We woke up, finished packing our stuff, and hopped on the tube to Kings Cross. After we got off the tube we walked next door to St. Pancras and got our travel documents in order. We were on the mid-morning train to Paris on the Eurostar.
I had yet to have a bacon sandwich while I was in London, but thankfully the Pret in the train station obliged. We had breakfast while we waited to board. Then the escalators up to the platform opened up and we boarded our train. It had been a goal of this trip to travel at least some distance on a real train, and while we did board trains from Slough to London and London to Hampton Court, this was a big boy train that would travel to another country.
The Eurostar train seats are about as comfortable as plane seats, at least the standard ones. We opted to sit forward so that my wife wouldn’t get motion sickness. She ended up closing her eyes anyway, as she does. It was awesome seeing the countryside of SE England before we approached the Folkestone tunnel entrance.
Then, the tunnel. I mean, it’s a dark tunnel with no cell signal and the train’s wifi isn’t great. So nothing much happened there. Then you enter into the sunlight at Peuplingues, France. If you were on the car train, this is where you would disembark. But on the train to Paris, you keep going at speeds exceeding 160mph. I think we got up to 180mph in France, but you are speed limited a bit more in England, particularly as you get closer to London.
Even better than the English countryside was the French. It really is pretty rural in northern France, at least along the Eurostar route. I saw a couple of old-style windmills and a few modern ones. Some French farmhouses and tons of land.
Shortly we arrived at Gare du Nord, and for the first time in both of our lives were in a country that did not speak English primarily. While England was always my primary goal to visit, I’m not sure if I could have considered the trip a success without this. We got some Euros from an ATM at the station then boarded the RER for the city center.
We emerged into the daylight at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station and immediately Notre-Dame de Paris towered over us. It had been damaged by the fire a few months previous, unfortunately, but still stood. We would not be able to see the beauty inside but at least the exterior was out of danger.
Our rented flat was actually on this island, Ile de la Cite, just a few hundred feet from the Notre-Dame grounds. We met the owner, who was a very pleasant guy and his flat was amazing. This was our daytime view.
At this exact same time I had arranged a bit of an anniversary surprise. I got in touch with Yanique who runs myparisianlife.com. I purchased a Welcome to Paris bag that had some cheeses, fresh bread, preserves, and some wine. We had a nice picnic lunch right on the point of the smaller island you can see in the pic above. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Some of the cheese was nice. The stinkier ones I could do without.
With nothing planned for the rest of the day we bought tickets for the Batobus, thinking we could do a bit of exploring above ground. We took the boat to Place de la Concorde, where we saw the second Cleopatra’s Needle of our trip. (The third is in NYC.)
You could just see the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees. You would normally turn around and see the Louvre, but construction barriers were up. We headed back to the Seine.
We caught the next Batobus and saw up close and personal the star attraction, the Tour Eiffel.
We were getting hungry at this point so we decided to try and find some food, and this made my wife nervous. She knows almost no French, and my French lessons over the summer didn’t really do much for me. I could greet people and do some very broken phrases, but I was always hoping to turn the conversation to English.
Anyway, we took another Batobus back down the river and got off near the Louvre so we could at least see the glass pyramid.
We walked down the main street next to the river back towards our flat hoping to find some dinner. What we found instead was a climate protest. This was extremely cool to see.
After we walked among the protestors we found a nice restaurant near our rental that gave us a pretty nice view while we ate. Outside on the sidewalk, naturally.
After we ate we retired, and were greeted with the view at night.
Unfortunately the next day would not be that fun.