Thursday, April 9, 2015

All good things must come to an end

Our last day in London was bright and sunshiny and beautiful, just making it harder for us to leave. Despite our early starts and late finishes, we've run out of time to do everything we'd like to do. I guess that just gives us more reasons to come back.

Taine was given the choice of which museums to visit, meaning I missed out on the Victoria and Albert but c'est la vie. Our first stop was the British Museum and, in particular, the Egyptian Exhibit. This is a lovely, spacious building and, for the first time in our week in London, we had room to breathe as the crowd was very light at the start of the day. In this museum the depth and breadth of British history really comes alive. It’s almost incomprehensible to be looking at objects from the stone age, not to mention trying to make chronological sense of the feudal system and the royal lineage.

The Egyptian stuff was quite confronting. Mummies and their accompanying cat scan pictures showing the people within the caskets make these exhibits very ‘real’. I’m not sure I’m ok with the display of dead people without their permission. They thought they were going to the afterlife – I guess the British Museum is one version of that.

Next stop was the Science Museum. This is very like Scienceworks at home. I hate that in the holidays too so this was not my favourite stop on the itinerary. Geoff and Taine had a go in the flight simulator and then we mooched around the exhibits of hands on science activities. Unfortunately there were hundreds of other kids mooching around them too so it was hard to get our hands on.

Another ride in the tube and we were at Parliament Square for one last goggle at Westminster Cathedral and the other assorted magnificent buildings.

On the way back to Euston for a tidy up we were able to call in at the British Library. We’ve been staying across the road from it all week but because of Easter it had been closed until now. This place is a special treat for a bibliophile. The collection of rare works includes hand written drafts of Jane Eyre and Shakespeare’s first editions. You can see the pages Lennon used to write the lyrics for Imagine. Another few hours in the library would have been bliss but the trip clock was ticking again and we were off to Covent Garden to make use of the Christmas presents our big girls gave us – tickets to The Lion King.

What a wonderful, amazing, spectacular show! Our seats were centre stage and once again we were blessed with children in front of us so we had an unobstructed view. When Rafiki broke into ‘The Circle of Life’, we all broke out in goosebumps! And then the elephant appeared – and the giraffes. It was just the most marvelous way to end our stay in this majestic city.

This morning we dragged our bags over to St Pancras for the last time and got on the Eurostar for our trip back to Paris. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to us that our Swiss knives might be an issue in luggage being carried on the train! Even when they held us up at border control to open the bag, we still didn’t twig.  Talk about dumb Aussies! Then the man asked, ‘Do you have a knife in your bag?”
A knife! Um, we don’t just have one knife – we have the pocket knives, the cheese knife and the daddy of all kitchen carving knives.
We were ready to pay whatever it took to get the knives safely to Paris (apparently it would have been 20 pound to have them ‘stowed’) but remarkably (and very frighteningly) they decided we looked like the simple minded, careless tourists that we are and let us go through….with the knives! So much for heightened security in London.

Kings Cross/ St Pancras station

Living it up on the Eurostar
The train itself was filthy and cramped and the Chunnel crossing quite unremarkable. I couldn’t believe how quickly we passed under the English Channel. Nor could I believe I had internet all the way across, especially considering I couldn’t get any in most of Scotland and Yorkshire! Before we knew it we were back in Paris, this time in the 10th arrondisement near Gare du Nord station. We chose this hotel because it’s near the station and it seemed to make sense to be able to get off the Eurostar and back on the train to CDG tomorrow. I had researched every other accommodation on our trip except this one which we chose in a bit of a last minute panic, yesterday. It is, let’s say, more of a traditional style of hotel, of the 1 star variety. We are on the third floor, up 57 very steep and winding steps. Thank goodness Geoff has been lifting hand weights because Taine and I wouldn’t have got to the first landing with our bags. On a warm Spring day the little room is like an inferno. Thank goodness it isn’t Summer! The three, cot like single beds are flock mattresses on top of badly worn wooden bases. There is nowhere to put our bags except at the end of the beds so we have to climb over them to get to the bathroom. On a bright note, the windows open (but you can’t lean out because of the bars), Taine has found some enjoyment playing with the bidet and the room has put me in a better frame of mind for going home – my own bed now looks like a glorious prize.

We made the most of one last afternoon by taking a boat trip down the Seine. In the 3 weeks since we were here Spring has taken hold and the Parisians have appeared like bears from hibernation. The banks of the river were lined with people sitting, reading, canoodling and sunbathing. We got another glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, le Louvre and Notre Dame, resplendent in the sunshine. At Saint Michel we found a suitably French flavoured café (there were red gingham table cloths) and ate snails and crepes and mouldy cheese, washed down with sangria and ridiculously over priced Heineken.

Now we’re drinking ridiculously cheap red, French wine trying to plan our trip home and avert our thoughts from the rumbling water pipes and the possible bed bugs.

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