But uploaded nearly 24 hours later in Innsbruck. Sorry. Technical issues.
Tuesday evening involved two glasses of champagne and a long hot bath, so I had no problem dropping off to sleep. But I woke up surprisingly early, and although I didn’t actually leap out of bed, I was still up and ready for action much earlier than usual, and with less to do. Almost thumb-twiddling. Just before Toby left, I made him stand and watch me as I checked the contents of my pockets to make sure I had everything I needed. And then it was time to go.
I left our car at Mum’s and she took me to the station, and we chatted of this and that until I decided it was time to be on the platform. Once on the train I fully expected to doze off, but I watched Northamptonshire slip away from me first, and then created a new ‘Doze’ playlist on my phone. I know a lot of people don’t like Enya, but she’s the tops when it comes to music to snooze to.
From Euston to St Pancras – and they have removed the Olympic footprints; I was most upset – and at St Pancras I immediately bumped into Linus. There then followed a bit of a Terry and June experience trying to meet up with Hayley and Alexandra. St Pancras has more than one front. But eventually we were all reunited, and photos taken, and Hayley and I checked in for Eurostar while Linus and Alexandra found coffee and stationed themselves for waving as we came up to the platform at 12:20.
Hayley, who has travelled on Eurostar before, kindly offered to let me have the window seat; and then we found we were next to the unwindowed bit of the carriage, so I had only a limited view through the window in front. But, still … a window. And you know what?
Eurostar is really dull. It’s lovely to doze on. But the line is so embanked and screened that there is nothing to see, and then there’s a huge long time when the train is, erm, in a tunnel, and then you arrive in France and even though the sun’s shining there’s still not much to see except more embankments and screening. What I did see reminded me of Lincolnshire, except for when I saw a village, which was clearly not, and the trees, which are somehow … foreign. But mostly I slept and felt grumpy.
The only exciting thing about Eurostar was discovering a large tin with a lid fixed to the wall by my seat and realising that it was an ancient ash tray left over from the days when everybody smoked on trains. Of course, it’s no use for that now, so it made a convenient bin.
At the Gare du Nord I was able to whip out my map and look impressive as we walked to the Gare de l’Est. The Gare de L’Est is a super building and we found the left luggage lockers without much difficulty. Hayley did the talking. She is absolutely brilliant at communicating in any foreign country she enters, because she starts off with a big friendly smile and the phrase ‘Do you speak English?’, and officials and passers by then fall over themselves to meet her every need. This meant that when we came to buy our metro tickets, Hayley went first, and all I had to say was ‘Moi aussi s’il vous plait’. So, all that effort on my French A level totally wasted then.
Hayley has been to Paris before and she took me on a mini-tour via the metro. We started at Notre Dame, and I was blown away: it looks exactly how it does in the Disney film (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I mean). Then we went back on the metro to Trocadero. The line goes overground for part of the way and that bit of Paris looked exactly like Paris does in another Disney film, The Aristocats. (I was astonished to find my cultural references were all Disney ones, given all the history I’ve studied and so forth.) From one elevated section of track we had the most fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower with a rainbow behind it – I took the best photo I could, given that we were in a moving train at the time. The rainbow was still there, but in completely the wrong place for photos, when we arrived at the large viewing area at Trocadero. This is a fabulous space overlooking the Eiffel Tower framed by Paris, and lots of people were there taking photos of the Tower and of each other before getting random passers-by (ie, me) to take photos of them standing in front of the Tower together. Eventually it began to rain again so we went back on the metro to see the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees. By this time it was hammering down (and I had cleverly left both waterproof and umbrella in the left luggage) so we literally just took a photo and went back underground for quite a long journey back to Gare de l’Est. A journey which required an astonishing amount of walking, I might add: every metro interchange has miles and miles and miles of its own tunnels. I’m surprised Paris doesn’t collapse.
Back at the Gare de l’Est we retrieved our luggage, paid 50C to use the toilet (how much!!! – I decided at that price I might as well use the loo as a seat for a bit while I changed out of my boots and into my sandals) and had some supper. By the time I’d had my post-supper cigarette, our train had been called.
A six berth sleeper is quite … cosy. The other people seem very nice – we have a motley collection of languages and finally my prowess here came in handy as I was able to interpret the German conductress for the French passenger. But when we first arrived, I had to put myself into the middle berth and adopt a yoga position around my luggage just while we all sorted ourselves out (the train is packed). Hayley didn’t manage to get a photo of that (fortunately) but she has taken one of me lying on my berth blogging. We will be joined by the Sixth Man at Saarbrucken – he gets the bunk above mine so he’d better be nice and quiet getting on. This train feels as good as Eurostar for sleeping on, with the added advantage of pillows and a bed. But perhaps safest to take a view on that in the morning …