Rain. River. November. On the long-awaited day that Paris came closer to London.
As I step on to the platform under a damp grey sky, there’s a farewell party in full swing around the station.
After thirteen years, the last Eurostar will depart here in a few hours’ time. And in the morning, when the first train arrives at a gleaming new St Pancras across the Thames, Paris will be just two hours and fifteen rail minutes from London.
‘Fog in the Channel – Continent Isolated’. So read the famous newspaper headline of yore. Not any more. This rapprochement is almost complete.
Ville de lumière
J’ai besoin de toi
Gold – September 1986
The City of Light lies at her knees. It’s eight o’clock on an autumn Friday, and the streets of Paris are grid-locked. Frozen.
Emerging up the ramp and out of the Earth at the Gare du Nord, there’s chaos all around us. Sporadic, half-hearted toots echo from the crossing streets, but it makes no difference.
As a vision of Nicolas Sarkozy’s France, it’s dark and disappointing.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. A family celebration in Burgundy had called us here, and we’d tried to do it properly. Ecologically.
To take the train from London, bundle an exciting metro ride across the city to the Gare de Lyon and board a southbound TGV. To travel serenely, and greenly, across the evening and arrive in Dijon as sharp as mustard.
So much for plans and good intentions.
Kicking down the cobblestones on a warm and sultry morning, there are just a few marble steps to climb ahead. And already, blue sky is rent by cool bronze metal, still tepid in the hazy sunshine across the river. From here at the Trocadero, the Eiffel Tower stands framed amidst the Champs de Mars. The green baize stretches far into the sun, with only the black morning menace of the Montparnasse Tower revealing the modern face of the golden city beyond.
If a million strands are bound together to make a life, then the thread of Paris runs through much of mine. Continue reading