We all make wrong turns, get lost. But somehow, when you live in a country that doesn’t speak your same language you seem to find yourself in more of these situations… than say when you are in the town you grew up in.
Last week my family and I were headed to London for a trip of bonding, memories, and discoveries. We were planning on taking the Eurostar to get from Paris to London. This is the best way to get to London from Paris. Two hour train ride and you are dropped off right in the center of the city.
The key is, you must first get to the train station, that takes you to the train, that goes to London. On any normal day, this would probably be a simple task to accomplish. Like anytime I do anything in France, I give myself extra time to arrive at the train station. I have learned that nothing goes as smoothly as originally planned- and simple tasks quickly become more than I bargained for.
I had it set. We would wake up and catch the 7:00 am train to Gare de Nord. From there we would take the escalator up two levels and arrive at Eurostar and take the train to London at 9:00 am. Plenty of time and arrive blissfully in London at 10:00 am. I could see Big Ben already.
Our trip started out exactly as planned we boarded the train from my town and headed to the city. Forty minutes later we arrived at Chatelet les halles. When we arrived, everyone who was left on our cart, exited the train. This was very normal for this stop. It is a main stop in the center of the city, with lots of connections so it would make sense, for all the people to have exited the train. While my family sat there for a few minutes waiting for the train to depart, I briefed them that we only had one train stop left till we arrived at our stop.
The train doors closed and the train began moving once again. The only problem was the train was now going in THE WRONG DIRECTION!
The train began moving backwards ! “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I yelled as my entire family of 6 begins trying to push our luggage through the narrow seats and make it to the train doors. The train is moving faster now and is in the land of nowhere and utter darkness. It doesn’t pull up to a stop continues to go out to the middle of nowhere. “ To the place where trains go to die.”
As I begin to panic and my family is looking at me for what to do- I wonder where the heck we are going, and how the heck we are going to get back to where we need to be? I see a red box with the words “Emergency” and decide that this is my emergency and pull the switch!
The conductor comes on to the intercom and we have a conversation something like this:
Conductor: “C’est Qui?” (Who’s there?)
Moi: “ STOP! STOP! PLEASE PLEASE STOP!”
Conductor: “Quoi?!?” (What?!?)
Dad: “MONSIEUR! MONSIEUR! Stop the train! STOP THE TRAIN!!!!!!”
Conductor: “Ce n’est pas possible. Cinq minutes. (it’s not possible. 5 minutes)
Moi : “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease stop the train. Unless you are going to London, which I highly doubt you are. We are going to miss our train to London. “
Conductor: “C’est n’est pas mon problème” (That’s not my problem)
Moi : What do we do ???
Conductor: “Cinq minutes.” (5 minutes)
We stand waiting impatiently and in wonderment on where this train is actually headed and when will it come to a stop. After probably 5 minutes, though it seemed like an eternity and that we were so far away from our train to London, we mine as well have been in Germany- the train came to a stop.
The train coming to a stop at a platform would have been too much to ask. But because our train was taken to the train grave yard- we were stuck with 6 people, 6 suitcases, train tracks and lots of snow to be trudged upon.
We finally met the fate of facing our conductor, who leads us through the land of nowhere, to another train station, stopping along the way to fill up his coffee cup, and chat with a pal or two along the way. He ensured us we have 5 minutes till the next train would come so we had time. We make it to another platform; the signs say the next train is headed to Gare de Nord. Our original destination of choice.
We make our way to Gare De Nord. This time on a train that actually went to Gare de Nord, not to the place where trains die, and began our process of customs, to be cleared to enter the British land. Customs was full of passport stamps, forms, and metal detectors. We are running for the train platform just as the train is closing its doors and pulling away.
We missed the train.
Thankfully we were put on standby and able to catch the next train leaving in an hour for London. Exhausted, I sit and wait for our next train. I couldn’t wait to get to the land where everything I saw I could read, and where every word spoken I could understand. Let’s just hope this train actually goes to the center of London- and not to the place that we no longer speak of.
*this story is not my own, I took the account and wrote it on behalf of my beloved friend and her experience this past weekend.