Wednesday, May 19:  Chunnel

We woke with a purpose, our Eurostar train to London was to leave just before noon. Had the remaining rations for breakfast, packed and said our goodbye’s and thank-you’s to Blandine. We rolled our luggage a ways down St. Germain Boulevard, so as to get on a Metro that runs directly to Gare Nord, one of the several train stations on the outskirts of Paris, rather than try to move our luggage through a subway transfer point. Rid myself of my excess small change in euros by contributing to one of the musicians that frequent the cars on the lines.

Check-in and all went smoothly, though the British passport control folks seemed a bit perplexed by the nature of our trip. The train ride was indeed fast, with a reputed 300 km/hr top speed in Northern France. It was a nice day, and it was nice to sightsee for a change rather than keeping an eye on traffic.

No customs to clear in London, maybe they are somewhat a part of the EU? Still had to grab some pounds at the first opportunity. The cabbie was very helpful, as Rick promised, though a broken down bus at a major intersection slowed our progress and increased our fare. Our hotel, The Georgian House Hotel, seems quite marginal, especially given the price. Our triple room is cramped with a fourth bed added, the plumbing is suspect, the lighting dim, and the air circulation lacking. My bed feels like a few sheets of corrugated cardboard propped up by randomly located springs. (I’ve been spoiled by the Manoncourt’s deluxe beds!) Its our most expensive room of the whole trip, and it seems like the worst of the bunch.

No dilly-dallying, and we walked back to Victoria Station to hook onto a Big Bus sightseeing tour. We’ve yet to do this in any of the other big cities, and I think that was the correct decision, but I think here it was indeed in order. And the weather was perfect for riding the top. Our first guide seemed more interested in pointing out the homes of the rich and famous and telling us how much they cost. Fortunately, very soon our bus pulled up and kicked us all off to hop onto another bus. Consolidation in the waning hours of operation, I guess. Our second guide was much better. We passed all the usual monuments and buildings, and it all could be summarized as testimonials to the creation, distribution and accumulation of power and wealth. (Are power and wealth different? Definitely not in London it would seem.) The secondary story was the bombing of London during World War II by Germany. This is part of the cause of the seemingly chaotic architecture in London, mixing new and old, with some of the new being quite bold. It was a sharp contrast with the unified approach dictated in Paris.

Hunting for dinner was the usual chaos. Rick’s recommendation was a pub. We found it, took a seat, and were promptly kicked out as minors were not allowed in this one. On the way out, I couldn’t find a sign anywhere to that effect. This put Robert into a funk for much of the remainder of the night, as he hates being mistreated like that. The “sandwich bar” in our Cheap Eats in London book was badly mislocated on the map, and once we found it, we discovered it was only open for lunch. Finally decided on a safe bet, an Italian place on the far side of Victoria Station, the farthest away of Rick’s recommendations in the area.

It worked, but at a cost of 125 Latini units for less quantity and less quality. But we mixed all our languages, native English, not yet fully discarded French, and barely recalled Italian. The Portuguese-born waitress did her best to cheer up a waning Robert.

Everything seems very expensive in London. Probably because it is. Even though the pound is roughly equal to 1.85 US dollars, I think my psyche will do better if I just pretend the prices are quoted numerically in dollars and proceed from there.

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Photo 142  Victoria Station Neighborhood
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Photo 143  Buckingham Palace Neighborhood