I thought I had everything planned out for the day. It’s St Paddy’s day and I had planned to go watch the parade in London before taking the EuroStar to Paris in late afternoon.
However, the day before I was supposed to leave for Paris I heard on the news that there was a fire inside the Eurostar tunnel and that the tunnel had been closed for at least 24 hours. Initially, I was not concerned because the tunnel was supposed to be opened at 4pm while my reservation is not until 6:30pm. Well, it turned out that to be a day wasted in waiting … and it just had to happen to me!
When I got to the Waterloo Station, I can see that this is gonna be a long day. There was already a huge crowd and the Eurostar officials were trying their best to attend to each and every customer. What they told me that despite me having a confirmed reservation, they will NOT honour it — it will be a first come first serve and to add to the uncertainty, they refuse to say when the service will resume or if Eurostar will even operate on that day.
First, I tried to find an alternative way to get to Paris. There were no flights between London and Paris. Every flight was booked solid — I am not surprised at all. I thought I just grab a bite while trying to work out an alternative way. I went to Burger King to get a sandwich.
I was not particularly hungry but remember how thirsty and tired I was. I had been lugging my luggage all the way from Heathrow for about 3 hrs now. This gave me a chance to relax.
My other alternative was to take the train and ferry but I could not get real help at all from the Information counter and ticketing office. Basically they told me to get a train to Dover and then a ferry to Calais but cannot tell me how to get to Paris. I know it must have been a frustrating day for them too because of the crowd but hey, they are supposed to be there to help. I was really disappointed with them.
I also took the tube to another station to try to get on a coach. Tough luck as the earliest coach is not leaving until after 11pm and the journey takes 7 hrs! No siree … I went back to Eurostar to take my chances.
By the time I got back to the Waterloo Station at 3pm, the queue had already stretched all the way to outside the station on the overpass. There must have been hundreds of people already ahead of me.
I was on the queue for almost 1.5 hours as it slowly inched the way back into the station.
I had a good chat with a Korean couple who were making their way to Paris too and he had a Canon dSLR and the same two lens I brought along. Small world! He pulled out his 70-200L and I did too. We did not take much shots because there were really nothing interesting at all.
I managed to get on the 6:30pm train, the same time I had reservation for! Boy, I was glad to be allowed down the escalator to the Eurostar station. I am on my way … finally!
The Eurostar was exactly I had imagined it to be … sleek and beautiful. The service had been operating for the past 12 years and operates services between London-Paris and London-Brussels. The journey took about 2.5 hrs. Frankly, the train did not feel that it travelled very fast — partly because it was dark when we started out and I could not see much out of the highly reflected windows and secondly the ride was quite smooth and quiet.
The interior was quite comfortable. The seats were wide but I felt that interior design is a bit dated and dull.
After a whole day, I finally reached Paris Gare du Nord shortly before 9pm. I just wanted to get to the hotel, have a good rest and put the whole day behind me. My problem was I had very inkling of where I was and where the hotel was. I just knew the hotel was within 5-10 minutes walk.
Some taxi guy approached me and told me he could take me for 25 Euros!! I am sure that it will not cost close to even 10 Euros. I decided to walk … at least the guy pointed me to the direction I need to go.
I made it to the hotel in one piece. I did not do anything but just went straight to bed. Actually, I was pretty disappointed with the room but heck, I am there just to sleep.
I spent a total of 4 days in Paris and visited quite a number of places. Like London, there are so much to see and do. It’s my first trip to Paris and frankly, my first trip to a country where people do not (or refuse to) speak English.