Rob Ennals > Travel > Simon and Rob Invade and Conquer France

Day 17: Designer Luggage - Epilogue

In contrast to the previous night, I had no trouble sleeping on this night. It is possible that this may have been because we had to get up at 5am, and this wouldn't have been sufficiently unpleasant, had I had no sleep to interrupt. 5am being 4am in sensible time, it was still completely dark, and so we found ourselves having to pack our stuff up by the light of our bike lights.

By 6am we were at the station. Unfolding the tarpaulin revealed it to be even more huge than we had expected - taking up much of the street outside the station, and wrapping the bikes up more than adequately. Wrapping the bikes up took very little time, leaving us with three hours in which to do not very much while we waited for our train. Eventually, after much dullness, we were TGV-transported to Paris-Lyon.

On the RER to Paris-Nord, a lady fell on top of Simon, and, seeking to repay her debt of honour, went on to lead us to the Eurostar terminal. This was useful, as the Eurostar terminal wasn't very well signposted. As with our trip up, our route took us through several sets of barriers which were too small for our luggage, requiring various ingenious and illegal techniques to get us through.

Soon we reached Paris-Nord, and decided to go toilet hunting. The toilets were very well hidden. Despite being a large station, there was only one set of toilets. These were underground, in a corner of the metro station, on a different floor to that indicated by the map, and only signposted at the entrance to the station. More critically, even when one found them, they were disguised as a shop called "McClean", and charged 4F to get in. I paid my 4F and was relieved to see that the toilets weren't French. I was less relieved to see that the sinks were located in the shower area, and required that one pay 25F to get to them. Having been desensitised to the importance of barriers by my RER journey, I climbed over the barriers into the shower area, and had a felenous hand-wash.

Our Eurostar tickets had been booked for 9:30pm, and it was now around 1pm. Seeing as our luggage was too big for a left luggage locker, and too awkward to carry very far, we decided it would be wise to switch to an earlier train. This required that we join the enormous queue for Eurostar customer services. I suggested to Simon that I should go and get some food while he queued with the luggage. Simon suggested that the luggage was extremely awkward to move while queueing, and suggested that I queue with the luggage. Queueing with luggage was indeed very difficult, requiring me to do little shuttle runs every time the queue moved forwards. It also turned out to be completely pointless, as the train I eventually got tickets for required us to wait for three hours, which is notably longer than it takes Simon to buy a sandwich. We occupied ourselves with a copy of the Independent, and checked in as early as we could in case there was a problem with our luggage.

There was. A small train lady appeared and told us that we definitely could not take our luggage on the Eurostar as it was too big. I said that it was a regulation sized bike bag, and that we had been explicitly told when we bought our tickets that such bags were allowed on the Eurostar. The small train lady fought back, saying that bike bags were only allowed if they were less than a metre long. I pointed out that that is shorter than the length of a bike frame, and thus she only allowed bike bags that were non-realisable in a Euclidean space. Unfortunately, this last point didn't translate well into French, and the train lady fell back onto her "too big" line. We were soon joined by another man with a bike bag, who told us that the French side of the Eurostar is always arsey about bike bags, but always lets one through eventually - fortunately they did.

Having been on the TGV earlier, it became quite obvious to us that the Eurostar was essentially just a TGV. In fact, apart from the paintwork, there seemed to be no discernible difference between a Eurostar and a TGV. Even the interior decorations were the same. The only reason for not calling the train a TGV seemed to be an inability on the part of the English to admit that they don't know how to build trains.

An uneventful journey on this unremarkable train brought us to Waterloo. A predictably awkward tube train journey brought us to King's Cross. At which we were informed that our train would be delayed for an unknown period of time due to there being a body on the line. We said lots of highly offensive things about what should be done with the body on the line, and went and caught the slow suburban crawler train back to Cambridge, on which we failed to get some sleep.

At Cambridge, we unpacked our bikes, put them together, took them apart again, put them together properly, cycled around on the platform a bit, decided that we actually wanted them a bit different, took them apart again, put them back together again, photographed ourselves, and then went home to our large, well-secured houses, with their nice soft beds. [Simon- and carpet. That really freakaed me out...]