Under the English Channel

Ever since they started talking about the “chunnel” in the 80s — my grandfather, a great traveler, was very taken by the idea — I had a weird little hankering to take the magic train from England to France.

So taking the Eurostar this week did have a funny little thrill to it, despite the morass of emotion and unwellness I was carrying around.

On the way out, I slept curled up in the seat while 14 year olds shrieked and ran up and down the train, until some stentorian teacher finally yelled CALMEZ-VOUS. (It didn’t work).

Coming back, I left my hotel at check out time, got to the Gare du Nord, and set out to explore a bit on foot. I had about three hours.

I ended up at the exquisite Place des Vosges, which turned out to be actually rather a long way to drag my luggage. I walked through the gorgeous square, which suddenly seemed to be the only place lit by sun in the city, had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water in an outdoor café, and then suddenly got cold, and while I’d been intending to walk back through the relatively quiet streets, grabbed at a passing taxi with a sudden rising sense of scarcity and got to the Gare quite early.

I managed to get onto an earlier train, and thought I understood what the woman was telling me — that I didn’t have an assigned seat, but needed to either find one someone didn’t show up for or sit on the little fold down jump seats.

I didn’t quite understand that these were between the cars, among the luggage.


Strangely, weirdly, it turned out to be the perfect spot. There were two seats, and I could put my feet on one, knitting on my lap, ipod in my ears. I knit and listened to music and watched the French countryside as a kind of rapid slideshow, then went into the magic tunnel.

When we came out, I was knitting and listening to music and watching the 415 pm English winter darkness fall and I felt… happy. Not joyful but okay. Also not feverish, literally or emotionally. Finally.


One thought on “Under the English Channel

  1. oooh, I looooove Place des Vosges. I had the thought of recommending it as a place to visit, and then thought that would be bossy since you had not asked for recs. But I’m glad you saw it, and even more glad you felt happy and not feverish 😉

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