Thursday, September 8th–Paris

From London to Paris on the Eurostar; from the Gare du Nord to the hotel with my previous shuttle driver; around the corner to Starbucks for a late afternoon snack; a walk in the neighborhood and grocery shopping; dinner at one of the neighborhood Asian places

Grand Hotel Malher



I didn't get to sleep until between 1 & 2 last night but woke up before my alarm clock went off at 7 AM. I had misremembered what time the train was actually leaving (10:24 instead of the 10:40 I had thought) but my desire to be at the St Pancras train station well in advance meant I still was there before boarding time.

While I was waiting for my ride I popped across the street to the Boots, which opened at 8 AM, to pick up a couple more packets of the cold medicine that seems to have been working lately.

The drive to St Pancras took longer than it should, or perhaps my cabby just didn't take the quickest route although I'm pretty sure he had Google Maps on his phone. Apparently the hotel has some arrangement with one of the smaller minicab companies instead of one of the London Black Cab companies because this cab was much more like a private sedan.

At one point when we were passing near Hyde Park where the stables and riding trails are we saw a cabby arguing with three girls on horses. Apparently from what my driver could make out he was claiming that one of their horses had hit his car and he was demanding insurance information from the girls. Isn't that something he'd need to take up with the riding stable or owners of the horses instead of being so belligerent?

Anyway, St Pancras station is huge. And since I was traveling out of the country I had to go through passport control twice within a few minutes (leaving England/the UK, arriving in France) and we all had to send the contents of our pockets and our bags through scanners and walk through a metal detector. At least we could keep our shoes and belts on.

There was a slight delay in departure so we didn't leave until sometime shortly before 11 AM. I should have taken the elevator up from the departure waiting area to the train because the moving sidewalk was at a steep enough angle that hanging on to both of my suitcases, my hatbox, and my cane was more difficult than I had thought it would be.

My seat was in cabin #1 which was actually the last along the train. I had booked Standard Premier and had one of the single seats along the left side of the train. Our cabin was very nice and the restroom was just across into the next one. The seats were all very comfortable and I had very cleverly booked one of the few that were facing in the direction of travel.

There really isn't that much to see between London and Paris for several reasons. In many areas the train passes between artificial banks and even when the view is unobstructed you're in open country a lot of the time which is pretty but doesn't have a lot to catch the eye except for the occasional church and wind turbines after you reach France. I had accidentally booked a seat that had wall instead of window immediately to my left side but I could see out the one in front of it quite well as well as the windows on the other side of the train.

They provide a meal to the passengers in Standard Premiere which I was in and of course for Business Premiere. Since we left in the morning we had a small breakfast tray with some yogurt/museli combination that was actually pretty good, croissants, bread with butter & jam, orange juice and tea or coffee shortly after leaving.

Getting out of the Gare du Nord here in Paris was quite easy although getting my bags onto and then out of the train wasn't (there was a step between the platforms and the train cabin) and then we had to go up the platform into the station but as soon as I actually got there I was pretty sure I recognized Xavier, the driver the hotel works with who picked me up and delivered me back to the airport when I was here two Christmases ago, and whom I had asked the hotel to arrange my transport from the train station today as well as back to the airport early in the morning the day I leave Paris when I go home. I was right–when I got to the guy I thought was Xavier I could see he was holding a sign with my name on it.

Xavier doesn't speak much English but with his limited English and my limited French we get along fine. And I also remembered he's a big fan of Diana Krall. I think the car he drove today is a new one since I was here last. It was rather odd to once again be in a car with the driver on the left as we do back in the US instead of on the right as in Ireland, Scotland and England where I've been since I left home.

Traffic getting out of the area immediately around the Gare du Nord was quite confused. I really didn't recognize much until we got to the Place de la Republique and then Place de la Bastille and the streets around the hotel and St Paul's church.

I also recognized the guy working at the reception desk who has a graduate degree in philosophy.

My room is the only one on the ground floor level of the hotel, being right off the small but very pleasant courtyard garden behind the hotel's also very nice lobby. I had booked a room larger than the one I had been in last year, and I'm glad I did. This is a very lovely room, and is quite spacious. Like most of the rooms here, this is the first place I've stayed since I left home that has a small refrigerator. Besides allowing me to actually keep stuff cold it has the practical benefit of letting me take my remaining diabetes syringes out of the Frio cooler cases (which have worked very well all this trip but need to be recharged by soaking them at least every three to five days) and just keeping them cold in the mini fridge until I get home.

I am only going to mention this once. The only previous time I was here was over Christmas and New Year's, in the middle of the winter, when there were very few flowers anywhere and almost no leaves on most of the trees. I'm now here in late summer, before most of the leaves have even started turning, and there are flowers in gardens and on balconies and roof tops all over. Being here in midwinter was quite lovely because I could see and appreciate more of the architectural and decorative details on all the buildings, but Paris with flowers and leaves on the trees is also delighful.

I got here somewhere between 3:00 and 3:30 PM, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. After sending a message to Michael & Tim letting them know I'd arrived, I went around the corner and up the street to the Starbucks for a pastry and an iced tea which I had out on the garden courtyard. I then unpacked and sorted everything and put stuff away. The room has a large closet with hangers and shelves and a smaller closet with shelves and I put one of my suitcases in there. The other suitcase stands upright and has a compartment that I'm using as a drawer for some things since there's nothing in the room that has them.

After I unpacked I just stretched out for a while and then went for a walk just about 7 PM. I walked down the street to the Place de la Bastille, then back past the hotel up to the Tour Saint Jacques and back here. It was a lovely evening and time for a walk with some of the buildings still catching the late sunshine. One side of the Tour was in shadow while the other was still in full light and was lovely.

I stopped at the small grocery/convenience store by the St Paul metro station to pick up some snacks and yogurt and hard cider since I have a fridge to keep them cold. After I dropped them off here I went wandering out for dinner. I want to go back to several of the places I went when I was here last, including the very nice Cidrerie du Marais around the corner but decided to have dinner tonight at one of the many good Asian/Chinese places in the area instead.

It's now about 1 AM. Since I got back from dinner I spent a good bit of time going through my lists of places to see while here in Paris, making notes of which I want to see more than others. At the moment I have no plans other than going to another performance of Vivalidi's "Four seasons" among other pieces at St Paul's church around the corner tomorrow evening. Tomorrow I'll probably take one of the hop on hop off bus tours if I can figure out which has a stop the closest to here. The company that has the red open top buses also operates here in Paris, with a stop over at Notre Dame and I think at the other end of the Louvre. I saw a sign for what seems to be a new municipally owned bus tour company but their web site is down tonight so I'll just have to look for the sign again tomorrow and see if any employees are near it.

I also want to find a French SIM card in the next few days but that's not something I need to do right away. (On a side note, last night I finally received a message from Vodafone IE with the code to unlock the Phillips phone I bought at a Vodafone store the day I arrived in Ireland. My new Samsung is a better phone so I think I'll use that one.) I still have over 20 GBP on my new UK O2 credit and they only bill me 2 GBP per day when out of the UK so I have some time. There's a French phone company right on the corner so I'll stop by soon.

And that's it for tonight.

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