Saturday, 15 November 2014

We'll always have Paris: a love letter to Waterloo International

I meant to write this post earlier this week, but illness and work prevailed. Anyhow...

I didn't realise so much time had passed since Eurostar stopped running trains to Waterloo International (now just plain Waterloo). I loved the ease of travelling to France or Belgium by train, with no need for getting the tube or a having to check in luggage two hours before a flight. Yes, I know I was completely South London-centric, but it seemed to be one of the few occasions when those of us south of the river got the better deal!

So when it was announced that Eurostar would stop going to Waterloo, I booked a day off work and a return to Paris. I got the 06:34 from Waterloo on 13th of November 2007, and came back the same day on the 18:16 from Gare du Nord (which was the last train that went to Waterloo International).

I got to Paris later that morning, feeling ever so excited about the day and pretty liberated without luggage. I went to the Jardin du Luxembourg for the first time. Paris has a certain kind of cold in the winter. I can't explain it. It's kind of clean and crisp - very cold but not "bitter". I took photos and sketched.

There's a mini Statue of Liberty by Bartholdi - I'm not sure whether it was prep for his main statue in New York.

I had coffee and lunch at Cafe de Flore. An utterly touristy, literature-graduate thing to do, but I didn't care. I enjoyed it.

I went to the hotel where Oscar Wilde died, and I sketched for a little while. Generally, the length of time I sketched depended on how cold my fingers felt without gloves!

I went to a cafe called Les Éditeurs because...don't cringe...I was an editor at the time. I wrote a lot while I drank my coffee.

I paid a flying visit to Galeries Lafayette to buy some pretty scarves and gloves, and then I went back to Gare du Nord.

On the train, they announced that they would give champagne in the lounge car to everyone in celebration of this last journey to Waterloo. I went there and happy strangers said, "À vos santé!" as we drank. There was such a wonderful atmosphere.

When we got to Waterloo, there were cameras on the platform.

And a farewell at the station. I haven't been to Paris since.

I will do one day, when I have a decent income again. I love that the Eurostar has been running for twenty years now. Paris and London are two of my favourite cities, and it's wonderful that such romantic neighbours should be connected by train. That day trip to Paris was the only time I've gone there and back on my own (most of my trips had been with partners), but it was a magical day and I got to do so much.

I found some old photos of my first trip to Paris when I was a toddler. My parents decided to go there for a weekend with me...apparently I was a complete nightmare!

My love for Parisian cafes started early.

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