Sunday, April 24, 2011

France Day One

I headed for Lille, which is in the north of France, at 7:00 a.m. on Easter morning. Because so much of our time in London was spent sprinting to things (sometimes in a panic), Megan and I always joke that we are going to be cast in the next Jason Bourne movie. This wasn't so funny, though, when my day got off to a very Bourne-ish star.
I got to St. Pancras International, which is connected to King's Cross, around 7:45. My Eurostar train left at 8:58 and I had to get in line to check in at 8:30. Plenty of time, right? I thought so, too. I bought some Cadbury eggs for our unconventional Easter and headed over to the lines to join one. As it inched forward, I realised that everyone else had real tickets, not printed out itineraries like mine. But this was no problem (I thought); there were self-service machines in an alcove behind me. I stepped out of line, went over to one, and put in my info.

"We are unable to print this ticket as it has already been distributed," the machine informed me.

This wasn't good. The ticket hadn't already been printed- not by me, at least. At this point, it was about 8:20. I went over to a security guy by the wall and told him my problem. "It won't print?" he clarified. I confirmed this and told him that I really had to be in line already. When he found out my departure time, he looked concerned. "Run," he told me. "Run to the ticket office, cut in front of the line, and tell them what's going on."

And so the Bourne movie began as I sprinted through St. Pancras. When I got to the office, I went around the line and one of the employees saw me looking distressed. "What's wrong?" she asked. I explained my problem and handed her my itinerary. She looked at it and said, "Uh, you already missed your train."
The word "shriek" is only slightly too harsh to describe the volume of my voice when I cried, "No I didn't!" When I declared this, she glanced at the paper again and said, "Oh no, I guess you haven't." I recovered from my heart attack as she printed out my tickets. It turns out I wasn't the only one having the printing problem, and she moved on to a family of five while I dashed back to the departure area and got in line. After being moved to the front of several lines, I got through (after dropping one of my tickets and thinking I lost it) and made my way down to the train.

But my adventure wasn't over. It took me forever to find my seat because I got on on the wrong end of the train (the printing problem had robbed me of my time to check the guide to find out where to get on.) This meant I had to maneuver my way through the train with my bag and a rolled-up blanket. At one point, I reached a serving area that looked blocked off. "You can go through," one worker told me, but when I was halfway through, another worker yelled at me for passing that way.

By the time I finally found my seat, I was sweating and exhausted. But I did make it to France unscathed and Megan was there to meet me. We took the metro back to her building, I dropped off my stuff, and then we went to the market that goes up every Sunday.

Lille isn't a very big city, but it has more in it than it seemed when Megan was telling me about it. It has a theatre and an opera house, as well as a small mall. The market was cool, selling everything from cloth to knick-knacks to produce (a lot of produce.) It didn't take us long to walk through it and it had begun to rain, so we ducked into a bakery and bought a fresh, still-warm-from-the-oven baguette, which we took back to Megan's room and ate with cheese. It was delicious.
Because it was not only a Sunday but Easter, pretty much everything was closed; I was actually surprised that the market was running. We passed the time until dinner talking and watching an episode or two of Castle.
For dinner, Megan took me to one of her favorite eateries in Lille, Celine's, for kebabs. Kebabs were a surprise. To me, a kebab is a stick with things speared onto it. But the kebab I was served was actually a sandwich. As surprising as it was, it was also very tasty!
When we got back to the room, we watched-what else?- the Bourne Identity, to remind us of the things we might have to do during our trip. Tomorrow: more Lille exploration!


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