After Kate supported yesterday’s CPS workshop in the UK, she’s handed the baton back to me, to pick up the French session in Paris. So I’m off again, but this time there are no planes involved. Given that I live in York, Paris could seem a long way to travel without flying? But so far, it’s been one of the easiest journeys to date.
I’m up just after 5am (if I was going to Uxbridge, I’d be on the road by now, so this feels like a lie-in) and as I leave I say a quiet farewell to Bruno…
AN: for those who don’t know, Bruno is my car, my pride and joy; who generally accompanies me on my UK travels and is pretty much now regarded as my ‘other office’.
In my usual fashion, I allow 20 minutes for the 5-minute walk to York Station, and am there with time to spare (‘spare’ being another terms for ‘people-watch’) – hang on, that’s my train pulling in, EARLY! Blimey, that doesn’t happen often does it? But another fashion with which I’m familiar, is allowing plenty of time to get somewhere, arriving early, toddling off to grab a cuppa, then finding myself with no time to spare and sliding into my destination with seconds to spare! Not this time, I have another train to catch in London, which will be an expensive connection to miss, so I get straight on board the East Coast Earlybird and settle into my seat.
Surprisingly, the train is quite empty? I thought commuter trains would be full at 6am but there are seats to spare (that said, they all have RESERVED tickets flapping about their headrests, so I expect it’ll fill up as we get closer to London. But in the meantime, the seat beside me is empty. So I ake myself comfortable, log on, and connect to the Wifi… all 15 minutes of it. I thought WiFi was free on trains? Maybe that’s just Virgin? It would seem that, after your 15-minute freebie, East Coast will start charging you. Right; I’ll work offline, draft my emails in Word, then cut & past them when I log on.
Our next stop will be…
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard this 6am East Coast service to London King Cross; calling at Naburn, Acaster Malbis, Selby, Doncaster, Newark Northgate… ah ok, so this isn’t the fast train then, hence why everyone else is on the other train which doesn’t stop anywhere. We, on the other hand, are stopping everywhere between York and London.
By Newark Northgate, the seats in our carriage are still pretty empty, I’ll have a peaceful ride down to London at the rate! Ah, no. Christopher Biggins’ long-lost cousin has boarded and, apparently, I’m sitting in his seat (there are still countless empty seats and tables around us, but he wants to sit here. OK.) I actually know I’m in his seat – mine’s the window seat, but I moved to the aisle seat after accidentally playing ‘Footsire’ under the table with the chap in front. However, I don’t argue with Biggins, he’s bigger than I am, so I just wriggle across and let him sit down.
Unfortunately, I didn’t pull the centre armrest back down, which would’ve allowed me to retain my half of the seating plan. Instead, Biggins’ bottom (which takes up at least 60% of the table width) spills out unmanaged, and I suddenly discover a skill for typing with my elbows tucked under my rib cage.
Why not just buy a laptop?
Biggins then proceeds to set up his iPad. Now I was under the impresion that iPads were designed to be small, portable, lightweight devices, designed for use on-the-move? I fear, however, that Biggins has missed these points, in favour of buying a device for the sake of having an iPad. He pulls out of his briefcase, a power cable (ok, so he forgot to charge last night), a stand (ok, so he’s thinking about health & safety, by angling his screen to avoid bad posture), a keyboard (so he doesn’t like touchscreen?) and a mouse (he doesn’t like the touchpad either?) and I’m wondering why didn’t he just buy a laptop? By this point, his ‘portable’ device is taking up most of the space on the table! The chap opposite and I exchange smiles – oh Lord, I hope he’s thinking the same as me? I’ve already played accidental footsie with him, I hope he doesn’t think I’m flirting?! *Rebecca focuses on Vesper and avoids all further eye or foot contact*.
At the following few stations, the seats around us gradually fill up, and I understand why Biggins was determined to sit in his designated seat. I continue working, admiring the misty sunrise over the great British countryside flying past, and we eventually pull into Kings Cross – 3 minutes early. I’m impressed East Coast, thank you.
