Friday, September 11, 2009

London/Paris, Day 8: Chunnel to Paris

On day 8 of our journey, we traveled from London to Paris on the famed Chunnel and even got to Paris with enough time to catch a couple of sights before bed.

In celebration of our last morning in London, we ordered a full English breakfast at our hotel. English breakfast can mean a lot of things, but a typical full English breakfast will include eggs, sausages, baked beans, toast, black pudding, tomato, and mushrooms. Ours included all of that, although I didn't eat the black pudding (a.k.a. blood sausage).

Then our second-to-last Underground ride over to St. Pancras Station for the Chunnel:

It was tough traveling with all our luggage again, but we made it to St. Pancras without incident.

Now, St. Pancras is right next door to King's Cross Station, and we all know what happens every year at King's Cross. So Diane, Rob, and I had to walk the block over to get a chance to be at Platform 9 3/4.

We had a little trouble finding it, because platforms 9 and 10 are actually in another building that you can't access without a ticket. However, a station attendant was able to set us on the right track (but not before commenting that we're "a little old for this kind of thing."). Oh, whatever - there were tons of people our age there, too!

Then it was time to board the Eurostar train, and thank god we boarded when we did, because we were actually kind of late and there was a ton of security and Passport screening. We didn't notice until we got on the train that our tickets required us to check in 30 minutes before, and I didn't realize that we needed to go through all the extra security and border control, because I have never traveled between the British isles and the continent before. Nonetheless, we made our train and enjoyed a lovely ride over to Paris.

The Chunnel takes about 2 1/2 hours between London and Paris, so we obviously had some free time. Given how tired our feet and legs were by this time, we actually enjoyed having a nice long sit and playing cards on the way. We had a game of 31, which Rob won, and a game of Hearts, which I won.

By the time we arrived in Paris, it was about rush hour time, so the Gare du Nord (our arrival train station) and the Metro were a little crazy. Plus, we had our luggage, which probably was a total of about 250 or 300 pounds, and we had to lug it all up 100+ stairs in the Cit
é Métro stop. Yikes.

Anyway, we made it safely to our hotel, which, to my relief, had kept our reservation. I had read reviews online that showed a slight problem with the hotel's reliability, but we had no problems.

We were kind of hungry by that point, so we walked up to the Marais, where we knew we'd be meeting Mike the next day in front of the H
ôtel de Ville.

This is the old Parisian town hall, which as you can tell is quite nicer than City Hall in Chicago (or maybe any town hall in the world).

The Marais is famous for its delicious kosher meals, and we stopped for some falafel at the famous Chez H'anna stand. It was my first chance to order in French, and I got us four "falafel specials" - pitas filled with enormous piles of falafel, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, chopped cucumber, hummus, sauce, and fried eggplant.

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Best falafel ever. But, I made my cohorts restrain themselves for just a little bit while we walked over for a picnic dinner in the Place des Vosges, the oldest public square in Paris (and one of the loveliest).

Yes, Diane is awesome and packed that fold-up picnic mat.

Then we spoiled ourselves a little and visited L'Estaminet, a small wine bar tucked into the corner of March
é des Enfants-Rouge. We split a nice bottle of red, then walked back to the center of the city for some gelato and sorbet at Berthillon, a famous store on the Ile St-Louis. We were able to slip in just before closing time at 8 p.m., and I got a small but amazing scoop of blood orange sorbet.

Since we were already back near the Ile de la Cité, I thought we could walk by the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is very lovely at night.

We didn't go in, because we planned to visit it during the morning later in the week. Still, the lights on the cathedral were beautiful, especially against the clear, vivid blue sky.

Not too bad for our first evening in Paris!

No comments: