June 4, 2011

Getting to Paris in a hurry

So after a solid night out from 11pm at Tutu's last night following the last exam of the year, following a solid 2 hours of sleep, I was remarkably lucky to have heard the life saving call of my 4th alarm notification as sleep tried to pull me away from the 6:22am Eurostar trip to Paris. I felt so inclined to check the time as the watch blared away again, luckily choosing not to doze back off one once again. The time read 5:55am which kicked me into gear as I realized that I had no more than 27 minutes till my Eurostar train would leave St Pancreas, hopefully with me on board.
At this point all of my careful preparatory work had been worth gold as I leaped out of bed and donned the small pile of cloths I had set myself earlier. With shoes on, a pre-packed bag on my back and a head throbbing from the inevitable hangover, I flew out the door and was on the path to the station, taking no more than 3 minutes from the bed to the front door of Ramsay hall. Time was ticking and I hoped that the memory of my departure time was correct, not daring to pause and check the digital ticket. Jogging towards Warren street tube station, I kicked myself as I saw that there were no bikes at the stand, hoping to make up time by tagging in and running down the Warren street tube escalator only to find that the Victoria line was closed hence evaporating my easy passage to Kings Cross. There was still hope as I dashed back up and over Euston road to a well stocked Boris bike stall, quickly checking out a bike. I legged it the whole way to Kings Cross, dodging buses and depositing the bike only 200m from the check-in point in the terminal.

I was starting to regain hope as I had only spent 10 minutes from bed to St Pancreas but I was still counting the minutes as I approached the check in barrier. I crossed my fingers and toes as I held my phone to the 2D bar-code reader, having tempted fate with the choice to stay paperless. In an example of ideal smartphone engineering, the door opened and I was through to the security check, throwing my bag on the conveyor while trying not to appear like terrorist. Through the passport check, I hoped my packing was as thorough as was required, lifting the new Swedish passport from the bag and out into the hands of the awaiting French official. I could almost smell the engine oil at this point, sighting the escalators up to the trains.

I approached the ladies at the foot of the escalators feeling a bit foolish as I held a phone with nothing but an un-inteligible 2D barcode on the screen, standing in a short line full of people holding their full printed tickets. They obviously had no way of re-checking my ticket in a similar way as they sighted the details on everyone's paper. With 12 minutes till departure time, they sent me to the help desk to print my ticket making me wonder if my choice of medium had been as good as I thought 5 minutes prior. That hope was soon revived as the desk person said that it should be ok to show the PDF version of the ticket I was waving around on my phone. With some French murmurs of a trail system accepting the digital alternative (I had read earlier that it was initiated back in 2008, I guess implementation has been slow), I was through with 5 minutes to spare, strolling triumphantly down the platform to my coach. It was only when I settled into seat 45 that I truly relaxed in the knowledge that I had succeeded, putting an end to the mindless rush that had occupied the morning so far. Hoping not to have the same process inflicted on Madelene, I gave her a ring to check she had awoken from a similar club-night-induced coma and was on her way to catch her 7am train. Not long after, the train pulled away from the platform, dead on time. I then knew that in just a little over two hours I would be in the centre of Paris, standing in a different country with a whole new culture to explore.

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