I leave KX and wander across the road to St Pancras. I’ve never travelled by Eurostar before, so am quite excited – I’m going to Paris by Eurostar! Despite the romantic vision this conjures up in my mind, the reality is different. I’m traveling with a work colleague, we’ll see the inside of a train, tunnel, office, hotel, office, train, tunnel and will be back in London without so much as an accordion or garlic clove. But I’m still excited, mostly by the concept. The fact that I can get on a train at home, arrive in London, cross the road, get on another train, and 2 hours later I’m in Paris… is fabulous.
Hugo & Jenny, darling
So I board the Eurostar and am sitting at another table seat (I prefer these, as there’s generally more room – I just hope Biggins isn’t taking his iPadinium to Paris). My work colleague (Jason) is sitting a few rows in front but as we set off, and realise not all seats are taken, Jason joins me at the table.
Opposite us sit a man and woman – we’ll call them Hugo and Jenny. He is well spoken and keeps relaying the story about his chum being stuck/delayed coming back on Eurostar a few weeks ago, and having to polish off the Frois Grois he purchased for a mere €100 in Paris. Jenny has a more ‘hippy’ look about her – she’s quiet (perhaps due to the rarity of gaps in Hugo’s dialogue) but smiles a lot and seems to be hanging on his every word.
As soon as we’re into the Chunnel, Hugo disappears, returning a few minutes later with a bottle of bubbly – cheers darling. It’s not even 10am? Maybe they’re on a dirty weekend? Maybe Jenny’s Hugo’s Secretary? (Don’t hear so many stories about bosses having affairs with PAs, it always used to be affairs with their Secretaries didn’t it?)
The smell of their champers is delicate and delicious, but at this time of day, also smells somewhat like a hangover and is decidedly off-putting (I must be getting old!) Luckily it’s only a half bottle (Hugo, you cheapskate!) and is gone before we’re out of the chunnel.
Bonjour Madames et Monsieurs… A-ha we’re in France now then, excellent. The sky is bleu (intentional, not a typo) but other than that, the countryside looks largely similar to that in the UK, just with different shaped pylons.
Whilst I’ve been blogging, I miss the entertainment across the way. I suddenly realise Jason (who has been busily typing away on his Blackberry, as his laptop has run out of juice – and there are no power sockets on Eurostar, not unless you go first class – another tick for East Coast…) is exchanging smiles with Hugo and Jenny (if I see keys thrown down in front of me, I’ll run!) until I realise they’re giggling with the group on the table across the aisle, one of whom is snoring. And it’s getting louder. The culprit (let’s call him Snuggles) has some great facial expressions. His eyebrows are raised as if to say Really? His eyes are closed, obviously, and his mouth is downturned, like a sad face in a cartoon. His head is slowly dropping, as he snores out, until he lets out a little grunt, jerks his head back and briefly wakes himself up in the process. His facial expression returns to normal (?), until his head slowly drops, the eyebrows raise, the corners of the mouth turn down, GRUNT…! He has no idea the chap hiding behind the Guardian opposite him is desperately trying to hold back his laughter, Hugo and Jenny are giggling over their champers, and I suspect Jason is just pretending to type an email on his Blackberry just to avoid looking over. Jason finally gives up and offers to wander to the buffet car for refreshments – ah a cup of tea, lovely!
One to do again
So my first experience of Eurostar has lived up to expectation. It’s a business trip, so there are plenty of ‘suits’ around, and the journey is quick and effortless. Ideal for quick meetings with French colleagues. It’s fun for weekend trips to Paris – bubbles available on board, and the train does still have an air of romanticism (I’ve played footsie, exchanged glances and, compared to Newport Pagnell services, St Pancras still reflects those romantic black & white posters you used to get in Athena).
Well done Eurostar – all I need now is to see a DeuxCV on arrival in Paris, and my dream will be complete! That is, until dinner, where I’m expecting a café with chequered tablecloths, red wine, a monsieur le waiter with a handlebar moustache (it is Movember?) playing an accordion, with onions draped round his neck and garlic hanging from the wall. It was 1993 last time I went to Paris – I’m living the dream!
Au revoire /R xx