Our first action this morning was to go to the station to enquire about the Eurostar. The news is bad. The fire – in a lorry – has caused extensive damage and it is thought unlikely that there will be any services tomorrow or for some time to come. We were therefore advised to return to London by other means.
Our Eurostar tickets will be refunded but we will have to attend to this in London. The adviser we spoke to wanted to put us on a coach there and then that would take us to London but we refused. Apart from anything else, for reasons I won’t bother you with, I cannot be cooped up in a coach for hours on end and in any case, why should we be robbed of a day’s holiday and hotel room?
So the next task was to join the queue at the ticket office and book an alternative route home on Saturday. In London, you can buy tickets right through to Paris or Amsterdam but here, apparently, you cannot book a journey to London. The clerk could only sell us train tickets for Calais and give us the channel ferry ticket office phone number. If London can do it, why can’t Paris?
Because of my hearing problems, I needed a nice quiet place for my phone call to Calais so we went back to the hotel and the desk clerk provided an outside line for the phone in our room.
A recoded voice answered that was barely audible but when I finally got through to a human being, I had no problems. So we now have tickets to take us as far as Dover. Completing the journey to London should be no more difficult than one of our usual weekend outings.
There remained the cattery. The proprietors are leaving on holiday tomorrow and we had arranged to return early enough to collect Freya from the owner’s mother the same evening. It is obvious that we cannot now fulfill that promise. I tried phoning after booking the ferry tickets but no one picked up. I will have to try again later.
Having sorted out our return journey as best we could, there was no reason not to follow our original plan to buy tickets for the Batobus and have a ride on the Seine.
Batobus (English language version here) is a “Hop on, hop off service”, which means you can, if you wish, spend the day going round and round, getting off for a rest or to explore or have lunch etc., whenever you feel like it.
Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, that nasty little man, the Pope, is visiting Paris and this is causing more than a small amount of disruption and inconvenience to the rest of us (not to mention the burden on the French tax-payer). This disruption included closing off part of the route normally taken by the Batobus, whose itinerary was therefore somewhat shortened. The ticket price was reduced accordingly.
Sailing up and down was quite pleasant nonetheless. The heavy rain of yesterday evening had gone and the day was warm, though not as uncomfortably so as in the last couple of days, with sun and clouds – and the occasional shower of rain – alternating brightness and shade.
At lunchtime we left the boat near the Musée d’Orsay to look for something to eat. We found a nice fruit and vegetable shop with a small but well stocked grocery section and bought a lunch of pumpernickel bread, raclette cheese, mustard and strawberries. We carried this little lot back to the river and ate our lunch on one of the stone benches sited along the bank.
After this we went around the truncated Batobus circuit a few more times until the service closed at 7pm. We stopped for coffee, partly in order to have coffee and partly to make some small change for the bus, and then caught to 42 towards the Gare du Nord.
During one of our breaks from the boat ride, I found a quietish spot on the river bank and used my mobile with the T-loop to call the cattery. I got a good connection. They knew about the Tunnel fire and were very understanding. They kindly agreed to re-arrange Freya’s pick-up: I will now go on Sunday morning instead. That was a big weight off my mind.
Our intention was to have supper in a little Chilean restaurant that we discovered on our last visit. Tigger pointed out that we haven’t had much French food on this trip because French restaurants seem positively averse to offering anything remotely vegetarian.
The Chilean restaurant is called Santa Sed and is in rue des Vinaigriers. It advertises a vegetarian main course, Pacualina (a spinach and mushroom pie) and also has a couple of starters suitable for vegetarians.
It was here, last year, that Tigger invented bread and green Tabasco, so we made sure to ask for the green Tabasco again and to eat it on bread between courses.
I feel quite sad that this is our last night in Paris this time around. I worried that this second visit would seem an anticlimax after the first one last year but am glad to say that it has surpassed it.
I have got to know Paris a little better and have begun to feel even more at home here. I look forward to more visits in the future and there will be plenty left to do and see for those occasions.
The one difficulty has been my hearing. As long as people speak clearly it’s fine, but if they mutter or turn away when speaking, I am lost.
Tigger’s French has be improving, though. She has once or twice picked up on things that I have missed and this has been a help.