Day 39 – Paris, London and home

Paris Nord – St Pancras International – Euston – Stafford – Aston

Oddly I’ve never (and I don’t just mean on this adventure) caught a Eurostar to or from Paris. I’ve been to and from Lille and Brussels multiple times, and even Amsterdam once, but this counted as a new route.

There were huge queues at Paris Nord and lots of people were grumpy. Maybe they, like me, had decided to skip breakfast and get something after checking in.

Being in front of a trainload of irritable passengers must be no fun for French customs staff. It was a welcome surprise to see one of today’s staff having a giggle with fellow travellers. Having greeted each other in French the officer asked the (young, English) traveller if she spoke much French. “No” she replied. The officer pulled her best sad/mischievous face and said that she needed to promise to learn some more words before she came back. Her friend, who was next in line, was asked if they had gone to the same school, and suggested that they might not want to send their children there when they were bit older. Priceless, everyone who heard it was laughing!

Another first for me was travelling on one of the old Eurostar trains. There aren’t many of them around these days. Inevitably, being 30-odd years old, they are much more comfortable than the present offering. That’s progress for you!

Old Eurostar with new "improved" model in the background
Old Eurostar with new “improved” model in the background

Having arrived in London, rather than heading straight home I had a couple of things I wanted to do. This weekend was Canalway Cavalcade in Little Venice, an event I never get to as it is always the nearest weekend to my Mum’s birthday. I have friends involved with running the event and several others were attending by boat, one of whom had reminded me of the event on her Instagram that morning. I stopped by to say hello to those who had already arrived, and a couple of the volunteers who run the event. I was amazed to see that the visitor moorings in Paddington Basin, just around the corner, were completely empty.

It was lovely to say hello to a couple of people I’ve not seen in 3+ years. Unfortunately I couldn’t stick around too long.

The other thing I wanted to do was to see the Rosettis exhibition at Tate Britain. I’m always surprised that I like the Pre-Raphaelites (they are quite different to anything else I like) but their use of colour is stunning. I also loved some of the drawings in this exhibition.

The train north was less busy than I had expected for a Friday teatime. I arrived in Stafford a little after 7:30pm and waved goodbye the last train of what had been a journey of 5491 miles since I left here at the start of the previous week.

There was one last short journey home, by bus to Aston. The bus driver had a little time (Stafford Station is a terminus) and we ended up talking about canals – I was wearing a Waterway Recovery Group t-shirt, which got him started. He used to be a boat owner and had moored at Froghall. We swapped stories of trips and when I stepped off the bus a little later, he thanked me for bringing back some happy memories.

I walked the short distance back to the boat, cutting through the woodland at Aston to avoid walking any more of the road than I needed to.

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  1. Celia Lyon

    Fabulous diary Steve, thanks for sharing your travels, I’ve really enjoyed reading them

    • Thanks Celia, journey of a lifetime – though I really do want to plug some of the gaps, especially in Norway and Switzerland, and to finally get to Portugal. Maybe next year..!
      My pass doesn’t expire until Thursday so I’m off again on Saturday, to Scotland then over the water to Belfast, and to do as many of the Irish railways as I can in a week. (I’ll come back at the weekend on a “normal” ticket.)

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