Thursday, May 27, 2010

Euronating IV

I left Venice on Sunday evening and boarded the night train to Paris. This was quite an experience. First I got in the wrong cabin. The number 85 referred not to the cabin but to the carriage; this made no sense to me - how can there possibly be 85 carriages? These were six-man cabins (with bunks on three levels) and I soon found myself sharing a cabin with four Argentinians. Patagonians in fact, and you could say they were in fairly high spirits. ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! They also had ridiculous amounts of luggage. I tried to communicate with them using what little Spanish I could remember, but I felt shy and boring in comparison to them. We talked briefly about the upcoming World Cup. They said they had a soft spot for England and that some sort of bond (!) between the two countries had been created following la Mano de Dios in 1986. I grabbed one of the top bunks (¡arriba!) and slept reasonably well, despite the appearance during the night of the sixth member of the cabin, whom there simply wasn't room for amongst all those suitcases.
In Paris I stayed at another overpriced hotel (I was getting fed up of this) and attempted to get myself a ticket to Roland-Garros. Unfortunately it was a public holiday (I didn't know this until I got there) and all the daytime tickets had gone. However as people leave the stadium their tickets can be resold to people who arrive later, so I tried to get one of those evening tickets. I queued for over three hours. It was chaos, and arguments broke out involving people accused of queue-jumping. I'd almost reached the front of the queue when an intimidating line of gendarmes suddenly appeared, blocking off the entrance. Bugger. But then I saw some people run round the police towards the other entrance which they had neglected to block. I did the same. At 7pm, and with a stroke of luck, I was in. I saw the tail end of Murray's five-set win over Gasquet. Murray was playing so well that it was hard to imagine he'd earlier been facing elimination, down two sets and a break. I caught the last few games of Alicia Molik's brave fight against Jankovic before moving to Court 14 to see another fifth set involving Mardy Fish and Michael Berrer. It got very dark out there, Wimbledon 2008 final kind of dark, and I was amazed the players completed the match (Fish the eventual winner at around 9:40). All in all I'd had a good day. I'd spoken to more people on that day than during the rest of my trip combined, and I surprised myself with the level of French I was still able to speak.

Yesterday morning I got the Eurostar to London. At King's Cross I waited for the platform number to show on the departure board, but it just showed a zero which I assumed meant they didn't yet know what platform my train would leave from. But then I twigged: in true Hogwarts Express style, King's Cross now has a Platform 0!

I had a good and varied trip, but not without a couple of misgivings. Firstly I couldn't believe how much I was spending on sleeping, eating and drinking, all basic human needs. Secondly I found the whole business of travelling rather stressful. Well, not the travelling so much as the arsing around with hotels. I stayed in seven different hotels. Maybe I could have relieved some of that stress by booking my accommodation in advance, but I've always tried to avoid planning if I can help it. Finally I needed more company. Hopefully next time I go anywhere I might have some.

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