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Published: September 22nd 2013
Our last few hours in Paris and Europe and look what has happened to the weather after the last few days of overcast skies and occasional drizzly rain........yes the sun was out and shining brightly!
We have an earlier start this morning as the train to London leaves at 9.13am and we need to give ourselves an hour for check in just in case we need to go through a detailed interview as to what we are going to be up to while we are in the UK,like happened 4 years ago.
Sylvie has organised an early breakfast for us and has her husband ready with the Mercedes to take us to the Gare du Nord which is a big relief for us and we won't have to change trains if we took the subway.
The streets of Paris from St Ouen to the Gare du Nord were almost deserted at 8am in the morning except for the street vendors setting themselves up with fruit and vegetable stalls after the street and footpath cleaner which sprayed water to make the concrete and tar seal all nice and fresh.
The station too was quiet with most of the
activity happening around the Eurostar terminal at one end of the line of platforms.
We didn't have any problems with check in and in fact it was a breeze with no questions asked although perhaps they weren't so concerned with our 31 days in the UK as opposed to the longer period we spent 4 years ago.
They started to load the train up early and we trundled along the platform to our carriage.Here though we did run into a problem and without a train person on hand it was a bit of a shambles in the small luggage area at the end of the carriage.
Eurostar advertise that you can bring two pieces of luggage with you and they can be any weight you want(a ploy to get you thinking Eurostar rather than flying)although there is supposed to be size limits to each bag.Of course no one takes any notice of this little detail and the luggage racks were not designed with the huge variety in size of bags and suitcases coming on this carriage this morning.
An African couple,both large in frame and taking up almost all of the available space in the vestibule and more than 2 bags each,made it difficult to try and move the luggage that was already stacked even though there looked to be room if someone would reorganise what was in the racks.
In the end I got the smaller of our suitcases in a rack along with our Hong Kong bag which now only contained our pillows but the larger suitcase wasn't going to fit anywhere in what little space was left.So I left it sitting against the rack and hoped that eventually someone from the train crew would organise it somewhere.
The train pulled out on time but seemed to take an age to clear the Paris area although in reality we guess it wasn't that long and we were then picking up speed as the scenery changed from suburban buildings to green countryside.
As we passed Lille we kept watch out the window to see if we could spot the bridge at the end of the road from the village where the combined Eurostar and TVG line ran past where we had stayed earlier in the month.
An announcement came over the train speaker system that we were about to enter the Chunnel taking us down 75 metres and then 38 kilometres under the sea from France to England.This section of the journey would take about 20 minutes subject to no breakdown!Gretchen buried her nose in her Kindle as she doesn't enjoy any tunnel experience while I tapped away on the laptop.
Sure enough 20 minutes later we emerged out into the English sunshine and green fields with St Pancreas station, London just a short time and distance away.
There was a short stop at Ebbsfleet International in Kent we were on our way again although the speed that we had made through France and the tunnel had reduced a bit.
The train pulled into the station right on time and there was the usual desire of passengers to get off but we sat waiting for the crowd to clear and then think about what might have happened to the larger suitcase that didn't fit in a rack.
As it turned out the suitcase had been moved into the buffet car which was the next carriage.
Oddly enough we had to join another queue for 15 or 20 minutes to go through customs/immigration again although all the official person did was glance at our passports.
It was just a short,easy walk up to the car rental company in Pentonville Rd.
We stepped up to the counter and the person on reception offered us an automatic car.Well,Gretchen almost leaped across the counter to embrace him.Would she/we like an automatic drive....hell yeah!
So with Tina Toyota (a Toyota Auris) loaded up and directions to get ourselves on the right road out of London and heading northeast we were on our way.
It didn't seem to take that long after weaving our way through some London suburbs and we were onto the M11.The flow initially was very good and it had been a wise move to arrive in London and head out into the countryside on a Sunday with less traffic than we might have experienced during the week.
As we approached Stanstead airport turnoff a large overhead notice on the motorway informed us of slower traffic and a queue ahead with 'debris in the road'.After inching along at 10 to 20 kph for a quarter of an hour the pace picked up as we passed 'the debris' which turned out to be a blown truck tire.All that holding up hundreds of cars!
Near Newmarket we decided we had had enough with motorways and turned off onto a secondary road calling into Bury St Edmonds for a bit of shopping at Tescos.Seems like the supermarket hours have changed in the UK since we were last here four years ago and they some at least are open virtually 24 hours.
The lesser road took us through small villages complete with houses with thatched roofs and a pub or two all offering Sunday roasts or something else very tempting.
The weather had turned much cooler as we carried on our way northeast from London and by the time we made Lowestoft it was down to 11C and we were pleased we were adequately dressed to keep us warm as the breeze had a real bite to it coming in from the north west.
We are staying at the Travelodge for the next 2 nights and while the hotels in this chain are basic they are usually very comfortable and this one was no different to others we have experienced and the guy on reception was very welcoming and helpful with information on the area and where to eat.
After a long day we opted for the Harvester pub in front of the hotel and tucked into the all day breakfast which had all one could want,bacon,eggs,hash brown,sausages,mushroom and tomato....whew!And all washed down with our first English beer of the BBA V2.
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