Pipipi! Pipipi!! Pipipi!!! Sirens wailed in my ears.
I roused myself, partly disorientated: was I caught up in real danger, or was my sleepy head waxing quixotic?
It was neither. My three-inch alarm clock was bellowing its heart out, announcing to me that it was 3am. Time to prepare for my trip to Paris.
I rolled off my bed languidly and snatched up the alarm clock. I fiddled aimlessly for some seconds before locating the off button and silencing the clock for good. Moments later, my cheek hit the pillow - again. Surely ten more minutes of sleep wouldn’t hurt, I reasoned.
But my right-thinking mind wouldn’t let me be. “Come on, girl. Get up! You wouldn’t want to miss your 5.40am train. That would be the end of your holiday!”
Aarrgh! I couldn’t take one more minute of the nagging thoughts. I had to strip my body off the bed.
Teeth brushed. Shower taken. Jeans zipped. Bags checked. 4am. Taxi arrives. St Pancras station, here I come.
Well, comme ci comme ca – so-so.
It’s funny that I felt…just ‘ordinary’ considering my long desire to visit Paris.
‘Visiting Paris’ was one of those items that popped up every January on my New Year Tasks and Targets, but never came to fruition. Overtime I quietly relegated it to the archives; it didn’t merit the ink and paper it wasted every year. But this year, 2012, I had instinctively reinstated it in my ‘book of life’, and now it was happening. But, instead of relishing the moment, I was busy worrying if my highly inadequate beginner’s French will get me by among a people who have a reputation for hostility towards English speakers.
Check in. Passport checks. Security checks. Departure lounge.
I was sooo looking forward to travelling on the Eurostar train. I heard so much about the Eurotunnel connecting London to Paris & Brussels, and about the high-speed Eurotrain that runs up to 300km/h. It was bound to be a novel experience, or so I thought.
The moment I stepped onto the train, my illusions of grandeur were swiftly wiped away. I liked the long seats with high head rests, but they were covered in bland, grey material. The whole train had that ‘no frills’ feel about it. Four of us sat around a foldable strip of wood that was supposed to pass for a table. The ‘ample’ leg room meant that I and the gentleman sitting in front of me kept knocking knees.
I went through the journey listlessly staring at my watch and flipping through the in-train magazine. Everything ran like clockwork. We dashed past graffiti splashed walls leading up to the station, and finally pulled into Gare Du Nord, Paris at the exact time given on the ticket.
I alighted from the train still feeling ordinary. The buzz and vibe of the station wasn’t very different from London’s St Pancras. I sheepishly followed the crowd towards the metro ticket booth. Now I was about to test my language skills and see how far it can get me…(to be continued).