Trying to park in France is an exercise in frustration when it comes to parking garages. Assuming you can squeeze into a space, you still have the challenge of getting out of the car!
Yeah . . .
So, after the excitement of parking, I was on my way to London! I highly recommend one of these bulky, but incredible adapters if you travel much – it will adapt several of the most common plug types into the others. It is NOT a converter, but my cell and laptop chargers are set to work on either 110 or 220V (as are most of them), so I just need to switch to the correct plug type. I did pick up an actual converter for this trip since smaller appliances, like my toothbrush charger, usually are not designed to convert power from 220V to 110V; however, that one only has a plug for European outlets, so it would be no good to me in England.
I recall mentioning that I was on a particularly bad train once, so here’s what a normal 2nd class space looks like – I say normal because this is by far the most common French train I’ve seen in my various journeys. They’re actually quite comfortable for the most part.
TIP: Even though the bathrooms are small and not the cleanest places ever, use them while you can. French public restrooms are few and far between, plus many of them cost money. It is 0.70 Euro to use the train station restrooms in Paris and they’re rarely much cleaner!
Upon arriving in Paris, I took the Metro from Montparnasse to Gare du Nord (be careful with this – there are several train stations in Paris and virtually all of the trains I’ve taken in my various trips ran out of four of them: Nord, Est, Montparnasse and Austerlitz). Gare du Nord is where the Eurostar runs from, along with several other Northbound International trains.
I don’t know why I forget that London requires clearing customs & immigration, so this was my first experience dealing with the questions that arise when you’ve been in a country for over a month. The French didn’t care when stamping me to leave, but the Brits sure cared! “Why are you going to England?” “Where are you going after?” “France? Do you live in France then?” “No? Then what have you been doing there for so long?” “When will you be leaving France?” “What airline are you taking?” “What airport are you flying into?” It briefly occurred to me that I might get stuck in this tiny area between 2 border control zones, but after looking closely at my stamps 3 times, he let me through. By the way, here they all are – it’s fun how different they are!
Top 2 left page: Japan 2013; Bottom 2 left: Guatemala 2013; Right side right page: Guatemala 2015; Left side right pg: Dominican Republic 2014. As you can see, it is pretty random how the countries stamp pages – some side-by-side, some top and bottom
Left page: the relatively boring stamps of the European Union – bottom was entering France 2015 (which they stamped OVER Canada’s because it was so light the guy didn’t notice it) and top was exiting Vienna to Egypt. Right page: make sure you have a full page for Egypt (2015) – apparently, they don’t want to squeeze your Visa onto half a page. The upper right stamp was entry, bottom stamp was exit.
Left page top: More European Union – entering Zurich from Egypt, then leaving Paris (2015); Left page bottom: EU to enter and leave France (to England) in 2016; Right page: England (2016)
As I waited to board the Eurostar, I noticed a giant taxi queue – of course! On Friday evenings, children return from school and men from working in other cities! It is not uncommon in France that your children may stay away at school all week or that the family will continue to live in one city while the husband works hours away, living in a tiny place all week, and comes home only on weekends. I know that people do this on the East Coast of the US as well, but it just seems so odd to me to live separately like that! It is certainly isn’t the norm in the Portland area.
While you can generally arrive 20 minutes or less before your trains within France (in fact, the platform usually isn’t listed earlier than that), you must check-in for Eurostar at least 30 minutes in advance. This is to ensure you clear both French and UK immigration, then UK customs (French customs on the reverse trip). They do have a nice waiting lounge with food & drink available though! Once on Eurostar, I admit it was nice to have announcements made in English rather than picking up about every fifth word in French and hoping I at least understood the gist of what was being said.