Paris, France to London, England

Eurostar tickets go on sale eight months before the date of departure. I book our tickets as soon as they go on sale. I get an email confirmation and put the whole thing out of my mind for about eight months.


It is the day before our departure. I do not know which station our train leaves from. The Pompideau Center has free if tenuous wifi outside. Ten minutes are spent sitting, trying, and waiting in multiple locations before I have copied down the confirmation code, departure time and departure station. I will need all of these things.

The metro is fast, clean and efficient. We reach Gare du Nord in less than half an hour. Check-in is like that at an airport. There are four automated check-in machines outside the Eurostar terminal. Give them five minutes and the credit card you bought the ticket with and there, simply, is your ticket. There are four automated check-in machines outside the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord and they are all broken. We stand in line to give our reservation code and credit card to a lady behind a counter.

Gare du Nord

We fill in our customs cards and we are ready to go. A bank of entry gates requires a ticket slid into a tray before the green light goes on, the ticket is returned and the kidney-level doors give way for you. I have such faith in systems that I am through the gate, my ticket in my hand, before I realize that the light has never turned green. The doors have never given way. I have muscled my way through. Mister Chen is on the other side of the gates with a ticket that does not work. The lady in charge takes him over to the manned station. I try to go back through the gates to get my ticket properly validated. I am waved on.

About to Chunnel

The duty-free shops in the terminal sell cheap cigarettes and extremely expensive sandwiches. Twenty minutes before the train leaves they announce it on track three, and a polite line forms to the doorway and down an escalator as it flattens into a mechanical incline and then to a motorized walkway. Our car is empty. The tray tables are large and sturdy. There are two levels of overhead baggage compartments. The conductor makes all announcements in French and then in English. Twenty minutes in the darkness of the chunnel and then the conductor is making all announcements in English and then in French. At Waterloo a stout friendly lady in a clean navy blue sweater and white collared shirt asks us why we are visiting and for how long. Tourism and two days are the right answers. We are through.



8 Comments on "Paris, France to London, England"

  1. An hour and a half? I think the gently rolling Kentish countryside may have sent you to sleep for half the journey.

  2. Ummm … maybe the extra half hour also went through the twilight zone, cause Eurostar doesn’t go to Waterloo anymore. It goes to St Pancreas. Of course, one silly sounding station or another … it doesn’t make that much difference.

  3. And why didn’t you call when you were in Paris … I spent all last week eating Kim Chi and getting drunk with Korean engineers.

  4. “The metro is fast, clean and efficient.” etc etc
    While most of the sentences in that paragraph are statements, which means that reading it twice in sequence doesn’t cause great continuity errors, I get the feeling it wasn’t your intent to repeat it…

    And Mark… I feel kinda bad pointing this out, but I think Dorothy and Mr Chen returned to the States long ago. I believe Donation Derby is somewhat more in step with present day.
    (though, being the internet, I have no way of knowing for certain; perhaps Dorothy lives in the Arctic, and Mr Chen is just a man in an old Lands End catalogue…)

  5. Hmmmm,

    But the date does say the 26th of Feb 2008 …
    In any case, I know that I did spend last week eating Kim Chee and getting drunk with Korean engineers. And because this sentence is a statement, then reading it twice should throw you into a hypnotic trance. You are just a man in an old Lands End catalogue … you are wearing a yellow bow tie with purple polka dots … you have a craving for pickled herring …


  6. This train trip was over a year ago and I am ashamed to be so long in posting this. Which is why I rush ahead and make stupid mistakes like the amount of time it takes to get from Paris to London.

    But Mister Chen IS a fictional character. I remind him of this often.

  7. You can use Mr Chen’s fictional state to your advantage:

    In a disagreement, you can start from the premise that you exist and he doesn’t and by existing you are more perfect than he is. Therefore, your ideas are correct.

  8. According to David Lewis’s theories of actuality, even a possible, fictional existence has just as much real-ness as our existence. We see our world as existing the most, but that’s really just a subjective illusion. We see only ourselves as existing because we are unable to see ourselves as other people existing. Therefore, the possible existence of Mr. Chen is no more real than the existence of Dorothy Gambrell.

    Then again, if you take Plantiga or Quine’s viewpoint, Mr. Chen is fucked. Or maybe I’m over thinking things.

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