I returned to the land where winter is a lifestyle more than three weeks ago, back to my sedentary, unexotic existence. But having a mild compulsion to finish what I start (unless, of course, it’s a sewing project) I cannot continue with my
scintillating nonexisting blogging schedule until I put ‘Yuhrup’ behind me.
So, in this day of insta-everything, try not to implode from excitement while I revisit a 23-days ago experience.
Picture it: upon being chastened for shifting a dorm-sized refrigerator in our appartement, we hailed a cab to the Gare du Nord station to take the Eurostar back to the city where they speak English and don’t care if you eat your lentils on your breadplate.
We arrived a little over an hour before our scheduled 13h13 departure, so I spent a leisurely chunk of time trying to select suitable reading material for my peeps back home, while my mom sat at a little table, keeping watch over our luggage; waiting to find out from which platform our train would depart. Upon ridding myself of the last of my euros, I returned to our little table, only to learn my sister had gone to the Bureau de Change to exchange a very inconsequential amount of money that would surely be reduced to nothing once the ridiculous fees were applied or, at the very least, cause her to be the laugh-du-jour among the Parisian money exchangers.
We had about twenty minutes before our train was scheduled to leave and the platform still had not been posted. My ever-vigilant mother likely made note of this, which reinforced my quietly nagging worry that we should have followed the ‘Londres’ signs upon arriving at the station.
After all, shouldn’t we have to show our passports and scan our bags before they let us on the train?
With vague, mumbled explanation, I left my mother and followed the Londres signs in my sneaker-wearing feet (I’d already disappointed Paris with my crass behavior, there was no reason not to wear comfortable shoes). The signs led to an escalator. And the escalator………led to customs.
It took roughly three seconds for me to realize we had frittered away our ample pre-boarding time in the wrong part of the station and were now in danger of missing.our.train.
I raced back, down the escalier roulant, through crowds of people, doing my best not to seem like a crazed, sneaker-wearing American, but also not caring a whole lot. Through some combination of facial cues, gesticulations and words, I apprised my mother of the situation and ran to locate my sister.
We raced – as much as one can race when schlepping around suitcases full of clay jars and salt-bags – back to the escalator and up to the customs checkpoint, hurling bags onto conveyor belts so they could be screened, trying not to throttle laissez-faire agents who did not share our same sense of urgency.
We had become those people – the ones who frantically rush onto an aircraft while a plane full of people roll their eyes at ‘some’ people’s inability to get where they need to be on-time. With various employees urging us on, we raced through the Eurostar lounge, past a blur of nice-looking shops and restaurants.’We could have shopped here,’ my sister despaired while running.
With approximately two minutes to spare, after narrowly avoiding some sort of senior-citizen-meeting-her-demise-on-the-downward-sloping-moving-walkway-catastrophe, we fell into a voiture, stowed our bags and collapsed in our seats.
And that is how I redeemed myself from the whole St. John’s Bakery wild goose chase palaver.
Back on terra comis, we checked into our hotel near the Camden Lock, which we deemed positively luxurious on account of the friendly staff and the bigger-than-a-closet bathroom. Really, we could have probably just sat upon our comfortable beds for the remainder of the day and been perfectly happy. But we had things to do.
Like go on one more coffee expedition, this one – miraculously – a block away from our hotel. After which we headed to Leicester Square to eat at one of Jamie Oliver’s many restaurants. And then, on a whim, relying on my decade-old memory of London’s underground, we got back on the tube for a quick ride to Green Park where we walked past the Ritz, directly to Fortnum & Mason for some last-minute gift-buying.
After which we took the tube back to Leicester Square and followed the cobbled streets to St. Martin in the Fields for a candlelight concert with the London Concertante, replete with fine British humor and chamber music.
We limped back to our hotel afterwards, to face music of a different sort: suitcases and weight limits. I sorted and organized and ended up with a suitcase that was deemed too heavy by my savvy-traveler-mother.
I suspected my pile of French magazines and stack of Muji notebooks were to blame. (Along with the salt and the jars of clay.) Still, I held out hope that I would come in under the 50lb limit.
I did not. After a surprisingly tasty hotel-breakfast, and a cab ride to Heathrow with my sister, I set my suitcase upon the scale at the check-in counter, only to be told ‘your bag is too heavy.’ It needed to lose 3 kilograms or my wallet needed to part with some pounds. I removed my stack of magazines and notebooks, which I’d cleverly placed in a reusable shopping bag for just such an occasion. I set my slightly leaner suitcase back on the scale. ‘Spot on,’ the employee pronounced and dispatched me to customs, where I was subjected to a search of my person I am unlikely to forget any time soon.
All in the name of safety, of course!
Sorry London, you lost a point for putting your hands inside the waistband of my jeans – twice.
(London 4-Paris 2.)
With more than an hour to kill, I attempted to post about my experience on various social media outlets, only to be thwarted at every turn. Purely coincidental, I’m sure. It occurred to me if I was going to carry on a bag of magazines and notebooks, I might as well pick up some more magazines at WHSmith. Many, many minutes later, upon checking the departures board – 30 minutes prior to departure time – like a responsible air traveler, I learned that my gate was ‘an estimated 15 minutes’ walk’ away.
Less than 24 hours after my train-chasing experience, I found myself race-walking through Terminal 2 with 15 pounds of magazines over my shoulder to my far-away gate. Even with a camera bag, purse and enough magazines for an entire plane to read, I managed to arrive at the gate in just under 10 minutes. Albeit in a slightly sweaty state.
Of course, it being Air Canada (aka the airline that cannot leave on time), I needn’t have bothered.
But all’s well that ends well. I ended up in a three-seat row with only one other passenger and bypassed the cinematic likes of Tammy, in favor of the much more enjoyable Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Grand Hotel Budapest.
Nine-ish hours later, I found myself back in a smelly minivan witnessing a tantrum about a coat.
Back to life, back to reality.