I should start by saying that I did make it to Paris; in case the title is worrying anyone. But let me start from the beginning. I went with the duty run to the Danby train station along with Marietta's mom and Jana's sister, both of whom had been visiting Botton. While waiting for the train to arrive I rescued a sheep and a lamb from becoming smears on the tracks by shoving them back through the fence...in my nice pink peacoat. You can take the girl out of the farm...
Upon arriving in Middlesborough I sat on a bench and struck up a conversation with an old woman named Esme. Esme used to drive herself around the UK, but must now rely on public transportation due to a torn achilles tendon. She wore a beautiful purple scarf tied round her head like a babushka (sp?) and purple eyeshadow and a purple paisley dress; she was on her way to the Lake District to see her family.
On the train to York I sat across from a buggy little man of forty-something reading a newspaper. Halfway to York I checked my tickets to make sure I had everything in order. I didn't. I had the print-out tickets for London St. Pancras to Paris, but not the ones for York to London! Where were those!? I remembered that I had given myself plenty of time in York for lunch, so I wasn't completely panicking yet. So when I got to York, I did what I do best: talked to people. I went back and forth to tons of different people, all of whom were extremely nice and kind and helpful, and they let me use their computer to try and print it out again, and since email couldn't be accessed on the computer ( to encourage a working environment) a station guy had me send the tickets to HIS email and he found a printer and printed it out, but the York part still wasn't on it!! But we found a booking reference number, and I took that back to one of the first people who had helped me, and he discovered the problem: I had thought that it was an "e-ticket" because I had purchashed it over the internet, but it was separate from the London-Paris ticket because that's from another rail company and blah blah blah but woohoo! we figured it out. I was gonna be really pissed if I had to buy a same-day ticket to London--it would have cost around £100. So, with my tickets all sorted, I sat in a cafe and munched on the trail mix I had brought with me, and sipped a hot chocolate. I bought a pre-packaged brownie labeled "gluten free" but upon reading the ingredients discovered that it had wheat in it! Right underneath the ingredients it said Allergy allert: contains soya, milk and wheat. What. The. Hell. People are stupid. Anyway, I got my money back and went back to reading Travels With Charley and watching all the British people be British.
The train to London was long and tedious, made better by the nice English gentleman sitting beside me until Peterborough, and made far worse by a bunch of head-banging drunken idiots playing AC/DC at top volume out of a laptop and cursing like sailors. Okay I know, I sound like a grandma; but there WERE grandmas around, and little kids, and I was trying to sleep! When my iPod ran out of batteries and I could drown them out no more, I asked them to please turn their music down, or, preferably, off. They were not so pleased to be told off by a little American lass, so of course they ignored my request with a "it's the middle of the fuckin' day, she wants to sleep, tough shit." The older woman to my right gave me a wry smile as if to say, "thanks for trying." When we arrived at Kings Cross, there were many murmers of "I am SO glad to get off this train."
From Kings Cross I followed signs pointing me across the street to St. Pancras, where I proceeded to walk around and take pictures and spi a glass of wine, thinking I had oodles of time. But I didn't. I failed to read the fine print on my print-out ticket that said I needed to check in half an hour before departure. Shit. So I missed my bloody train. After rushing through the security and passport checks ( at least I remembered my passport) I went to the counter to ask if I could still board, and was promptly turned down. Even thoug he looked a bit grumpy, the man behind the desk bumped my ticket forward and put me on the next train to Paris--free of charge. I had a non-refundable non-flexible ticket. To change it would have cost over £200. This grumpy man is a saint, and I will remember him forever. My next good samaritan was a guy on his computer. I didn't bring mine, and I needed to get to my email and find Maguy's number to let her know I would be half an hour later than planned. This guy loaned me his laptop, another guy let me use his pen, then a woman showed me where the phones are, and I was able to leave Maguy a message and pray that she got it.
The train ride itself was very quiet. I shared a car with a dozen Koreans (Whenever I see Asian people I just assume they're from Korea since most Asians I know are Korean...) eating sushi, and after purchasing a salad (the only food I'd had since breakfast besides the trail mix, and the only gluten free food available), I dozed in and out of sleep. I didn't notice going underwater. It's really strange; on land the train went through a lot of tunnels and my ears popped like crazy and it was relly uncomfortable, but underwater they were fine! When we came out the other side, since I'd slept a bit I wasn't sure how long we'd been in the tunnel and therefor unsure which country I was in, I kept looking for french signs. What finally clued me in was people driving on the correct side of the road. ;-)
When we got to the Gar de Nord I followed everyone to the exit and immediately saw Maguy. SUCH a relief! She had waited for a while before checking her phone, but she got the message in the end. She drove me around the heart of Paris and told me absolutely everything about it and was like my own personal tour guide all the way home. Phillipe was already in bed, but Maguy and I stayed up talking for a while, and she fed me a stuffed tomato with rice and pork and a glass of red wine. Dee-lish! I'm staying in Elizabeth's room, which has a nice view into the backyard, and into the neighbors as well. ;-P I awoke this morning to the sound of a chainsaw, only to look out and see two strapping young men hacking down a tree nextdoor. Fell back to sleep, woke up later and had a nice hot shower, then went downstairs and had some toast. I have decided that while in Paris I will toss aside my gluten-free diet and say poopoo to the consequences. But I did bring a loaf of gluten-free bread for breakfast. And theeennnnn...we went shopping!!! It's been a long time since I went shopping, and it was funnnnn. But first we went to St. Germain en Laye, the birthplace of Louis the 14th, and Maguy gave me a little history lesson. Then we shopped qround and found a very cute little store called Promod, where I proceeded to try on absolutely everything. I bought three dresses and a bag. Yay! I am not saying how much I spent. But it's completely guilt-free cuz it's my holiday money from Botton! We got some flan and tea from a little cafe, and then went on to a more mall-ish place where I found the most wonderful boots in the world. Mommy this was my treat from you, so you can definitely borrow them sometime :) Then we got some Haagen Daas and came home. And now I'm gonna go eat some lamb. Yes, you heard correctly: lamb. It's like you don't even know me anymore!!
Tommorow I'll see the Champs Elysées, the Latin Quarter and the Boul' Màch. Saturday we'll all go out and see some museums. Haha, SOME museums.