austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And everything you knew then was only true in specialized cases, yes

Getting through customs and getting to the gate for the Eurostar train went about like we might have guessed, for travel that was one part railway and one part airplane fussing. We ended up in a huge but ill-defined mass threatening ever to become a line. We also ended up hungry, because we'd planned to eat during our several-hour layover that proved to be a crazy Metro dash. There was a small cafe right by us, through some of the line-mass, but it had a huge line of its own. There was also a convenience store down the way, which bunny_hugger found had not much to eat --- some chips, is all --- and its own slow-moving queue. I did brave the cafe mass of people, to get something to drink, though I had just a bit too little change in euros to get two sodas or Oranginas or anything. We'd have to split the one.

The train ride was high-speed, as promised. It was nice and smooth and surprisingly long. We had only a vague idea how far Paris was from the Channel Tunnel. It turns out to be longer than either of us had guessed. So we were constantly expecting that any little tunnel the train passed through might be the start of the Channel Tunnel. I thought that perhaps they'd announce when they were about to pass into the Tunnel, but, no. I guess they don't cater to tourists like us so much these days.

We didn't know for sure when we did dip into the Channel Tunnel until the surroundings went dark, and they didn't brighten again for several minutes. And that's when we knew. It took maybe twenty minutes or so until the light reappeared. And then there was England. This part felt like it took about twenty seconds, partly because there was a stop between the Tunnel and London. Nobody from our car got off there, but the option was around.

Finally, though, we arrived in London, and we had the task of getting to the Putney Bridge area. We'd be staying in the same hotel we stayed in on our honeymoon, the one conveniently near bunny_hugger's uncle. We needed to work out the series of London Underground lines to take and after some thinking we worked out how we could do it with just one transfer. Given we were lugging monstrously huge suitcases around this was much better than the three- or worse-line alternatives.

And we got to the hotel, the same one we'd used three years earlier. They were going through some kind of madness with an exceedingly complicated and disorganized tour group all checking in at the same time. There wasn't any kind of line we could make out, and the staff was quite overwhelmed. Possibly one was in training. But we did finally get our room. This proved to be in the lower floor, up a short stairwell, past a fire door, turn right, past another fire door, turn right, down a slight angle, past another fire door and finally into our room. It didn't seem quite so far afterwards, when we weren't tired and lugging so many suitcases around.

A good change since the last time we stayed here: the hotel had actual free Internet instead of a free Internet you had to re-log-in for every half-hour. (Or pay for.) A bad change: the room telephones no longer call outside lines. If you need to make an outside call, use your cell phone, apparently. Or go back to the front desk and ask to use their phone.

The tour group had receded by the time we went back, so bunny_hugger could phone her uncle and we might make plans for the next day. Mercifully. Using the front desk phone would be a routine of weird hassles because apparently nobody's ever given the front desk people instructions about what to do. One person just let her take the phone and do as she would with it. One insisted he dial the number but then let her take the phone. One insisted that bunny_hugger couldn't possibly have the number right because she didn't have the area code, which was not needed. (bunny_hugger had verified, online and by calling previously.) In short, the no-useful-room-phones policy is a mess.

We also messed things up because when we checked in we'd said we would take breakfast in the hotel restaurant. But then we'd changed our minds. We thought they could just note that instead of being charged for Thursday's breakfast we might make it for Friday's, or Saturday's, or whatnot, instead. That was too complicated to do, although just getting the charge taken off our bill was also fairly complicated, judging by the time required.

So between the train travels, the weird Paris Metro mess, and just settling in being a hassle, that's why we slept early and roughly forever that night.

Trivia: About half of all recruits to the French Army --- including future officers --- on the eve of the first World War were unaware that France had lost territory to Germany in 1870. Source: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.

Currently Reading: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Giles MacDonogh.

Tags: animal liberation 40 years on tour

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