Adventures From the Road

April 24, 2006|Posted in: Uncategorized

Gack! So much to catch up on. It is a real super pain to get to an Internet cafe; Mia doesn’t have a computer, much less Internet access at home, so trying to get there (which is kind of a bore to her) is easier said than done. We’re at the library today, actually, which is free, nice, but not sure if this will post (you can’t cut and paste)…but to the task. (The keyboard is in English, tra la!)

I posted from Brugge, which was an amazing and wonderful city, but getting home was easier said than done. We walked around and bought a bushel of lace and a barrel of chocolate to bring home, then sat our exhausted carcasses down at a pub on the village square, with an inadvertent view of the pissoir (where all the guys go to pee, pretty much in open view), had a cocktail and some little green olives and really good cheese. So good — can’t wait to offer up this combo at home. I’m becoming a cheese-a-holic. We enjoyed watching the (hunmdreds of) bicycles going by. My particular favorite was the 12 year olds (maybe younger) with cigs in their mouths, riding their bikes around. This was serious commute hour. You have to stay out of the way. Cigs and bikes. Yes.

We finally left for the train station and our train was a little late leaving (we couldnt understand anything they said at the station, all in Dutch. We just started adding “enfeestdagen” after everything we said. Well, it was funny there.) We had just five minutes between trains at Lille, and though I asked several times, everyone assured me we would be on time. I thought, ok, trust the trains, it will be fine. Guess what. We get to Lille, and run with about 50 other passengers and the train has gone 6 minutes ago. Fabulous. In Lille no one speaks English, apparently. So please note that the following transactions take place in my French, which is not so bad, but um, a challenge to think and respond in a foreign language when you’re not exactly fluent.

Ticket desk says, too bad, your train left, go to the other station (there are two in town, about a quarter mile apart.) We grab our (many, heavy) bags and skeedaddle across town to the other station, where it is past 9 p.m. and things are closing down if not shuttered already. I go to the ticket desk and she says, you’re at the wrong station, go to the other one; we say, no, our train has left. She shrugs her shoulders, oh, well…go to the other desk. We went to the other ticket desk, literally the last window open in the dark station, and after *much* conversation, get passage on the next (last) train to Paris, at 10:30 p.m. It’s the last one, next one is at 7 a.m. So we had towait in the cold, dark for about an hour and a half until the last train. We got on the train when it came, with a huge sigh of relief, because we were half-expecting to be stuck in the train station overnight. Hmm, this seemed so much more traumatic when it was happening. Luckily, it ended well.

Back in Paris, finished our journey with a trip to Pere Lachaise cemetery to vist graves of various famous folk, including the late Jim Morrison, who is now the proud possessor of an Alameda Sun. We taxied over to the Gare du Nord to take the Eurostar to London, and our next adventure began. No tickets on the next few trains. No seats left until evening, and then, no student farres. In fact, no standard (second class) fares at all the whole day. Or the next day, either. We could have stayed in Paris another 2 nights and come back Monday, but…nope, no hotel. So — I swear this was against my will — we were forced to take the trip back to London first class. We actually had to buy two first class round trip tickets to get the best deal. The ticket agent was really helpful and gave us the best he could at the lowest price. But it was a very painful reach into my purse for my wallet, may I just say?

OK, that being said, now may I just say that traveling first class from Paris to London is just about the BEST thing in the world? Really ranks up there. Cushy seats, surround headrests, carpeting, a huge bathroom, waiters and waitresses, charming conversation, attentive service, a gourmet meal, nonstop Champagne — literally nonstop. Plus wine with dinner, hot towels, etc. Unbelievable. I have to say, this was definitely lemonade, not lemons ๐Ÿ˜‰

And finally, London. It is quite lovely here, but much colder, damp. The house Mia lives in is adorable, four floors, bathtubs w/o shower, cute kitchen, a little agrden, a lovely green part up the street (Parson’s Green), near all the shops. The landlady is nice but a bit eccentric, more on that later. We went to see a movie the first night, and I finally slept the sleep I needed.

We were planning to go to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday for Shakespeare’s birthday bash (April 23), but there was track work being done so the train wasn’t going that day, and there was a bus with three changs and it took three hours each way, so we decided to bag it. Instead, we went to Camden Town which is like th esultan’s bazaar, with stalls and shops and a food bazaar with cuisine of every country int heworld, it seems. Dirt cheap, in English money, anyeay (everything here is double what it is at home…).

I have to stop — my hour is up. That’s all for now, more as soon as I can. Hampton court tomorrow, Bath Tues/Wed, and Canterbury Fri. Home Sat. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.



    April 24, 2006

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    thank you! what a wonderful report… and only an hour? well done! that train sounds divine…

    what movie did you see? did you mean that you slept at the movie, it was so bad?

    can’t wait for the eccentric landlady stories!

    xoxo, katje


    April 26, 2006

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    We saw “American Dreamz” which was pretty funny, and THEN I caught up on sleep in the guest bedroom at Mia’s place.

    Eccentric landlady stories to follow…

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