What I did in my holidays

A cab came at 5 and drove us through the somnambulant streets of London, delivering us, fully Magicked-up, into the queue for our re-timetabled train to Paris. All flowed nicely until Ashford. Coffee was sought. There was a queue. It was early, people wanted coffee, it all makes sense. In that queue I chatted with a girl who was off to Paris for the weekend having had her diving in Northumberland cancelled due to inclement conditions. Paris or the North Sea, hmm. And as we stood, we listened with horror to some middle-aged Kath Kidstons discussing how they make the Sunday roast last long into the week. When we finally reached the counter they were fresh out of virtually everything, but nonetheless I managed to negotiate a pair of filter coffees with added miniscuits and UHT white stuff. An hour later the train left Ashford.

So we zoomed through the tunnel, exiting to the sight of the infamous shatterer of holiday dreams that was the burnt-out Eurotunnel truck. By now any chance of getting our meticulously planned connecting train from Montparnasse had all but ebbed away, but never mind, it’s an adventure and at least I speak French. Reading our mildly stressed expressions the Eurostar chef de train man reassured us that we’d be able to get a later train by dint of the stamp on our tickets. Really? That simple? Gosh. Soon we were in Paris.

A round-the-houses tour of Gare du Nord metro station later and we were on the Porte d’Orleans train with all the Saturday lunchtime shoppers. On arrival at Montparnasse our tickets were exchanged, as promised, quickly and without question. We now faced up to the grim prospect of three unplanned hours in Paris. Three unplanned hours in Paris? Brilliant. Luggage duly stowed at the station, we struck out into Montparnasse.

A crisp sunny early autumn day accompanied our stroll up Boulevard Montparnasse, passing many a contented diner as we went. Having checked my watch approximately every minute it was ascertained that sitting down for a proper lunch was viable. So we sat down in a corner brasserie by Port Royal and proper lunched. For her a salad of turkey gizzard, chicken liver and roquefort, and an Orangina. For him a big cheesy omelette, and a café crème. Yum. Stuffed to the gills we headed to Monoprix for supplies – best not to rely on the alimentation of Biarritz being open at 9.30pm. And then to the train, a TGV, a most exciting first for both of us. We had a table and shared it with a polite well-dressed French boy who proceeded to nourish himself with juice and biscuits. We saved our cheese and pickle sandwiches for later, I was, after all, full of turkey gizzard. Some hours later I sought out the buffet car – not hungry, just curious. I returned with two very expensive bottles of beer which smoothed our passage through Bordeaux. And then, 15 hours after leaving Bethnal Green, we arrived in Biarritz and the holiday began.


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