The Eurostar has moved from Waterloo to St Pancras. This is all very well for those who wish to travel to France from the north of England but where does it leave us in Surrey? I’ll tell you where it leaves us. After travelling for an hour into Waterloo in the noisiest quiet zone carriage I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit in, I had to manhandle the luggage across, up, down, around two Tube lines, fighting through crowds (no matter the time of day) and fearing heart attacks on each long staircase. It was pretty dire, I have to say. I finally arrived at St Pancras and begrudgingly have to admit it’s a lot better than Waterloo was. Grrrr.
We boarded the train and I managed to have two seats all the way to Paris. Mirinda was not so lucky – after Ebbsfleet, a French guy sat next to her.
After the obligatory 337 announcements telling us we were moving and the one telling us the buffet car was open, an odd message was conveyed over the tannoy. Something about there being no more service because of a ‘loading problem’. I’m assuming it made a whole lot more sense in French because the guy speaking was obviously French. Though I always assume the worst and feel he’s probably laughing up his sleeve at our ignorance. Anyway, he told us this a number of times but it never became any clearer.
Then, disaster struck. A fire on the tracks at Paris Garde Nord. We had to stop at Ashford and sat there for about 40 minutes as they fought to put the fire out. There was no further explanation. Mirinda managed very well by plugging her mp3 player in and putting her headphones on. This did mean the entire carriage was woken up when she decided to comment on the announcer’s claim that we would be there for ‘some short minutes’ at a volume high enough to be heard over whatever loud music she was listening to. It was very funny.
We eventually arrived in Paris and I forced a very tired and washed out Mirinda to catch the Metro to our hotel. It was not much fun. Especially the very smelly girl standing next to me at one stage. I’m not sure if it was her perfume or if she worked in a very spicy restaurant but it was pretty vile.
The hotel is a big disappointment. The Hotel Residence les Gobelins is featured in our Alistair Sawday book of Paris hotels. This is generally a guarantee of something special. Alas, this time, it is not. I should stress though that the room is perfectly clean and not smelly and although not far from a busy main street, not overly noisy. BUT. The room is a bit shabby, the bed a bit low and small. The bathroom, though big, is hardly what you’d call appointed. The classic is the shower.
The water pressure and temperature are just fine but the shower itself is just a showerhead and hose attached to the bath taps. This generally works just fine except it normally has a hook to attach to. So having a shower means standing holding the showerhead, wetting yourself, putting the showerhead down and soaping up then rinsing off the same way. Mirinda not best pleased.
We spent a joyful hour with Mirinda complaining. Luckily she was too tired to move to another hotel. We both fell asleep very quickly.