There’s No Place Like Home

As you can imagine, by now my feet were completely swollen, and I thought that if I changed my shoes, my feet would feel better. So I changed into my comfy flip-flops. We began our day with a nice chat with Sharon. I loved beginning our days like that, talking with a real person and getting to know her as she was in her context, not in mine. But we were on a tight schedule as we left for Paris later that day. Having learned that the Crown Jewels were in the Tower of London, Paige and I decided that the expense was worth it after all. I had promised my friend that I would take a picture of the Crown Jewels for him.

The day was not rainy, but it was windy. We got off the tube, and a cafe sign blew up and attacked Paige. I could barely walk; Paige had to push me with her hands in order to keep me moving in the right direction. Maybe it was the wind, but we somehow got lost and ended up walking through the ghetto and were whistled at by three construction workers. I could have spent all day in the Tower of London. We went on a tour with a brilliant elderly gentleman who looked just like Alfred P. Doolittle from My Fair Lady. He had just the right amount of humor to help me forget how cold I was. He showed us the gate by the river where prisoners were taken to be put in prison. He showed us the hill where prisoners’ heads were cut off. He took us to the chapel where all the famous queens of Henry VIII are buried. Then Paige and I walked through the bloody tower, the white tower, and the tower of execution. I’m sure we walked through other towers, but there were so many of them, I couldn’t remember all their names. We saw the different suits of armor of the kings. We saw the prison where the traitors carved messages into the walls. We saw the torture chamber. I got to see Queen Elizabeth’s coronation video. And I did get to see the Crown Jewels, but I did not take a picture. There was a man in front of me on the conveyor belt taking a video, and he was taken out to be beheaded on the hill so I decided not to take any chances. But I did buy a book of the Crown Jewels for my mom (which I, of course, perused first).

Paige and I had just enough time (so we thought) to stop by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater before heading to the Eurostar. We got lost, as usual, in the Borough Market. We walked past it and found a giant replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship from the Spanish Armada. We also saw an apartment complex that used to be a prison back in its golden era. We did find the Globe and discovered upon entry that tours are only offered between 9:30 and 11:30 in the morning. It was 1:30 in the afternoon. I wanted to see the Globe badly, but someone has to be the optimistic one. I knew that Paige had really wanted to see the Globe too, and I tried to encourage her by saying that we could always come back on Saturday or Sunday when we came back from Paris. But both of us knew that we wouldn’t make it back here. With an hour and a half to spare, we decided to go check out the Borough Market again. I bought a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread for a pound, and Paige bought a pie and mash.  This market was the market of food. People sold Egyptian food, Thai food, British food, Chinese food, fish, cheese, bread, fudge, pineapple, strawberries, and lettuce. I was tempted to buy fudge but refrained.

We walked back to Sharon’s to grab our luggage. Our Chunnel train left at 5:30, and my ticket said that I needed half an hour to check in. We left Sharon’s at 4:00 and got to King’s Cross by 4:50. But Paige hadn’t printed out her ticket yet, and the kiosk wouldn’t recognize her card. An older man had been talking to me while Paige tried without success to print her ticket so he helped us get her ticket printed with three minutes to spare before we had to be through check in. Thankfully, my purse didn’t get stuck during this security run. We got on the Eurostar, looking rather stressed and disheveled. I had just settled into reading my Ernest Hemingway novel when a Ukrainian man told me that I was in his seat. I knew that I couldn’t be in his seat unless Paige was in someone else’s seat too. I was glad to learn that he was in the wrong coach. I didn’t think my frazzled brain could handle anymore “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moments.

It’s a good thing I slept on the Eurostar or I never would’ve been able to make it in Paris. We stayed with my missionary friend Kristi during our visit to France. She had given me directions to get to her house, which I had forgotten to print out. I remembered the directions, and Paige and I easily made it to the H-line train heading to Luzarches. But none of the signs told us which platform to get on. I walked over to the information desk and said in my cutesy voice, “Excuse me. We are trying to find the platform that will take us on the H-line to Luzarches at 10:02. Could you help us please?”

She looked at me with angry eyes and said, “You didn’t say hello.”

I hope I appeared to be unfazed when I responded, “I’m sorry. Hello. We are trying to find the platform that will take us on the H-line to Luzarches at 10:02. Can you help us please?”

“Fine.” She rolled her eyes and scrolled down on her computer. “The train to Luzarches is on platform thirty.”

(I have a difficult time understanding people who speak with an accent. Growing up in the North, it is even hard for me to understand southern accents. I could not understand what platform she was telling me to get on.) “I’m sorry, did you say thirty?”

“Thirty.”

“All right. Thank you.” I smiled my biggest smile even though on the inside I wanted to cry and walked to…platform thirty-one.

The train we needed didn’t leave until 10:02, and it was only 8:30. Paige suggested we leave Gare du Nord and find something to eat. With our luggage we began walking through the streets of Paris to find cheap but good food. One man standing outside a cafe stopped us. “Hello. Would you like a drink?”

Paige answered. “No thank you.”

“Maybe some other time then?”

“We’re actually on our way out.”

“You’ll come back sometime?”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

We walked and found nothing that looked cheap except for McDonald’s, which I refuse to eat when I am in Paris. We decided not to spend money on food and to instead go back to the train station and wait for our train. We sat on platform thirty-one and people-watched. At least I did. I can’t read books when I am stressed. We had plenty of time, but Kristi had pointed out to me that if we missed our 10:02 train, we would have to find a nice bench to sleep on for the night since the 10:02 is the last train to head out of Paris. A teenage boy sat down by us and proceeded to smoke three cigarettes in one sitting. A girl walked by wearing red boots, red tights, and a pink-and-red flowered dress. She was carrying a red backpack with a red-plaid scarf tied around her shoulders, and she had red headphones on. She ran up and down platform thirty-one…maybe three times in the half hour we were waiting for our train. Thankfully I realized before our train came that we were on the wrong station.

Luzarches is the last stop from the Gare du Nord in Paris. It is a quaint town about an hour away from the city’s center. When we got off at the train station, there was only one other person still on the train–an older gentleman who had fallen asleep. Not sure what to do, we decided to leave him there. For all we knew maybe he slept on the train every night. We got off the train, and Kristi was nowhere to be found. By this time I was more homesick than I remember being in a long time. I was relieved and filled with joy when she arrived, not because I thought she had forgotten us, but because I was so glad to see a familiar face–and one that spoke English the same way I did. As she drove us to her home, a group of men by the side of the road offered us some weed to smoke. Naturally we declined, but lookingFullSizeRender (10) FullSizeRender (12) FullSizeRender (11) back, if I ever wanted to smoke weed, I should have done it then. After all, it is illegal in America.

When we got to her house, she offered us some delicious quiche, which we scarfed down having not eaten anything since 2:00 that day. It may have been Kristi, it may have been getting to sleep in a bed by myself, it may have been that I was tired, but I have never felt so at home in an evening before.

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