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.