Day 1 - Fri 18 Sept 09
Caught the train down to Kings Cross, skipped across the road to St Pancs and got through check in, security and passport control in about two minutes. What seems like an instant later I'm heading up the escalator to the platforms and walking up to the front of the train to climb aboard carriage 17.
However I can't just climb aboard as there is a queue caused by people trying to stow the huge quantity of luggage they are trying to bring with them. I swear I could live in some of the cases people have. It all subsides and I find my seat just inside the door. Got chatting to a woman next to me and I borrowed her Lonely Planet on Paris. She suggested a few things to see.
Arrived in Paris on time and I headed out of the station towards the river. My route was an interesting one as it seemed to pass through a red light area with sex shops and busty (dare I say rather middle aged) ladies. Nipped into the Pompidou Centre, but there wasn't any free exhibitions so I headed off again. Just around the corner in a rather non-descript modern complex is the 'Défenseur du Temps' an animated clock in which a solider fights a dragon at various times of the day. It was broken and covered in bird droppings.
My next stop was the Louvre, where I had a look around the courtyard and its impressive facade and the modern glass pyramids growing out of the ground. Time pressures meant that I couldn't go in.
Then I walked down the Siene towards Gare Bercy, on the way I saw the aftermath of a van driving into a tiny city car - the two (large) guys in the car tried to chase down the van on foot but despite the appalling traffic it made its escape.
Got some provisions for the journey from a shop just around the corner from the station.
My carriage was the first one, and my couchette the second one in. I guess that's what you get for booking early! The four berth couchette is shared with two other women, one of whom is French and has a huge bag that won't go under the seat and is too heavy to go up. The other woman says nothing. At all. To anyone. The whole trip.