Sunday, May 12
We cleaned the apartment and packed most of our belongings the day before so we had an easy morning. We went to Café L’Atlas for our last Parisian breakfast.
Then we walked for a while and did a little last minute sightseeing.
Square René Viviani was named for the prime minister of France during the first year of World War One. It has a nice view of Notre Dame.
In the square is the oldest tree in Paris, a 400-year-old black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia. It was planted in 1602 by Jean Robin, a gardener and herbalist for King Henri III, King Henri IV and Louis XII.
It was damaged by a shell in WWI but survived. It has been repaired with cement and propped up with posts disguised as trees.
Over the centuries, the area has been home to a hospital, various church buildings, a cemetery and even a Roman road. The remains of a twelfth-century well now holds flowers.
On the way home we passed the thirteenth-century Gothic church, Saint-Severin with a pretty red door,
And an interesting gargoyle.
We reluctantly decided it was time to walk back to collect our suitcases and say goodbye to Paris. After a last-minute check to make sure we had everything, we headed out to the Saint-Michel Metro station to catch a train to Gare du Nord and the Eurostar.
It was a busy station,
But I’d spent some time reading the excellent website Paris By Train and felt prepared for the process. We’d bought our tickets ahead of time and we got checked in easily enough and found a seat to wait for our Eurostar to London.
The trip was quick – just about two hours. I was a bit anxious about the tunnel under the English Channel. It only lasted twenty minutes, though, and Jim kept me distracted so it was just fine.
Here’s a travel tip – luggage locks for the train. On this Eurostar route, travelers don’t check suitcases but instead store them on racks at the each end of the car. It seemed to be the accepted system and of course we kept our valuables like electronics, cash and passports with us but it would have been nice to have a little extra security on the crowded train.
We arrived at St. Pancras station right on schedule (pronounced shed-ule of course since we’re in London) and it was even more crowded than Gare du Nord. Since we were arriving on a Sunday, the apartment rental company had given instructions to pick up the keys in a lockbox outside their office instead of being met by an employee at the apartment. Rather than trying to sort out a taxi, find the office, get the keys, then go to the apartment, we had made arrangements with the car service the management company had recommended since we figured the drivers would be familiar with the process.
The driver was from Somalia and was interesting to talk to during the trip. Jim asked him about driving tips for newcomers. He said he remembered it by always keeping the passenger on the sidewalk side – as if they had just gotten into the car from the sidewalk.
We collected our keys and found the apartment easily (well, the driver did at least) and I was glad we’d splurged on a car instead of trying to take public transportation. Even on a Sunday afternoon, traffic was hectic. Plus we got a little sightseeing in right away.
The apartment wasn’t quite a chic as the one in Paris but was serviceable.
The kitchen was well-equipped, if compact, with refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and combination washer and dryer. (I never did figure out how to operate the washer/dryer properly. I think it will only really do tiny loads.)
We dropped our bags and walked to the Waitrose grocery store right across the street. We bought a few supplies and mostly just relaxed the rest of the day. It may sound silly but one of the things I was looking forward to was watching British television. We get a tiny sample on BBC America but they produce some great shows that we never see. And since we were always so tired at the end of our days, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. It was a nice way to unwind in the evenings.