Headed into town, where, after printing my tickets, we headed to Central Station’s finest pub -what I can only describe as a low(er)-class Wetherspoon’s. Despite being forced to wash my hands (in the only working sink, of 6) next to a sign displaying the butchery of the english language that was “Please let the bar Staff knows”, hilarity most definitely did ensue when I realised my dad’s trousers had split, right down the crotch. Fabulous! We then made the inevitable journey to the platform (with Rhuraidh noting “This is the same platform we went to for AC/DC. They’re nice men”). After my dad and Rhu’s mammoth effort to get my case on board, we said our goodbyes, they stood at the window with Shields, making a great effort of stretching out the waving and kiss-blowing for the full ten minutes till my train left, with Shields gesticulating and mouthing words with such enthusiasm it could’ve passed for an audition for this year’s panto at the Pavilion. Yes, I did cry. Shock.
I spent the first hour or so reading Glamour and eating ham sandwiches (I mean, forming right-of-centre political views and seductively exhaling the cigarettes I chain-smoked) until Penrith (?) when a nice lady called Nicky came and sat with me and I made my First Pal of The France Trip 2010, and we spent the next couple of hours chatting about everything from her beautiful, bilingual, Italian nephews (Leonardo, 3 and Marco, 5, if you’re interested) to my 1997 trip to London, whilst sharing cherry tomatoes and coconut. Once at London, she gamely held my bag weighing a ton whilst i wrestled my case weighing the equivalent of 5 Mississipian teenagers out of the hold and onto the platform. Having left Glasgow swishing about in my blue cape, looking the epitome of Continental Traveller Glamour, I now heaved a case out into the blistering sunlight of Euston Station, occasionally adjusting my bag with such force that my cape sprung open a few buttons, revealing my fur coat underneath and making me look like what I can only describe as a sweaty werewolf in a coat. So having wandered round the perimeter of the station 12 or so times looking for a taxi rank (double decker buses everywhere, but no one paying enough patriotic homage to the other element of London public transport, the black cab) I finally found it….underground, bien sur! Got a lovely cabbie who discussed Flemish architecture and intermittently mocked me for being the perspiring mess that I was. Finally arrived at St Pancras International (Which I will admit, I forgot the name of, but Mr Cabbie seemed to understand its codename of ”Look mate, I just want to go to Lille”) and while the other passengers sauntered through with leather wheely weekend bags (no, wheely, they did), I managed to simply look bemused when I was asked to put my entire case up on the X-Ray belt. Relaxed in the lounge for a bit, seeing a french man eating a crepe (sacre bleu!!) and seeing a cartoon Jewish man, with the hat and curls, accompanied by a 5 year old ….with the hat and curls, brilliant!
So, hopped on the EuroStar, with a lovely french keum offering to put my luggage on the rack, until he attempted to pick it up, went bright red and jumped at the suggestion that he just slide it under instead. The train was 1/3 full at best, and looked like that episode of Doctor Who where they’re on some sort of space cruise. So we went through a tunnel for ages and appeared at the otherside in amongst a field, a lot of pylons and some industrial looking buildings. I thought I’d have some sort of mon dieu! C’est la belle france, je suis arrivée! moment when we got through the tunnel, but instead found myself scanning the motorways for a higher prevalence of Renaults and Peugeots….logic o’clock. Aside from the man across from me’s ringtone being the Mayyyy-ah-heeee-maaaaaai-ah-haaa song, I had no continental signs. Then arrived at a station called Ebbsfleet, which sounded altogether more Churchill than DeGaulle. Realised I’d just gone through a standard tunnel. For about four minutes. Rest of the journey was very uneventful, got to Gare Lille-Europe and tried to phone Elodie (lovely lady who’s taking me in ‘til I find a flat), pondered a bit when her phone rang out, that she was the only person I knew in France, and uncontactable, but managed to get her and her equally-lovely husband, Mickael soon after. Quickly realised I spoke very little french and Mickael spoke even less english, so it’s been a brilliant challenge trying to converse with him. Felt like an absolute dick last night, poorly stringing a sentence together, but I’m getting better. First song on on the radio in the car was Time After Time, that french classic, so feeling like I haven’t left, although apparently it’s now french law to play 30% french music on the radio. I don’t know how I expected them to look, but they’re much younger, early thirties I think, and very welcoming….they even had a nice “Welcome, Luis” sign on the fridge…..very cute!
So last night was a late dinner, and an early night, having watched Les Experts:Miami(Le CSI avec le dubbing). Today for the foodies amongst you was literally a mountain ofcroque-monsieur, honestly, there were literally 36 bits of bread, for 3 of us. Route Nationale was not lying about the croque-monsieur loving in this country. They may have been lying about all french speakers living in Guadaloupe, but I’ve yet to assertain that. So Elodie was working till 12 and Mickael helped me set up Le WiFi (this french malark is a piece of piss) for my laptop, then we managed a full conversation. NB: for “full conversation” read “me in incredibly broken french, occasionally flicking through a dictionary for several minutes (how many times do you need to spend minutes in the french side when you’re looking for an english word, Luis??) trying to assertain Mickael’s opinion on Sarkozy and his EU-flouting-Burka-banning ways, his taste in music, and why french TV shows were très terrible.
Elodie’s cousin and her 2 children were over today, and she made a massive pile of crepes….french crepes! Like the Scottish uncultured oik I am I misjudged the thickness and took 3 onto my plate instead of 1, luckily they were incredibly moreish, and I got to display the full effect of 3 years of government-funded higher education french when asking Elodie’s cousin’s son to …. passe-moi le Nutella, sil vous plait. I say ‘Elodie’s cousin’s son’ and not Michel or Yannick because after asking her to repeat his name, twice, I felt I could not ask again….something beginning with R!….Nutella! Now!
Once la famille française left Elodie and I went to a shopping centre. Confusion arose when I noticed I had a missed call from a french number and Elodie responded in the negative when asked if she’d missed-called me…..shockingly, yes, Daniel Livingstone is organised enough to have a french phone. Naturally, when you and your best friend are both living in France and havent seen each other since you left or spoken on the phone, the conversation usually turns to the exorbitant pricing of french bath puffs . Was very nice to hear from my buddy-ol-pal, and hoping to meet up with him in the coming weeks when I’m a bit more settled.
So here I am, exhausted (from doing close to nothing, on my first day) and typing this on my bed, copying up scrappy notes I took on the EuroStar, and just haved Skyped my parents. Salut, mes amis!