Faster than a speeding Eurostar Train out of Paris: The Island of Britannia

Cue my personal theme song because today we were going "home". Home away from from home in London, across the English Channel aboard a high speed Eurostar, racing along the French countryside at just under 200 MPH. We awoke with church bells ringing on Easter Sunday from our balcony aloft over-looking the square below just outside of Gare Du Nord. Morning in Paris, tonight we will dine in London, this can't be for real, can it?

This was perhaps our first day to slow things down a bit. Our train wasn't out till about three o'clock, so we could afford to sleep in a bit. I don't think we actually did, but it was nice not having to set an alarm for the first time. When we finally got dressed and done up we checked out and still had plenty of time to spare. This was our moment, our time to shine, our last chance to be French. So what do two girls in Paris do? They go shopping!

What's more is we were awesome. Shannon hit a French bakery for some pastries, ordered all in French. The lady didn't even switch to English upon hearing the American accent as they usually do. See even when you speak French, your accent gives you away just like when you hear a French person speak English here in America. Either she didn't know English, or was being super kind.... but it was cool. It was all coming together. I got to do the same for lunch at the rail station ordering lunch. It was that last re-assuring bit we needed that we were stronger than we thought we were, and worthy of this great adventure. Especially for me I felt like all this was too great for somebody like me. As if I wasn't deserving. I had already seen more than many people and I pondered why in this great big cosmic roulette wheel of life; I had been chosen to witness such wonders. I felt tiny in the greatness of it.... and that's a great feeling to have.

Upon leaving Gare Du Nord's main terminal and entering Eurostar's international terminal, you're met with both French immigration (a bit too late now guys!) and U.K. immigration, and a security check point. I think the agent at the U.K. booth was a bit taken back by our travels as she examined our passport stamps. While I'm certain they see lots of travelers, I don't think we struck her upon first glance as wealthy travelers nor poor student backpackers. Just two average women conquering the world one country at a time. Eventually we passed the test and we were granted access to the Eurostar lounge; a boxed in glass terminal with coffee, ice-cream, pastries, and a newsstand. We grabbed a cappuccino and waited to board. Down the escalator and we found our seats. Suddenly we realized not everyone was French. A very flamboyant British woman whom would do well in America sat raving beside us. It's a bit of an adjustment since everyone in France stands or sits almost touching and literally whispers in a breathy voice even in the most loudest conversations. There was however a little French girl about five years of age who we made great friends with despite the language barrier. Reminded us of our Renny. We were now getting itchy to phone the kids, which we knew we could once we shot out of the dark English Chunnel and into the British mainland with our Orange powered world phone. We were both a bit saddened that you can't see any of the French or English coasts from the train. In fact the whole TGV experience is a bit lackluster, but far better than airline travel any day.

When we hit Londres, I mean London, we immediately boarded the Saint Pancreas station tube with our Oyster cards still loaded from last year and headed down towards the London Eye. This is the center of London, especially on a holiday. We shot over to Ned's Noodles and walked over to the Thames. Paris might be people's idea of romance, but for us it was a bench overlooking the Thames eating take-out Japanese. It had been burned in our minds since last year. We thought we would never ever experience the romance of the situation again, but lo and behold it all worked out perfectly. We secured a bench by the river with a Swiss girl playing music. It was as if it was meant to be as the sun set behind Big Ben. The bell rang and another day was slowly coming to an end. Finally we a took a nice walk across the Thames to the Tube station and began the journey to our hotel which was about 1.5 hours away via tube and bus.

We always stop at Hammersmith. If I ever moved to London, I'd rent a flat near Hammersmith so that station could be my terminus. You walk out of the tube and directly into a shopping complex with a grocery store and lots of restaurants. Our favorite is the crepes place. I had a "I'll have what she's having" (no that's what it's really called) which was chocolate, strawberries and cream wrapped up in a crepe. Shannon got some self-imagined concoction of Nutella, bananas and other stuff. We would enjoy these as we walked downstairs to the Piccadilly line, and waited for the next tube to Heathrow. Eventually we ended up in that old familiar place: Heathrow's central bus terminal. We were however staying at a new hotel, outside of the free zone. Bus A10 up Stockley road was ours to catch as we stood with our Nero coffee. It's easy to pay with the Oyster at about £2 and the Crowne Plaza Hotel is easily seen from the bus. The stop is somewhat further out and you walk about 1/4 mile back to the hotel. The hotel was amazing and definitely 4 star. It was a nice evening that left us with a few hours to relax, call the kids, and catch some BBC. We ate our leftovers, re-hydrated our bodies and took showers preparing us for our next journey. Tomorrow we'd head back to central London; this time going to Paddington station and boarding a train to Bristol to see our friends. We were super excited and couldn't wait for the adventure to begin again.


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