Saturday, August 8, 2015

OT: Europe Trip--Day 11--Paris-?

   We awoke in Paris not knowing where we'd be spending that night. I made coffee in the room, took a shower and changed into fresh clothes. While Sky took his shower, I pondered our options. Go straight to the Paris airpot (CDG) and catch the first flight out to anywhere close to London? Go to the train station (had to go there to get to CDG) and see what Eurostar had come up with? I tried calling Eurostar but was placed on hold for five minutes and didn't want to use up my International Plan on hold, so I hung up.

Sky came out and I proposed to him that we go to the train station, head up to Eurostar to get the latest from the source and then if we couldn't get to London on them, head up to CDG to catch a flight. He agreed.

We walked the few blocks to the station and went up to yet another line. This one was considerably shorter though, we were about number 8 to be served and time passed quickly. We went up to the counter and we helped by a very nice, about 35-year old French woman. I told her we were supposed to go out yesterday on the Eurostar, which had been cancelled.

She nodded. I told her we had been told there were no more tickets for today and asked that we be rescheduled for the first available train.

She smiled and said, "You can make the 10:50 train if you hurry, would you like to exchange for that one?"

I looked at my watch. It was 10:20. "Sure if you think we can make it."

She took our tickets, stapled the new ones on them and wished us well. I was impressed.

Sky and I hurried through passport and customs control and ran down to the boarding lounge. I asked the agent when we would board and he said "Right now, gate 4, you need to hurry!"

Sky and I took off, running 50 feet to the gate, running down the escalator and running down the walkway til we found our coach. Boarding it, we heaved our bags up into the overhead storage and sat down. It wasn't til then, I think, that either of us realized that we were going to London. It came to us both at the same time as we broke into broad grins and gave each other a "High-5". 

The train ride was uneventful, a bit anticlimactic. You couldn't see anything as the train went through the chunnel and in short time, we were at St Pancras Station in London.

I figured we'd take a cab to our hotel. That ended up being a bad decision. It took us 40 minutes of waiting in line and another hour in the cab to negotiate London traffic to get to the International House, a dorm building for the University of Westminster. I hoped that they still had our rooms. I had sent an e-mail the night before from Paris but had not received a reply.

The cabbie was entertaining. While we were stuck in traffic, he let Sky get out, go into a store and grab a couple Cokes and get back in. He asked what our plans were and I told him. Visit the Imperial War Museum, ride the London Eye and the next day, take the tube out to Heathrow to pick up a rental car to go to Duxford. He said we'd picked an excellent spot to stay. The IWM was right across the street from where we were staying, the London Eye-a giant ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames-was just six blocks away.

My travel agent had done well. (Thanks Gina!)

He dropped us off, only charged us 3/4's what the meter said and left. We walked into the Dorm Hall to be greated by a nice young lady. They had got the email, were happy to see us and still had our rooms. We checked right in, took the elevator to the 4th floor and found our room. It was small. They had the beds tucked underneath the desks. But it was good enough for us and the price was far cheaper than any other hotel in London. 

We dumped our bags, went back downstairs and asked "How far to the IWM?"

"A couple of blocks, it's just across the street," was her reply and we headed out.

Careful to look to our right, we crossed the street and walked through the park to the Museum. The Museum had free admission, the usual bag search and we were in. I told Sky if we got separated, to meet up at the big guns in front of the Museum.

 The Imperial War Museum.

A Spitfire and V1 rocket coming into the Museum.

We walked through the World War II display, which though taking one-half of a floor of the Museum, wasn't very big. Walking to the other side, we went through the World War I exhibit. They had an early Mark V Tank, a Sopwith Camel and many uniforms and weapons.

Sky took off by himself and I went to the Holocaust Exhibit. Very sobering, very solemn. I don't even want to talk about it.

I finished early and went out on the steps to wait for Sky. After 20 minutes, deciding I wanted a coffee, I went to little stand in the park and grabbed one. Then waiting 15 more minutes, I decided to go looking for him inside. I hoped he hadn't gone back to the hotel. I was relieved to find him almost as soon as I stepped inside. He was downstairs at the bookstore, buying some posters. I went down, greeted him and looked around. Nothing there I could live without.

He said he was done too, so we walked the couple blocks back to the dorm to drop our stuff. The dorm didn't have any food available, which we knew, so after dropping our bags, we went across the street in another direction to a local pub. Ordering burgers and fries, which seem to have become a universal food, we chatted about our plans for the next few days. We finished up, paid our bill and went back to the hotel to grab our cameras.

We grabbed our map and headed out to what was turning into a gorgeous early-summer evening. Finding the London Eye was no problem, the line was for tickets wasn't too long and moved quickly and before we knew it, we were stepping into a gondola for a ride.

The London Eye-opened in 1998 provided the then highest view of London.

 View from the top looking towards Big Ben.

Sky enjoying his ride on the London Eye. 

After the 30-minute ride, Sky was hungry (really?). He grabbed an ice cream cone while I grabbed a few more snaps of the eye. We thought about staying and buying another ride, this time at dark, but were tired and decided to head on back.

We did stop at a great little Pub, The Steam Engine, to have a Coke and a really good raspberry-flavored beer.

Then we headed on back to the dorm, our London stay almost finished. Tomorrow, it was Duxford all day, spending the night in Stevenage.

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