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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
Day 11
Paris / London
During the night it became chilly and noisy - the eternal parade of revelers - so I closed the air-tight windows and we slept well until 8 am. We rose, showered and packed for London - the last leg of this chapter of Our Magnificent Journey.
I packed my overnight case and thought I had done a great job until Carol, the patron saint of suitcase packers, took everything out and repacked it all, saving at least 25% space in the process. I still, to this day, cannot believe it, and I saw it happen with my own eyes. She utilizes every cubic millimeter, compressed the air out of everything with special plastic bags purchased in Tucson specifically for that purpose, and blends all of this with ancient magic she conjures up from somewhere, and everything simply fits. It is truly a sight to behold. She is a legend in my own mind. With no exaggeration, she could author a book on the art of EMSP (Efficient Modern Suitcase Packing).
The temperature has definitely dropped about 20 degrees since we arrived days ago. It's more "normal" now for late September. Cool, intermittent sun and clouds, with showers on and off. At least we have not had a drenching rain like the day we left Arles. The travel Gods have been kind to us. They usually are.
Observation: If you find it difficult to "go with the flow," don't travel. If you find it difficult to accept, appreciate and respect other people's styles, cultures and languages, don't travel.
We had another delicious breakfast at Paul - eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice, excellent coffee and baguettes. Then back to the hotel to check out and stow our bags while we hiked over to the Pantheon.
We enjoyed our stay at Axial Beaubourg - great location in the Marais, close to Hotel de Ville - and would highly recommend this 3-star hotel, especially if they ever fix the shower head in our bathroom.
Observation: Just expect that major sites of interest will be closed for infinite reasons when you arrive at them full of expectation and anticipation. We hiked up the hill to the Pantheon only to find a sign indicating that "due to a staff meeting today the museum will not open until 2 pm." Since our express Chunnel train to London leaves at 2 pm, I once again will not be able to pay my last respects to Victor Hugo, one of my favorite authors, who is buried here. Well, there's one for next time, for there most certainly will be a next time.
This sign says "we're closed..."
So we strolled down the hill of Rue Soufflot from the Pantheon and sat in the sun and cool air at the Luxembourg Gardens, one of our favorite parks anywhere, full of flowers, green pastoral serenity - the perfect place for friends and for lovers, who are abundantly present.
Carol enjoying the sun at the Luxembourg Gardens
The weather is exquisite. Cool enough for jackets, scarves and sweaters but sunny and nearly cloudless. We are sad to be leaving our City of Light - we call it our City of Delight. We have been here many times and still so much is unexplored. One could live here for a lifetime and still not experience all that Paris has to offer. Every street, boulevard and alley is a book of surprises.
We left the Jardin du Luxenburg and walked arm-in-arm once more down Boul Mich towards the Seine. Carol stopped to chat with a fellow at a political sign to ask him what they were trying to say.
A political event
Observation: Avoid political and religious discussions at all times and in all places. Period.
We walked across the Seine one last time and window shopped until we stopped to have hot chocolate on this chilly day. We stayed near the hotel so that we could pick up our bags and catch a cab to Gare du Nord for the Chunnel to London. It is always an emotional experience for us when we must leave Paris. But we know that we will experience her charms again.
One last stroll across the Seine
Saying au revoir to Paris
Soon the taxi called for us at the hotel. We thanked the madame at the desk for all her help - she was so very amicable and accommodating - beyond the call of duty. Soon we were speeding across busy Paris towards Gare du Nord, with one or two more near-death experiences along the way. As I write this I am sitting in Gard du Nord, having just passed through British security and waiting in the Eurostar Chunnel area while Carol has gone in search of chocolate to add to our feast of figs, cheese, sandwiches, and nuts that we plan to enjoy on the train.
Paris is like an old friend that we will miss until we see her again. Carol says that Paris is like a drug.
As usua,l we are so sad to leave our beloved Paris but we are excited to be spending several days in the majestic city of London. We have once again had another incredible, exciting, fun-filled and interesting time in Paris, and cannot wait to plan and experience our next visit. As the train pulled north out of Paris and into the French countryside, we watched as the Eiffel tower dipped below the horizon. Au revoir, until we meet again...
Enjoying a picnic on the Chunnel train
Almost exactly an hour north of Paris, we entered the Chunnel. The darkness under the English Channel lasted about twenty minutes. We have started to hear less French and are hearing more of the British English. I am sad to leave the French. There is something to be said for being thrown into the midst of a foreign culture and not knowing the language - it makes you all the more aware on so many levels. Carol has a handle on the French language, which has always astounded and impressed me. She never ceases to amaze me with her capabilities. I, on the other hand, know exactly one sentence in the French tongue: Je ne parle pas Francais ("I do not speak French,") which also demonstrates to the French people my respect in at least making an attempt to converse in their language. Travel, for us, is very much about respect. Carol has made a pledge to herself to become more adept at speaking conversational French, while I promise to become fluent in English.
Observation: Learn to speak at least a little of the language of the people you are visiting, or else take someone along who can.
Carol can now rest while I take on the task of translation for the rest of the journey. It's the least I can do...
Through the darkness of the Chunnel we speed into England, emerging into bright sunny skies and a different (earlier) time zone.
We arrived at London's Waterloo station at 5:00 pm and took the Northern, then Circle Tubes to the Regency Hotel in South Kensington. This is a 4-star hotel. The room is small, typical of the British hostelries we have stayed at, but neat and clean with modern bathroom amenities.
The Regency in South Kensington
I called Dan back home and had a nice chat. It was great to hear his voice. God bless Dan and Chris - without them Carol and I could not have made this trip.
We spent some time at the hotel looking over the map of London, then ventured out. It was so cool I had to go back up to the room to get my sweater and scarf. Then out into the streets we went. We came upon the Embassy of Kazakhstan, and as I stood there looking at the sign, an amicable Englishman walking in our direction struck up a conversation with us and we enjoyed exchanging pleasantries until we had to go separate ways. I always remember the Brits as being so warm and helpful and friendly.
We came to a pub/restaurant called The Bunch of Grapes where we had the first of many pints of Guinness and plates of fish and chips. We were so hungry and it sounded so good… It was delicious and we took our time and enjoyed the fish with vinegar. The Guinness was smooth and delicious.
The Bunch of Grapes
We decided to make it an early night, so we walked along Brompton Road to Queensgate Road to the hotel. We were so exhausted we could barely brush our teeth. The goal was to get to bed early in order to get an early start re-exploring Londontown on Thursday.

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