How civilised! I have a “solo” window seat and am travelling backwards as London recedes at high speed, or at least what I can see of it above the rail-side barrier. We may be rushing through Kent now; there are fields. Traffic on the motorways is at a standstill which makes me feel superior. The French speaking steward has just served me the petite collation to which I'm entitled on this standard premier coach, and un vin blanc avec ca:
Timbale de riz aux épices orientales (and a sesame seed bread roll)
Grosses crevettes marinées et salsa verde (with two kinds of beans)
Gâteau aux pistaches et au chocolat au lait, crème anglaise
In Flemish, to my eyes is indistinguishable from Dutch, it reads like a different meal:
Rijst timbaaltjje met tikkekruiden
Gemarineerde gambas met salsa verde
Gebak met pistache en melkchocolade, crème anglaise
The French steward approaches again, speaking to me in English this time, such a seductive accent. “Would you lack a kerp of tea, Madame?”
I gaze into his eyes and say yes.
At Dover, with a brief glimpse of the South Downs under the darkening sky, then we plunge without pause into the Chunnel, 28 minutes after leaving St. Pancras Station. At St. Pancras the way to the train was well signposted and plenty of comfortable seats in the departure lounge, some with plug in points, and coffee bars, newspaper stalls, but no opportunity beyond the security checks to acquire Euros. No matter. The info desk sold metro tickets, as day passes or by the carnet (un carnet de dix billets) for £15, cheaper than London transport, it seems. I'd been using my Oyster card all over London, on the buses, overland and underground trains, by far the easiest way of paying.
Time in the Chunnel was 22 minutes today, then we emerge in France. Respecter la mer en passant sous la terre! -- says the slogan on a large board by the railway.
The rest of the journey was travelled in the dark, nothing of France to be seen other than parallel motorways, until we got to Paris, Gare du Nord. Like my fellow passengers, nearly all businessmen, I read my complimentary copy of The Economist and once on the platform hurried to the Metro, Chris having advised me which stop to aim for (Esplanade de la Défense on Line 1, after changing trains at Châtelet). The train on Line 1 was dreadfully full; with commuters still on their way home at 7:30 p.m. I had to fight my way to the door. Even so, I like Paris, could feel at home here.
Chris met me at the station exit, arriving only 3 minutes later than he'd anticipated, and we followed the walkways to the Ibis Hotel by the Pont Neuilly. From our bedroom window we can see the Seine flowing by and can even catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.