aris to Darlington
July 17-18, 2007
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Here's a variation on the old question of how many Martians does it take to change a light bulb: How many hours does it take Gerry and Jan to do a four hour trip? How about 20? That's how long it took us to do the 600 km from Paris to Darlington, which can be flown in an hour, and with generous time to get to the airport and on and off the airplane, can be done in a total of four hours. Now we didn't make our trip by air, nor by rail, which can be done in about five hours. We elected for the figurative slow boat to .. Dover.
The first time that we stayed in Veronica's we left for England via Eurostar and were quite annoyed to get to the Gare du Nord and find that inspite of what we were told that we'd have to pay extra for our considerable baggage. The second time we left for Teeside via a BMI Baby flight from Roissy and were shocked to find that our extra luggage (which we knew we had) cost more than a single ticket. This time we decided to do it safe-and-sure: we'd almost never been shocked by the bus — the price was all-inclusive —, and we knew where the bus terminal was and considered it pretty easy to get to. And, finally, we (or mostly Gerry), considered "the slower, the better" a good motto, since it allowed to take in more.
Slow it was, but pleasant. Our departure from Veronica's was on foot,but only to the closest bus stop. There we we changed to a metro and went on to the Gare du Route. Our luxury coach took us out on the eastern side of Paris, along the Peripherique, and then on the superhighway north. In fact, we were soon following the same route that we'd taken six weeks early to visit Lille. This time, instead of being in the TGV speeding by highway traffic and twice their or more, we were on the highway and watched a great number of TGVs speed by us; many a time we thought of advertising signs "if you were ... you'd be home now."
But the country side was green, the seat comfortable, and we did eventually reach Calais. There we went through customs (just as bad or worse as the USA, and this was from one EU member state to another) and got onto the ferry.
Soon — say twenty minutes — we could see the small white cliffs of France receeding in the background. We turned around and enjoyed the sea breeze while chating about how these trips used to be when we were younger. All around us most of the crowd was young, and their group-chatter reminded us of our younger selves.
And then in another half-hour, the sea breeze at its strongest and best, we could see the large white cliffs of Dover nearing. How romantic! And we say that with sincerity and without appology.
We and our coach soon left the ferry but we had to descend again for another visit by customs or immigration or something. But not tired yet, we were soon on our way to Canterbury, and then more or less following Chaucer's path in reverse, to London. We like France and we like Paris, but this too touched a soft spot.
We'd reserved seats on a coach from London to Darlington at the unbelievable price of 4 pounds ($8) return. Would there be a coach with wheels and a driver? When things are too good to be true they usually are. But this coach left, and was comfortable too. The reason for the low price? Perhaps that it left late in the evening and arrived at 5:00 a.m. We, or Jan, spent most of our four hour wait in the terminal; Gerry made, as Australians might say, a walk-about, and he got to know Belgrave better. Jan got to know a young lady who was waiting and waiting for a bus to Poland; obviously travelling on a very tiny budget, she said she'd be in the station all night, waiting for a departure the next morning.