The Journey to France

We started early on this rainy Tuesday morning in Leeds, a 6:30 alarm call is not usually what you want on vacation! Still, we were mostly packed & the early start enabled me to drop the family off at the train station, return the hire car & then get a ride back to the station with my Dad. After some emotional goodbyes I went to find my wife & child, at the Starbucks of course. There was a fantastic pianist playing, my daughter gave him the last of our UK money which gave him a big smile & got her both a high 5 & a 2 minute lesson, my budding pianist was very excited. So excited that she wasn’t really paying attention when we picked up our bags to head to the train, she swung around & knocked my full cup of coffee all over the place with her back pack. Wet pants & some coffee smells, but no harm done.

The train to London was on time & once we had the luggage in place the journey was pretty pleasant, it only took 2 hours & 15 minutes, we had a table for the 3 of us, reading & good family times were had, British Airways could take some lessons here! On arrival to Kings Cross we made our way, with all 5 suitcases & 2 backpacks out of the station & across the street to St Pancreas. After only a minuted there my sister & her family arrived from Bristol, it was so wonderful to be bale to hug my sister after 4 and a half long years. I met my nephew for the first time & my niece for only the 2nd, my brother in law doing a great job of corralling them as my sister came to find us.

We got through security & customs with no real problems although lugging those suitcases up onto the X-ray machine was – yeah. A quick lunch at a cafe & we were on to the Eurostar for the journey to Paris. Again we were pretty comfortable, my sister had booked our & spaces around 2 tables across from each other. The kids were fascinated at first, but a little bored by the end of the 2 and a half hour journey. The tunnels leading up to the channel gave surprising air pressure pushes on your ears, I’d say worse than a plane on take off, the channel tunnel however wasn’t bad at all. Once we got to France the speed went up & we were causing along at an average of 167 mph, quite remarkable.

On arrival in Paris it was just like getting off a normal train, I kind of expected another go through customs. It was rather odd that French customs were in London, maybe 20 feet down the line from UK exit customs.  In the Gare du Nord we paused as I tried to get my bearings, being all resourceful & not wanting to rely on having data on arrival I had printed off directions to our apartment. Unfortunately, folks won’t leave you alone long enough to get adjusted to everything being in French, taxi here, taxi there, no thanks, I don’t want to pay you 85 euros for a minibus.

We exited the station & couldn’t find the road we were looking for, fail, we walked a little way & then I turned on data on my phone, I was a little worried that I wasn’t on the correct network & would get data charges instead on the free roaming data from the Sprint deal. However after some later research it appears I am ok. The metro station we needed wasn’t too far, however with all of our 2 weeks worth of luggage, the 550 meters (or whatever it was) seemed like quite a haul, there was probably a closer one but we were committed by this stage to the directions we had on hand. Once we got to the metro station, the epic task of hauling those darned suitcases down the stairs began (I know we need them, but my back, my back). Once we got through, the nice lady at the metro kiosk was going to help us, until her card machine wasn’t working, then she thought it was, then no, it wasn’t. Eventually I managed to stay in line at the machine long enough to buy our tickets, I grabbed 30 of the things, no idea if that is too many or not enough, but they did a deal if you bought packs of 10, so 10 each for my wife my daughter & myself. (it turned out to be the perfect amount)

We squeezed through the ticket deal, got down yet another flight of stairs & then made it onto the subway. The doors started to close on my daughter, I reacted quickly enough to stand in the way, otherwise I’d have ben hitting the emergency break or busting a window, no way on God’s green earth I’d leave my kid behind. The subway was packed, people were like they always are on subways, solemn and trying not to make eye contact, of course I can;t help myself & I look them all in the eye, it’s kind of fun when they turn away!

Once we got off, we went up the stairs, through the exit thing & up more stairs, really, I’ll be glad when we are home if only for the suitcases. We exited the station apparently at a different point than my directions expected. So we crosse the road & started walking in the right direction looking for a road that we actually just to the left of where we crossed, not to the right where we were walking. We must have looked like fully confused tourists wit our luggage and me holding my printed map. A very nice and helpful French gentleman offered his help, in English praise God, and helped us to turn around and retrace our steps. It turns out the apartment was only a couple of minutes walk from the metro station.

Olivier, the man I had been communicating with for the rental met us at the apartment. It is a 4th floor place, just down the street from the Louvre. The elevator is just big enough for 1 person and a suitcase, unfortunately with a backpack you cannot turn around which made my exit a little ungainly haha.

After a brief orientation & me handing over the rest of the rent in cash (glad to not be carrying that around anymore), we had the place to ourself. It is a fabulous apartment, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a spacious living room, dining room & a decent kitchen. It is an old building, I’m not sure how old, but it must be at least 150 years, maybe more. The floor has a fabulous sag to it, everything creaks, it seems safe, but it is so quaint, a slope to the middle isn’t troubling anyone much.

Everyone other than my brother in law & their young son went out to get some supplies from the Monoprix, a supermarket similar to Marks & Spencer just down the street, relatively trouble free, we did get full fat milk instead of skimmed & my wife spent a long time trying to make sure she was actually getting butter.

Once back to the apartment, we had spaghetti bolognese, of course, we are in Paris, lets have Italian 😉

After a nice family meal, lots of dishes were cleaned & then a little r&r (and writing at last) and then bed time. Hello Paris, you seem like you will be fun, I can’t wait to walk your streets free of bags.

 

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