When we first started blogging, we shared our first experience of traveling as a couple. We were traveling to Mama John’s place in London, and I was poised to meet my Mother In Law for the first time. That, coupled with the fact that we had never traveled together before made for a somewhat stressful journey (you can read all about it in the trilogy we called our maiden voyage parts one, two and three). Our recent visit to Paris a few months ago had me reflecting on our maiden voyage because we had also visited Paris back then. This time, however, our experience was very different from the first time. I mean, have you ever looked at an old photo of yourself and cringed at what you were wearing? Well, that is kind of how we felt about the choices we made back then. It’s a classic situation of “had we known then, what we know now.” Here is the story of our first, disastrous trip to Paris.
We started the day off as we usually do while in London, with a hearty breakfast prepared by John’s Mum. An authentic English breakfast complete with bangers (sausages), eggs, chips (fries), and baked beans. After, she dropped us off at the local train station where we boarded a train headed for London. This was my first time in London, and even though I had been there for a few days, I was still in awe of everything. I wanted to see it all; my head was on a swivel as I tried to take in every detail. The gently rolling hills, the cows grazing obliviously in the open fields as the train cruised by, the graffiti on the walls as we got closer to London, everything. I tried to read the Graffiti as the train sped by, “Zonk” one said, “Tuff Gong” another said. I kept my eyes peeled; maybe I would catch a glimpse of a Banksy. I had no such luck. The train pulled into a tunnel which turned my window black.
We arrived at Kings Cross St Pancras Station with time to spare, our train to Paris was not leaving for another hour. So, we decided to walk around the station and take pictures. Kings Cross St Pancras Station is a genuinely magnificent station, a landmark in its own right. Opened in 1863, it has withstood world wars, fires and the ravages of time. I could not get enough of it. I imagined Paris’ Gare Du Nord station would be just as special. I couldn’t wait. It had also been a long-time dream of mine to ride in those pointy trains that were said to travel in excess of 150 miles per hour. The Eurostar, as the train line is known by, represented to me the glamour of touring Europe. I was like a fox in a hen house, wide-eyed and overeager. When the posh sounding lady announced our train was boarding, I was at the gate with a massive grin on my face.
I made sure to take the ceremonial picture with the pointy front part of the train before I boarded, that irritated John a little, but I didn’t care. John does not like taking photos, but he always appreciates the pictures months later when we are reminiscing about our adventures. Ironically, he is a fantastic photographer. Anyway, we boarded the train, and it was every bit as I had imagined. Simple, elegant, bespoke even. Men in suits holding newspapers filed passed us once we were seated. Some “devil wears Prada” looking like woman sipped wine from a glass with lipstick stains on it in the adjacent aisle, not bothering to look up as she did. Well, this was classy, I thought. I was grateful that John had made a note of the car that our assigned seats were in, so we had found them with relative ease. It had been thrilling to find a Toblerone shaped nameplate atop our chairs that read “reserved for…” and then our names. There were beverages on offer, was it too early for a Cider, I wondered, or was it Cidre now that we were headed to Paris?
The train topped 180 Miles Per Hour with a little more than a slight tremor to my glass of
Cider Cidre. The only time we realized how fast we were going was when we went past another train or under a tunnel; it was a blur. Then we went into The Channel Tunnel (The train route that travels under the 350 mile body of water that separates Southern England and Northern France) . John beguiled me with tales of how the channel came about. The competition that existed between the English and French engineers was fit for a Hollywood script. Fascinating stuff. John is full of such historical anecdotes, which I quickly realized lent some context to everything as we traveled. The thought that we were moving at speeds of 180 mph, in a train, under a body of water, was breathtaking!
The first omen of the trip was a lengthy delay that added a couple of hours to the journey. The delay happened after we got through The Channel Tunnel, thankfully. I would probably have had a panic attack had we been stuck underwater, in a train. That prospect sounded like the setting of a dramatic thriller where the train gets besieged by flooding water, and black people don’t fare well in those movies.
After my second Cidre, I took a nap. I was awakened by John’s hand on my shoulder gently shaking me. He had not napped. His breath had a slight whiskey tint to it which made me think that he had fully taken advantage of our first-class ticket’s complimentary drinks. I wasn’t concerned. I have never seen John drunk in the eight years we have been together. He has two to three scotches and goes to bed. I was just surprised that he had had scotch this early, especially since we were arriving in an unknown, non-English speaking metropolitan, after sunset (due to the delays). It seemed uncharacteristic, and I suddenly had a nagging feeling of foreboding.
My sixth sense was not unfounded. When we got to Paris, we made a series of unfortunate errors that marred our trip irremediably. Tune in next week when we share our misadventures and first impressions of Paris. You don’t want to miss this saga. Subscribe to the blog to stay plugged into our latest posts.