Sunday, December 23, 2007
London Calling - Day 6 / Midnite train to Paris
We awoke at 9 to pack everything back into our suitcases and check out of the hotel. After paying a deposit for them to hold our bags, we hit the subway and headed to Buckingham Palace. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard. The ceremony is a lot of pomp, circumstance, and waiting around 30 minutes for not much action. Toward the end of show, the band that accompanies the guards began playing Christmas songs such as "White Christmas" and then vanished off into the distance, with police officers on horseback following them. We waited around for a while while the overwhelming crowd dissipated, took some pictures, and then made our way via subway to Tower Hill. The weather was less than perfect which made sight seeing virtually impossible. Standing next to the river by the Tower of London the fog was so dense you couldn't even make out the outline of Tower Bridge. As an alternative we tried to find somewhere to go shopping but found only souvenir stores. We decided to take a walk thru the city's business center and find some place for a meal, but every restaurant and shop was closed. We finally found a supermarket that was open called Tesco, where I bought some souvenir British tea. We continued on until we reached the Monument subway station and took a train back to Earls Court. We wasted several hours at a pub, sipping our beers, and chewing our jacket potatoes slowly to ensure we could keep in from the cold until it was time to make our way to Kings Cross/St. Pancreas to get the Eurostar train on the Chunnel to Paris. Once at Kings Cross, I searched for any signs of platform 9 3/4, but to no avail. My muggle eyes decieve me! The trains out of London were running late, including ours. We were to board our train at 8:35 pm, but didn't board until about 9:15 pm. We heard rumors of free train rides if our train is delayed 40 minutes or more, but have still to see if there is any truth to it. A free trip on the Eurostar beats a free pepperoni pizza any day! The chunnel was incredible. The whole trip lasted approximately two hours and ten minutes, with only twenty minutes of it underwater. The train travels at amazing speeds reaching up to 200 mph, and at times I felt that my head was going to explode due to the pressure. I briefly contemplated moving to London and having a career selling chewing gum aboard Eurostar. Seventeen trains service Paris and London each day, while each train is capable of seating a maximum of 766 passengers. We boarded the train, and relaxed in the spacious seats opposite each other with a table in between. Halfway thru the ride, we caught sight of the drink car, and Steve shuffled off to buy cans of Stella and equipment to make screwdrivers. We arrived in Paris at the Gare du Nord station a little after midnite Paris time, and met Cecile and Greg, whose train arrived only ten minutes before ours. Greg's stepfather is a cabbie, and he graciously offered his cab to drive us to Cecile's house free of charge. We arrived at Rue Tristan TZARA, took a quick tour of the apartment, and then crashed in the spare bedroom.