No matter how long you leave yourself to get ready, I always feel rushed when you need to checkout from a hotel. Maybe it is the finality, once you leave that room – your home for two weeks, you will never ever return to that exact spot. We were running late and also hadn’t factored in the extra time everything would take with our three suitcases. Mundane things like walking up a hill became much more difficult, trying to maneuver the uneven sidewalks and dodging puddles and pedestrians. We said our final goodbye to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus (which was weirdly empty) and eventually we made our way to St Pancras Station.
The plan was to eat outside and go through Check In (that composed of security check, ticket check and passport/immigration) afterwards. However Check In closes strictly 30 minutes prior to departure and the lines were very long. Not wanting to take the risk, we decide to proceed through and hopefully find a nice place to eat on the other side rather than the cafés and shops we had scouted the previous day. Luckily we found a place that had a continental burger and wedges. T-Rex grabbed a ham and cheese painini but ended up eating up most of my wedges. Boarding started only ten minutes before departure so we left the restaurant and headed to the platform.
Our carriage was right at the very end, as it was number thirteen and the last of the standard coaches. We waited and waited as a group of teenagers were holding up at the door. We eventually pushed in as the train was about to leave. Inside we found a bit of chaos with the bag situation with suitcases and parcels everywhere. The Euro Star employees eventually came to see what was the cause of the hold up was and started rearranging everything. We ended up putting or bags in the first class carriage as there wasn’t enough room.
We finally found our way to our seats which were quite roomy and comfy, especially compared to the seats in a plane. The kids in front of us immediately annoyed both of us for no reason, they and their friends later tried sneaking into first class but got kicked out, giving us great pleasure as strict rule followers. T-Rex and I tried to nap or at least rest our eyes, and managed to miss the entire underwater part of the journey. We then watched the French countryside pass us by, it was a nice change from the Victorian and Gregorian architecture we had gotten use to. In what seemed no time at all, the entire trip was over and we were at Gare Du Nord.
We were warned about pick pockets so were on high alert as we tried to find our train line to get to the hotel. The stress levels were definitely higher than anywhere in London as the foreign-ness of the place started to become more apparent. After a few wrong turns, we found a ticket machine where we bought a carnet of tickets (10) and boarded the metropolitan. It smelt really bad and was quite dirty, even compared to the worse tube in London. Eventually we found our station and got off into another wave of weird smells. Once we exited the station we had to navigate to our hotel which wasn’t that easy as most of the building look the same and the roads are confusing with massive roundabouts and no lines or lanes to be seen.
There also didn’t seem to be any pattern with people walking on the left or right, here and zebra (too soon?) crossings on the road, but you still have to wait for the lights to safely walk. Even when you have the ‘green man’ to walk across, cars still drive through so you have to be careful even then. We have seen Parisian locals almost walk and get run over so we know it’s not just us that find it confusing. Eventually we found refuge at our hotel where T-Rex and I were greeted with an extremely nice and helpful man at the concierge desk. The room was very cute and French, it was small but not ridiculously tiny. It had a mini-fridge with complimentary drinks and chocolates on the pillows. I tried unpacking my stuff as I was tired of living out of a suitcase and then we headed out in search of food.
We decided to scout out where the Disneyland bus was going to pick us up from the next morning on the way and headed there. On the way we found many homeless people like we did in London. Unlike London and Australia the situation here is much more akin to beggars like I have seen in Thailand. It’s common to find make shift camps with beds or families with small children. It’s very sad and you feel so helpless. As we were walking there we found some feces on the sidewalk which was gross but helped explain why it smells so poorly. We found the pickup point or what we thought must be it given the instructions we had, but there was no clear visible indicator that we were right. Tired, cold and hungry we opted for the easiest meal we could think of McDonalds which seems to be the only thing open on a Sunday in Paris.
They had machines in English where you could order so that was the easiest part, but when they were calling out our number in French we didn’t know it was ours. After we ordered we found a seat and just absorbed the conversation of the people around us. It started to sink in that we were overseas more so than anytime in the UK. The meal was pretty bad and I understand why Maccas gets such a bad rap from other countries but it is certainly much better quality back home. We returned home and went straight to sleep for our early start for Disneyland the next morning.