Thursday 15th July 1999
The start of our trip went very much to plan. Taking the Wales And West (i.e. the slower train) to London meant that we got into Waterloo, (from which Eurostars leave for Paris) rather than Paddington. So we were able to avoid crossing London by Underground.
Compared to the Bristol to London journey, London to Paris was unmitigated luxury. Very smooth, and in France, very quick.
I found trying to book the Paris Youth Hostel to be impossible. They tell you to call in when you arrive. And as we found out the next day, very early in the day they are passing people on to the Hotel Voltaire Republique. But there is not much wrong with that hotel, given the price charged.
So far so good! Writing this on Salisbury Station having got here on time thanks to Wales and West. All has gone according to plan. Got up at 6, had breakfast, dressed, finished packing and took Douggie (our Golden Retriever) to the Common for his toiletry necessities. Chris dropped us off behind Temple Meads and we walked in. We could have caught the 8.49 direct to Waterloo but we have the wrong sort of tickets. Found out that we will have to upgrade our Super-savers at Waterloo on the way back – might have to pay full fare! – depending on the train we want.
I got the Super-savers in a moment of madness. For a few pounds more we could have got tickets which would have let us get any Bristol-bound train out of Waterloo.
Little did I think when I was writing the above that my hat was on its way to Portsmouth Harbour, unaccompanied. Will life be possible hat-less? I’ll have to get a new one in Paris.
I had had my Tilley hat for about two years when I lost it. A sad loss.
Otherwise things are going well. We are now proceeding across Kent in Eurostar. The train is well filled and fairly comfortable. Not a great deal of room however. We got into Waterloo only a little behind time and went straight to Eurostar and got onto the train with no problems.
Apparently one should label ones luggage with name and seat number if one leaves it in the luggage rack. But as they tell you this only after it is at the bottom of a vast pile of other peoples bags, we broke the rules! The satisfactions of middle-aged rebellion.
Passport control for us was minimal. The man saw we had a UK passport and walked on. Non EEC passports were examined.
The train was packed with scarcely a spare seat anywhere. Avoid row 21 – you get a good view of the window pillar.
In Paris – after a fast trip, got in on time, – we went to the underground and bought a carnet of tickets – 10 tickets for 55F – and went to Republique and walked to the Youth Hostel – it was full!
However for only 10 F each they reserved us a place in the Hotel Voltaire Repuplique and told us how to get there. Cheap at a tenth of the price. 5 minutes later we had a room for 120F each. However it is a three person room and we have a young, quiet, somnolent Frenchman to share. However it is a nice room overlooking the Boulevard Voltaire, but not quiet. We showered, washed underpants and A’s socks and lay down for a rest.
At 7 we walked and Metro’ed our way to the Ile de la Cité where we looked at Notre Dame. By this time we were getting peckish so took the metro back to Republique and had a salad and pizza at a restaurant in sight of our hotel. We ate at a pavement table and watched the world go by. The food was adequate but we won’t go back. The restaurant where BGS went at Easter time was nearby. It was recognisable by the steady stream of UK school parties going in. It’s the “au Val du Loire”. Might be better known as “The Chicken and Chips”!
Back to the Hotel where our room mate let us in, – and so to bed at 10:15.
The room was remarkably cheap for Paris. The 100% room occupancy must be the secret of its cheapness.