Everything went according to plan. We easily found the Rental Car place, they called a Cab to take us to the Train Station. We rode to Paris We found the Metro to the other train station and then walked the length of the train station to get to the Eurostar departure area (after only having to ask directions three times).
They had passport and customs control right there and we breezed right through them to the departure lounge. As we hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast, we went across the hall from the departure hall to have a jambon et fromage sandwich (Ham and cheese sandwich) and a Coke.
Going back to the lounge, we found it filled so we sat on the floor and waited for our departure time.
And then in happened. They announced the train was delayed due to the Calais Dock workers staging a Hissy-Fit er...protest on the tracks. They had put old tires on the tracks and set them of fire. "Oh great," I thought. "We're going to be here all night."
We waited for about an hour when they announced that ALL Eurostar service was cancelled for the day! Crap, now what do we do? They had to have a cancellation policy similar to the US airlines but I had no idea what that policy was and the people at the gate were not of any help. I sent an email to the hotel where Sky and I had stayed just a few days previously to ask if they had any vacancies-they quickly responded they did not. Sky and I went back to the ticket office and stood in line with 150 other people but I knew they didn't know when the tracks would reopen. This was throwing a serious curveball into our plans.
Sky tries to get Internet service to check the flight schedule to London
while waiting in line at the Gare du Nord Eurostar Ticket Office.
An agent outside the ticket office handed us copies of the cancellation policy, fortunately written in English. While Sky looked at that, I called my wife, had her call AT&T to add an International Data plan and if she could, to start looking to help find us a Hotel in Paris for the night. I knew it would be expensive but I didn't want to sleep in the train station with our bags and then not be able to get to London the next day.
My sweetie came thru for us! In 10 minutes, she texted me that I had the international calling plan, in another 5 minutes, she texted the name and number of a Hotel in Paris that have availability on Trip Advisor. We were still about 30 people away from the ticket counter so I gave them a call-no vacancies. They were full that night.
This was going to be tougher than I thought. Another text came across with another hotels name and number. I called them and they responded too that they had no vacancies for the night. Dang the luck!
It was getting time to think about some serious improvisation on our plans. I had Sky, because his phone could get the free Wifi service from Eurostar, look up flights to London that night and the next day.
We moved up in the line, we were now about 15 folks away when the announced that they were out of tickets for tomorrows trains and were closing! Man, talk about upping the heat!
And then my phone rang.... I picked it up and saw that it was an international number? Who could be calling me? I answered it and the voice said, "Hello, did you just call me? A half-hour ago? This is the Hotel Helussi." I replied that I had, to check on vacancies for the night and was told you had none. He replied, "Well, that was then. We've since had a cancellation and have a room available. Would you like it?"
Wow! What service! He was like our guardian angel! Would I like it? I said maybe, just two quick questions; Did he know how far away they were from the Gare du Nord and how much was it?
He told me they were located just 6-8 blocks from the station and that it was 250 Euros a night. I cringed, that was a lot of money. I asked him to let me think about it a minute when Sky pointed out that our Eurostar compensation was about $220 Euros a night and that wasn't bad for a room in Paris with no advance notice.
I took it. He said great, didn't even need my credit card number to hold the room. He asked me if I needed directions to the hotel?
He said it was simple, leave the train station, turn right and go about 3 blocks, turn left, walk down that street until we hit rue de Bellefond and we'd be there. Would take about 20 minutes walking time. I said we'd be right there!
We left the train station, started walking west down Dunkerque towards the street where we'd turn left (forget the name of it now). I spied a Subway and asked Sky if he was hungry. (Dumb question since he's always hungry!) We went in, ordered a couple subs to go and then kept walking. My phone rang again and it was the Hotel. Just asking if we were having problems finding it. I replied no, sorry, we had just stopped off for a quick sandwich and were on our way now.
Ten minutes later we arrived to find him standing at the doorway, enjoying the nice evening. We went inside and he checked two very fatigued and stressed travelers in. I told him he was our guardian angel and that we couldn't expect such service even in the states and thanked him profusely. I asked him what his name was, told him he was getting a great review on Trip Advisor. He told me "Adrian" and thanks. Then he carried my bag to the elevator and rode it with us to our floor. Took us to and let us into our room.
I thought it looked like Heaven. He then said we could have anything in the mini-fridge, it was included in the room rate. I looked inside and saw a couple Heinekens and a bottle of wine and said we'd be fine as I handed him a few Euros for his troubles.
Whew...now I could relax a little and think. Sky and I ate our sandwiches, tossing back and forth several ideas. I asked Sky if he'd run downstairs and get me another couple beers. He said he couldn't, wasn't old enough. I laughed, told him it was France and they wouldn't care. While he was doing that, I called the Eurostar booking office but it was closed. I posted our dilemma on Facebook as I had several English photographer friends and they all replied with suggestions. They planes were all full to London, but we could go to another city and then take the train to London. This looked like the best choice if Eurostar didn't have the tracks open tomorrow. It'd cost us an extra 400 bucks but it was worth it. It'd also leave us short on time, we had no spare time built into the schedule so something would have to go. We both, after agonizing over the schedule for several minutes, agreed that we'd bypass visiting Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles recorded) and that would put us basically back on track if we could get to London the next day.
We went to bed that night hoping that tomorow would be a better day.
Sky watches the sun set from our balcony in the Hotel Helussi.