Saturday, 11 May 2002

GPS 44° 43.324'N 3° 17.038'E +1063m to home

At least it has stopped raining, but it's chilly. Headline news on the TV this morning is Potter's Bar derailment, so groan at thought of travel disruption. French railways probably seem better because they run so few trains (often if you miss the train you want, it's a case of wait to tomorrow; and here at Aumont, most of the trains are coaches).

Breakfast is standard issue - bread, croissant and jam.

Buy cheese and fruit when the grocers opens, check out, and go stand opposite the station for an hour. Meet some of the folk who I passed yesterday, also waiting. Coach not too crowded, and only makes one other stop - St Chély d'Apcher, twinned with Tadcaster. But there are two kids - burbling under fives - who I'd gladly strangle by the time we get there.

Long motorway haul to Clermont, breathless scramble to train. Which then waits for another late train.

And I'm in a compartment now with three more brats. *sigh* The one old enough to sit and read Harry Potter, and comics, is only annoying when he sucks the drawstring of his hoody, or later complains about something to do with his Gameboy (and is taken out into the corridor for strict telling off). The younger two fidget, burble, and ask if we are there yet. The corridor is narrow and busy with through traffic to the Buffet car, and the vestibule by the loo at the end serves as refuge for smokers and users of mobile phones. I alternate position as I am driven.

In Paris by just after half four, but it is raining from solid overcast, though the forecast had promised broken cloud and some sun. Metro to Chatelet, stop at the Trappiste for salad and Rodenbach, then back into the crush for the Gare du Nord.

Arrive with an hour to spare before check-in (could easily have caught an earlier Eurostar), and go up anyway for aircon comfort. Coach bloody miles up the platform, but Halleluiah! No-one in the seat next to me - especially not the huge sweaty pleb who boards shortly after me. One couple misread the class as the coach number, but are sent back to correct coach. And off through misty drizzle we set.

It was after the tunnel that the rot set in. Phoning home, I'm told not to worry, there's an emergency timetable, running every half hour, so decide to use King's Cross line rather than Liverpool Street. Half an hour late - with no announcement that we were going to be - at Waterloo, arrive at King's Cross just to miss a train. A few minutes before the next one, we're told to wait for an announcement. There are a series of these, saying that it's on its way, and so it's eventually there 15 minutes after promised. This train is full of overexcited Arsenal supporters, flush from having won the double, but find the least noisy coach. They get off at Stevenage, and then the quiet guy in the suit sitting across the way from me starts throwing up, so off to another coach, where some girls are talking about the families in the audience of the performance of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang they'd just been to see as we sit in Hitchin station. The driver then pours on the coal, and drives like the clappers. Even so, it's gone midnight by the time I'm home, having left the hotel at 9 UK time.

Bath, beer (real beer, even if in a half-litre bottle rather than real pints) and bed.

French holiday diaries continue in my main blog.

No comments: