Left work early to get to Waterloo for the Eurostar. Why anyone would catch a plane is well beyond me. OK, it’s sometimes cheaper but 30 minutes before leaving, 2 hours 20 minutes traveling then straight out at the other end into Paris has to be better. Come on, it just doesn’t get any better. You can even walk around the carriages, buy whatever you want.
In saying that, I sat in the Eurostar sorry excuse for a café at Waterloo drinking an awful café latte while a guy sitting across from me ripped bits from his sandwich and threw them at the two lost pigeons which had found their sorry way down there. Now, I’m a guy and I understand the male anatomy but I have to wonder why this guy had to sit with his legs quite so far apart. I was surprised he didn’t fall off his chair as the angle seemed to approach a full 180°. Very weird guy.
I was sitting by the up escalator from the Tube and every arrival of passengers was heralded by a woman yelling “Wessen Vinyl”. This had me confused for quite sometime and I found it almost impossible to read my book. Was it some sort of German plastic used in the creation of old LP records? Eventually, as I was just about to leave I figured it out.
Mirinda met me just after 6 and we strolled through ticket, security and passport checks. Strolled through a little TOO casually actually as I left my phone in the little grey plastic tray that takes it through the x-ray machine. Naturally I didn’t realize this until we were halfway to Paris.
While Mirinda sat in the departure area, I was sent off to find tissues. I queued at WH Smith and waited while the woman in front of me, upon being told how much she’d have to pay, spent an age digging through her handbag, trying to find her purse. Did she think it was going to be free? While she waited could she not have rummaged in preparation? Oh dear, oh dear. Naturally I not only had my money out but had also had time to work out the total and have the correct amount. The person behind me was a bit slow in acknowledging my generosity and thoughfulness.
Of course the train was delayed (it had to cross England after all) but on the Eurostar this just means you have a shorter amount of time to board. This therefore means that you get some really strange looking French guy (think a cross between Toulouse-Lautrec and the school music teacher on the Simpsons) poking his head (literally!) around you, trying to duck and dive. I was having none of this. In fact I was being a little too pro-active in my attempts to squash his head between me and the train carriage door. When he did get into our coach, he stowed hundreds of little bags in all nooks and crannies, then went and sat one coach back. His wife (a female version of himself) appeared to be carrying a full size garden arch.
I managed to get everything settled and ready for Mirinda and I waited. And waited. And eventually went out to the platform thinking it had taken a long time even for her when she appeared a carriage in front, waving her ticket at me. She’d been waiting in our seats! What was I doing? I showed my ticket and quietly pointed to the carriage number. She came quietly into the carriage and sat with me.
The train trip was, of course, excellent. It felt much shorter and was made all the smoother by my Mobile DVR (thank you Karen & Nigel) and Mirinda’s portable DVD player.
Naturally it wasn’t all cream and potatoes. At one point I was dispatched off to the servery to buy refreshments and returned to be confronted by my manic wife complaining about and gesticulating at a piece of furiously beeping luggage. She asked me what I could do about it. After ascertaining that her concern was personal rather than terrorist related, I picked it up and threw it into the vestibule. This meant we only heard the beeping when someone walked through the door. By the time we’d arrived in Paris, the beeping had stopped and I assume someone’s alarm clock was in need of new batteries.
Only one little moan from me…WHY do people have the keypad tones turned on on their mobile phones? Do they not realize how annoying it is when they’re texting? I guess not. As we pulled into Paris Nord, the guy in the seat behind us was texting a novel to someone and it was driving me INSANE!!!
We wheeled our bag around to the long snakey taxi queue and waited for a free cab. It didn’t take long and we were soon on our way to the very hard to find Hotel St Honore. Hard for a number of reasons.
Firstly there are about a hundred hotels with St Honore in the name (St Honore is the name of the street), secondly because they hadn’t bothered to include the street number of the hotel on the confirmation email, thirdly because I hadn’t actually read the confirmation email to realize this and fourthly, because it’s a grotty little place that we would never stay at.
Naturally Mirinda made me walk up all six flights of stairs with our very heavy suitcase to look at the room – sort of rubbing my nose in it really. We then marched (Mirinda marched, I staggered) back to reception where she told the child behind the desk what for in her limited French. He just nodded as if this sort of thing happened all the time. We then leapt into blind fate, walking the streets of Paris, late at night in search of three stars.
A few very highly priced four stars later and we were beginning to despair. And then we found the Hotel Mansart (named after Jules Hardouin-Mansart, architect to Louis XIV and designer of Versailles among other great works). I waited outside in the cool while Mirinda went in to beg for a room for the night. After convincing the bizarrely timid desk guy that she really, really wanted to see the room first, she vanished up the lift. Meanwhile he came out to grill me about the other hotel. I said it was horrible, which he didn’t understand so I increased the description to small and uncomfortable. This seemed to please him – he nodded, said something satisfactory and went back inside.
Eventually a smiling Mirinda returned and we booked in. At this point the desk guy told us it was a very quiet hotel and we shouldn’t change that. That it was very expensive and we probably couldn’t afford it. He was concerned about something but we couldn’t work it out. We checked in, paid the first nights accommodation and went to our room. A fantastic room! I could instantly see why Mirinda had been smiling. There was one minor glitch when the electronic key wouldn’t work but our odd desk guy quickly fixed that and we soon settled in for the night…or what was left of it.
I slept soundly but, unfortunately the same could not be said for my wife who has acquired a serious Suduko addiction. She stayed up all night trying to find three numbers.
By the way ‘Wessen Vinyl’ actually means West End Final and referred to the edition of the Evening Standard on sale at the time.