Every trip begins with one question: “How are we going to get there?”
You may think the first question is “where are we going?” That’s never a question in my book. We’re going lots of places, it’s just a question of how.
So, getting from Paris, to Plymouth, to Minehead, to Edinburgh and to Dublin and back was going to take some creative thinking. Why not just fly across the British Channel and take a train? Perhaps this thesaurus entry will help.
Moolah. Dinero. Shekels.
And not a lot of it.
Our first inclination was to take the train. Trains are everywhere in Europe. I love it. If only America was as train-obsessed as Europe… a girl can dream.
Well, getting to our first stop, London, could be expensive, especially after we looked up prices to take the TGV (which, in French, literally stands for “really fast train”) from Paris to London. Well, those really fast trains cost upwards of €200 a person. We’re two and a half people. Yikes.
Thankfully, the French don’t mind if the English leave by train, plane, boat or llama- just that they do. (That’s a political joke, Dad.) So we could have flown to London and then taken a bus or a train to Plymouth, we could have taken a train to the French coastal town of Roscoff and taken the ferry to Plymouth, or we could take a bus from Paris to London (underground through the chunnel- neat, huh?) and then a bus from London to London.
The plane was just as expensive as the TGV (which is the only train that goes through the chunnel. Trust me. I checked.) No luck there. The next neatest option was the train-and-ferry trick. Sadly, the ferry form France to England only ran on certain days at certain times, which would have taken some of our days from us, and this combo was still more expensive than we were hoping for, €50 per person for the ferry, and more than €80 per person for the train.
Guess what was affordable.
At the price of only €40 a person (the baby was free!) and a slice of sanity, we could ride from Paris to London in 5.5 hours and from London to Plymouth in another 5 hours.
Yes. We signed away our souls for half a day on the overnight bus from France to England for less than it costs to eat out in Paris. In fact, here’s how we did our whole trip:
As for the first leg of the trip, I wish I could tell you it was fabulous. I wish I could say that it was fine. I can say this: the baby WAS fabulous, and she WAS fine. She slept in our arms and barely made a peep. Thank you Jesus that was the case- that bus was packed full of grumpy passengers just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
We made our way to the Charles de Gaulle Airport at 10:00 p.m. Our bus was supposed to arrive soon for an 11:00 boarding, so that we could depart by 11:30. We would then be in London at 5 the next morning, where we would have a few hours to eat breakfast near the Victoria Coach station where we’d make our coach connection to Plymouth 4 hours later. Since the Victoria station is only a 15 minute walk from Buckingham Palace, we planned to drink our breakfast tea with the Queen. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her.
Well, we started sweating when, by 11:20, there was still no sign of our bus and its driver. All of the sudden, everyone in the little waiting hall leaped to their feet, yanked their luggage and flew out the door. The bus had arrived! I guess it was time to go. We had a backpack, a baby and a suitcase, so we were in line with the rest of the frantic passengers in no time. The driver was obviously making up for lost time as he literally threw luggage under the storage space and, under the guise of assistance, heaved people on the bus. He was like a cursing, sweating French robot. Ticket! Scan! Luggage! Toss! Passenger! Sling!
It was hard to tell that the same people in the bustling feverish crowd were our fellow passengers. No one was making a peep. Some people were already asleep. Baby slept through the passenger-throwing melee, however. Hallelujah!
All the excitement at the loading stage was a misleading clue for the rest of the ride, which in complete silence became ever hotter, smaller, and stuffier as the seconds ticked by.
Here’s how they ticked by, by the way.
You get it. It felt slow.
We both tried and mostly failed to sleep. I got excited when we finally stopped at the sight of some other human life forms- the customs control! We had finally, finally made it to the chunnel after what felt like forever and a day on this bus. We were in border control, we were out with some new stamps, we got back on the bus eager to see what the chunnel was going to be like (chunnel is the made up word for the tunnel that passes under the British Channel) as up until this point, I imagined a big underground highway that led from one country to the next.
The bus was led down a lane with high dividers, just like the ones you see on the side of the road when the Interstate is under construction, and then stopped at a red light. On the other side of the red light were what seemed like driveways leading into dozens of individual tunnels. I didn’t know it at the time, but as it turns out, vehicles board a gigantic train and that train shuttles dozens of vehicles and hundreds of people through the chunnel at one time. There is no massive chunnel highway. During transit, people can get out and walk around their cars, which are parked in a tidy line in what just seems like a long parking lot hallway.
So, eager to get on that chunnel train, we waited at the red light.
And waited, and waited. And waited.
The driver had missed the last chunnel train of the night!
To be continued…