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Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

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The Train To Paris
Drawing of a trike
Can I just say that I love trains. Well, let me put in another way - when travelling, trains are generally a far more delightful way to get about than faffing around at airports and what have you. A typical journey on a plane involves getting to the airport by some mode of transport - car, bus, train(s), tuktuk, whatever. For whatever that costs. Then finding your terminal. Then finding your airline, checking in your baggage, taking all the metal and electronic shit off your belt and out of your pockets - in my case this currently includes a camera, two mobile phones, keys, a wallet, change, a small biro and a compass. Oh, and my watch. Oh, and my laptop - and placing them all in a little plastic tray so they can be X-rayed, then going through a metal detector, then putting all this shit back in one's pockets, then sitting around a gate for twenty minutes to an hour and a half staring into space, then discovering that the boarding time is a tissue of lies and that planes routinely board fifteen minutes after the time advertised. Then one gets to sit in a cramped seat whilst being hustled to altitude where the air is thin indeed... And so forth.

Getting on a train on the other hand involves turning up somewhere between eight and thirty minutes before the train leaves, waving your ticket at someone - sometimes after you're on the train - throwing your luggage into a rack near your seat, then sitting down to watch the scenery go by - all at ground level! Even if you factor in the fact that the train generally takes longer, the journey itself is generally shorter because the trains leave from the centre of town and not way out on the edge of town, and the transfer from one intercity train to the local transport is at the same damn station.

Case in point: I took the train from near Baltimore to New York. I got to the station about ten minutes at most before the train. I sat in a big seat for three hours, then I was at Penn Station in the middle of New York. Easy.

The train to Paris is a bit more involved, but not much. You wave your printed barcoded ticket at the barrier at St Pancras Station, it lets you in. St. Pancras Station is attached to Kings Cross station - on the Tube in other words. Then you hand your passport to a French customs agent, who gives it a cursory glance and sends you on your way. And that's it, you wait for the train, and if you're a clever traveller like me, you buy a five day Paris metro ticket there before you even leave London!

This train, the London-Paris train, doesn't mess about. It belts through the English countryside, through several tunnels. At some point you notice that the tunnel you're in seems to have gone on for a particularly long time and has in fact made your ears pop. Then you emerge into some more country side... And you're in France! I only realised I was there when I looked at my phone and it had connected to a French phone network...

The train makes one stop in France, then heads straight for the centre of Paris. The last stop is Paris Nord (or Gare De Nord to give it it's full title, which just means Northern Station), from which it turned out my hotel was four stops away on the Metro. I left Tooting in London at about 8AM and by 1.30PM I was out looking for the Eiffel Tower! All of which cost me about 85 Euro, because I bought the ticket well in advance, and printed it out back in Australia. Go the Chunnel, folks, it's a leisurely way to travel. And far better than, say dragging your butt to Stansted airport, fifty kilometres out of London, for a shitty Ryanair flight crammed in like a sardine - more on that to follow!