Europe 2007 Day 21 – Paris to London

Today was our last day on the continent and Daniel and I decided to make it a relaxing day. We slept in until almost 9 – I slept in just a bit more as Daniel began to pack. We showered and packed our things and made our way downstairs one last time. Checking out of the hotel, there was some confusion with how much we actually owed, but I had all the paperwork so we were able to clear it up. We left our bags in the hotel and proceeded to head out one last time. We stopped by Pain de Eps one last time. We were trying to figure out our money so we Daniel made sure he got out some more money to make sure we had enough for the pastries, our round trip Metro tickets to Disneyland, and the Taxi ride to Gare Du Nord.

We headed out to Disneyland Paris to catch a few more rides on Space Mountain and do a bit of shopping. We only had about 3.5 hours there, but it was enough to get some last minute snaps of all the Christmas decorations they have put up in the days sine we have been there. We were a bit disappointed that Casey JR and Storybookland were still closed, I guess there is always next time! We managed to get a bit to eat as we were leaving, though it didn’t agree with Daniel and he was left with an upset stomach for the rest of the day.

With fond adieus, we headed back to the hotel in Paris. When we arrived, I noticed an Airport shuttle sitting out front, and the lady behind the check in desk mentioned to me that it was mine. Now, I had originally ordered a taxi and I had shrugged it off thinking it could not be much more for the shuttle until they told me it was 15 Euros for them to book it and then another 20 Euros each to get to Gare Du Nord. I told them I did not have 55 Euros and I had originally asked for a taxi. After some negotiating in French, the shuttle driver left and the bewildered, but helpful staff at the hotel called me a cab (I am sure they were just disappointed then lost 15 Euros). After an awkward 20 minutes, the cabbie showed up.

Daniel and I had 28 Euros to our name at this time and we were keeping our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t take all of that to get to Gare Du Nord. When we got in the cab we noticed that the meter already said 11.20 Euros. What followed was the most stressful cab ride I have ever taken. We hit a bunch of traffic near Place de Concorde and as we sat there, the meter kept going tick tick tick. In my mind I kept coming up with scenarios: Do we make him stop at 25 Euros and we walk the rest of the way? Do we tell him to wait as one of us runs to get money? Do we make a run for it? Do I try and get money from the ATM as we are sitting in traffic? After 25 minutes of sweating and a fake out as we neared Gare de L’ Est, we made it to Gare Du Nord with the meter reading 26.20 Euros. I was so happy we made it, I gave him all the 28.

After finding the Eurostar check-in, we cleared customs. It was a bit unusual because we went from France to Great Britian in two feet. The French exit authority and the GB greeters were practically on top of each other. I guess since they are moving in two days to St. Pancras International Rail Station, they are winging it until then. Good thing Daniel was next to me to correct me. I was asked by the UK people how long I had been traveling and responded “three months” instead of three weeks. Daniel corrected me and I am sure saved us from a cavity search by the authorities. We got on the train fairly quickly and it was a much more enjoyable experience back to London. The couple across from us slept most of the way and after our brief stop in Ashford, they moved so we got to stretch out for the last 45 minutes.

For the fourth and final time we arrived at London. At Waterloo Station, we changed some of our US cash we had left and our jaws hit the floor. In the time we have been here, 100 US dollars is now worth just about 43 pounds, compared to when we arrived it was 48 pounds. The trip just keeps getting more expensive. I am glad a lot of the hotels were pre-paid.

As we were waiting for a taxi, a very nice Pakistani gentleman approached us and asked us where we were going. He had a car that was waiting for someone who no-showed, and offered to take us to our hotel for 20 pounds. I think we got taken for 5 pounds extra than most cabs, but avoiding the extensive queue was worth it. The cab driver was a bit strange. He spent the entire time talking to his girlfriend/wife on the phone. He sang to her, recited what sounded like poetry, and for the finale, he was making kissing noises as we drove around Hyde Park. Needless to say, he missed our turn to take the hotel and I had to jar him back to reality. He was still trying to have phone make out with his significant other as I was telling him how to get to the hotel. We were staying at the same place I first stayed at in London in 1996 so I had a vague idea of how to get here, and my Google research last night helped as well.

We finally arrived and before I could give the guy a tip, he took the 20 pounds and got back in the car, I guess he had some work to finish with his sig other. After 11 and one half years, I was back where it all started for me in London. The lobby has been redone and they now have a new Royal Bar. I talked to the bartender and she told me it just opened last week and they just finished most of the remodeling of the reception area. Upstairs, the rooms look like they have new floors, but for the most part they still have the same patterned wallpaper and worn hallway carpeting. Our bathroom even has some tiles missing. Daniel and I were so used to the cramped Paris hotel, we completely missed the living room with couch, taco bed, and kitchenette. I was surprised that we ended up with a 1-bedroom apartment, I was expecting the studio. Perhaps we got a good upgrade.

At any rate, it was a nice way to end our 3-week odyssey in Europe. Before heading to bed, we made a quick stroll towards Paddington Station to scope out where we needed to go with our luggage in the AM. I am glad the station is really close so we can roll out of bed and get on the express train to Heathrow. Wee grabbed a quick bite to eat and did some souvenir shopping before calling it a night.