were amazed how many people were stupid enough to be awake at this time on a Sunday morning.

Hot ChocolateZoe at St. PancrasCaffé Nero at Paddington was closed, so we just caught the Circle Line to King's Cross St. Pancras. We had to wait for about 10 minutes, but weren't worried, because we had plenty of time. We got to St. Pancras International, and printed out the tickets that we'd booked on Friday night. Everything looked OK, so we stopped for breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. I ordered a large hot chocolate for Zoe while she went to the toilet, and was amazed how big it was (the hot chocolate, not the toilet)! Looking at the menu, I couldn't decide between porridge and a boiled egg, so ordered both! I had the choice between two "free" wi-fi networks, but, because I still hadn't found my iPod lead, I didn't use it for too long. After confusing the waiter by asking for more tea, we settled the bill, and went to check-in.

The queues were far shorter than when we'd arrived (there were no queues at the ticket gates, and very short queues at security and passport control). Zoe bought a trashy magazine in W H Smith, but I couldn't find any gadgets to buy. We did find an open Caffé Nero, so I used the first of my "numerous vouchers" to get a complementary tea. Zoe suggested taking the tea on board, because our train had just been announced. This was OK, as long as we didn't have to stand in a queue, which we didn't because we formed our own queue, and got straight onto the platform. Zoe had been reading the signs, and paying attention, so I just followed her.

Eurostar ToiletsWe found our carriage, squeezed past all the gimmers, and sat down. We were both excited, because we were on holiday. Before we left, I used the toilet, and was amused by the sign on the toilet, which said, "We need to have a chat about the toilet". It was a very one-sided chat! After checking out how the emergency exits operated, I settled down for the journey. There was an announcement saying that we should make sure everything was packed away, because lots of people would be getting on at Ebbsfleet International. We stopped at this station, and there was nobody on the platform.

We then went to sleep, and I woke up about half-an-hour later. I started looking out of the window, because I wanted to see us going into the tunnel. While I was admiring the views, I got a text message - it was Orange welcoming me to France. I'd managed to sleep through the tunnel - as did Zoe, who was still asleep next to me. I fancied a jimmy, so went to use the toilet. It hadn't been flushed by the previous person, so I knew that we'd arrived in France! Back at my seat, I started updating my blog, while getting the Legoland Twitch caused by a screaming child behind us. While I was updating my website, another kid walked along the gangway, and stopped right next to my seat-back table. He couldn't have been closer to my right hand if he'd tried, and the Legoland Twitch got worse! Fortunately, somebody picked him up, and carried him away, before I could give him a clip round the ear. [To be continued, I want to have a bit more kip before we get to Paris].

[Continued on the journey back] I didn't actually sleep much, because I found a pound coin stuck in the desk in front, and spent ten minutes trying to get it out, without success. The train was delayed because of an animal on the line, and some baby started screaming. Anyway, we arrived 38 minutes late at 13:25. As we got off, I realised that the screaming kid had stopped screaming because he was being fed. I almost said to his mother, "Why didn't you get your tits out earlier on in the journey?", but thought better of it.

Le Train BleuAfter getting cash out of the ATM, we went to buy some train tickets. We couldn't find a daily pass, so bought a book of ten tickets. We had no idea where these tickets would be valid, but thought we'd give it a go. My slightly broken credit card didn't work in the machine, so we had to use Zoe's - that'll make our trip more expensive. Our first port of call was Gare de Lyon, to see where my parents had eaten when they went to Paris for lunch. There were some scary people on the train, so I was glad when we arrived. The station was pretty impressive, but the Le Train Bleu looked a bit expensive for us, so we went in search of somewhere else. The cheaper station restaurant also looked a bit pricey, so we went outside. It was raining a bit, but we stopped to take some pictures of the outside of the station, before finding somewhere to eat.

Gare de LyonGare de Lyon

All places looked quite expensive, but we settled on one, and went in. I was relying on Zoe to communicate, but when I saw totty serving, I felt the need to try French myself. It all went well, except when she dropped the pepper pot on the floor. She left it there, and took our order. While Zoe was in the loo, she came back, and disappeared under the table - I was tempted to say something, but I didn't know what French for "While you're down there" is! Our burgers arrived fairly quickly, which we washed down with red wine and 1664.

July ColumnSmokingAfter paying the bill, we walked past the Juillet Column - we didn't know what it was for, so will have to look it up later. We then headed off to Cathédrale Notre Dame - the only thing that I wanted to achieve in Paris was going up Notre Dame - anything else would be a bonus. We stopped off at a Café for tea and ice cream. We timed this well, because it rained while we were eating. Apart from having to wait ages to use the loo, because some pokey little ginger kid took ages, it was a nice break. We then continued walking to Notre Dame, and went inside. There was no entrance charge, and we wondered around in awe. There was a charge to go into "the Treasury", where all the expensive gold stuff was on display, but we reckoned we could afford €3 each. [To be continued - I have a low battery, and have lost my charger]

Paris RiverNotre DameInside Notre Dame

Inside Notre DameDr. Foo's Underground LairThe other advantage of going into the Treasury was that there was somewhere to sit down and still look at the exhibits. We tried taking pictures of Zoe's favourite exhibit, but our pictures just didn't do it justice. Despite walking all the way around the church, we couldn't see the stairs to take us up to the top. I eventually realised that the signs were pointing outside, so we went outside, and saw a long queue. We joined the back of it, and waited for a while, but soon realised that it was going to take ages. Although the main thing that I wanted to do was try to get to the top of Notre Dame, I didn't want to spend ages queuing when we were only there for the day. We gave up after about 10 minutes, but not before we saw a car drive into Evil Doctor Foo's underground lair!

Totty Outside Notre DameNotre DameWe then went to take some pictures of the outside of Notre Dame. Some totty got in the way of my picture - some people are so inconsiderate! After taking another shot without any totty in the way, we went off to find a boat to go on a romantic boat tour. We didn't have to walk too far, and there wasn't a very long queue. Let's face it, it wasn't a particularly nice day, so people weren't rushing to spend the afternoon on the river! Zoe did the talking, and I was quite impressed that when she found out there were no toilets on board, she then asked whether there were any nearby without even getting flustered. OK, so it's pretty basic French, but I was still impressed.

Eiffel TowerNotre DameZoe got back just before the boat left, and we got on board. It was a nice boat tour, and we got to see quite a lot of Paris, but the sound system was so poor that we could hardly hear a word that the tour guide was saying (and it wasn't just my old man ears causing a problem, Zoe could hardly hear anything either). Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the boat company, so I can't advise people to avoid it. If only I'd paid by credit card instead of cash. Still, at least we got to see the Tour Eiffel.

Back on dry land, we went off in search of somewhere to get something to eat. We both wanted to buy some presents, but all the stalls selling things really were selling a load of rubbish, so gave up and had something to eat. Most of the restaurants seemed quite busy, but we found one with a free table, and sat down. The waiter served other people first, and offered to speak French, Spanish, or English. I was feeling quite tired, so, when he came over to serve us, I didn't even bother speaking French. I hate people who do that, I was really disappointed with myself that I didn't speak any French at all. Still, at least we weren't as rude as the people who sat down on the table next to us ("Oh, did I just tread on you.", without saying sorry, and then they only sat down so that they could get the key to use the toilets!).

Once we'd finished our food, we didn't have that long to get back to Gare de Nord station to catch our train back to England. We started walking, but found a Metro station that looked promising, so caught the Metro instead. There weren't as many scary people on this train as there were this morning, so I felt more relaxed. I was surprised when I saw UK immigration staff checking passports in Paris, but I suppose it makes sense to stop illegal immigrants before they've even left France. Our train was at the platform once we'd got through all the security and passport checks, so we got straight on.

A few minutes after we left Gare de Nord, I remembered the second thing that I wanted to do in Paris - I wanted to make sure that my iPod worked abroad, and I'd forgotten to use the "free" wi-fi at Gare de Nord. Unfortunately, there is no wi-fi on Eurostar trains, so I couldn't check. I did, however, stay awake throughout the whole journey, so was looking out of the window as we went into the tunnel. Unfortunately, it was dark outside, so all I saw was going from seeing some house lights in the distance to seeing nothing. Oh well!

St. PancrasSt. PancrasWe arrived at St. Pancras (soon to be renamed Agincourt) on time. I'd checked the times of the Paddington to Langley trains during the train journey, so I knew what we were aiming for. We had no problems with the tube journey to Paddington, or the journey back home. Unfortunately, some pokey little kid started smoking on the train on the way back to Langley. I kept my mouth shut, because I didn't want to ruin what had been a lovely day-trip to Paris. Back at home, we were both fairly tired, so didn't stay awake much after we got back.

Thanks to Zoe for a lovely day.

Update: According to Wikipedia, the July Column (Colonne_de_Juillet) commemorates the "three glorious days" in July 1830 that saw the fall of Charles X, and the start of the "July Monarchy" of Louis-Philippe.

Update (2008-10-18): During my recent tidying, I found the ticket for the boat cruise that we went on. Just so that you can avoid it, the cruise was run by Bateaux Parisiens (, and cost 11 Euro.


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Created on: 24 Aug 2008. Modified on: 18 Oct 2008.
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