Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Running with a Chocolate Croissant

As promised here is our story of getting from Paris to London. It promises to be entertaining to say the least.

As with all of our transportation between countries, we had purchased tickets ahead of time. At most train stations it seemed fairly common for the train to arrive just minutes before it was time to board and then leave within minutes of boarding. It was usually very quick and there was no need to arrive early, check in or wait at all. It was a lovely way to travel. On this particular trip we had planned to take the Chunnel from Paris to London on the EuroStar. We figured it would be the same as every other train we had taken in the last 12 days so we planned accordingly.

We arrived at the train station with 30 minutes to spare. Chris checked the boards and didn't see our platform listed which was pretty normal for being 30 minutes before departure. We strolled through the station and stopped to buy a chocolate croissant (because, it was my last chance to have one in Paris). We saw a sign that said EuroStar departures were upstairs. That seemed a little odd, but we decided to mosey our way up there and take a look.

We saw a crowd of people filling out customs forms and so I told Chris we should probably do the same. At that moment, a woman wearing a EuroStar uniform rushed up to our counter and asked, "Is anyone here taking the 7:13 train?" Chris said we were and she told us to stop what we were doing and hurry through customs. We had 5 minutes before they closed the doors. WHAT? Are you serious? We are so early!?!? Is what I was thinking, but we did as we were told. Confused as ever.

Once we got in line for customs another employee found us and said we needed to hurry, we now only had 2 minutes and still had to go through security! (We had not had to go through customs or security in any other country!) Another traveler informed us that EuroStar was pretty strict and usually didn't give refunds if you missed your train. Not the most encouraging news as we tried to understand how this had happened.

The customs worker was a very soft spoken man with a thick English accent speaking to me through a thick plate of glass. I could not understand a word he said and he wasn't making it any easier each time I said "WHAT?" like an ignorant American. Chris intervened and answered his questions. "What airport did we fly into in Rome?" -- like I even knew what that was when we got to Rome . . . and remembered it two weeks later.

Once we got through the mess of customs and our passports stamped we literally ran across the hall to security, slammed our bags, jackets, passports, tickets and even our spare change onto the conveyer belt to go through the metal detector. Then we had to scramble to pick up all of our stuff that had slipped through the cracks of the conveyer belt and make sure we had everything when another employee found us and said, "You need to run, the train is departing!"

I wanted to cry. There was no way I could run with this 20 pound backpack (which I had just slung over my shoulder without aligning it properly). But my husband raced down ahead of me on the descending moving walkway and I tried to follow behind making sure I didn't drop our tickets or our passports! I thought for sure I would sprain my ankle trying to run down this crazy contraption. (Picture it: You know those conveyer belt/moving walkways in airports that are usually fairly flat and parallel to the ground -- this was like that, but with the angle of an escalator. I'm sure if you were a kid, it would have been great fun to run down, but not for adult with back problems.)

We ran into the first train car we could and made our way to our seats (six or seven cars down) noticing all the businessmen and travelers looking at us as if they could tell we were first time travelers. As soon as our bags were stowed and we sat down, the train started moving. And all I could do was laugh. And try to catch my breath. We had made it.

I couldn't believe it.

As we traveled underground, I just sat back and marveled how God blessed us. Three different employees had helped us get on our train. They were watching over us. We were blessed.

We realized our mistake once we had gotten on the train. Our ticket clearly stated that we need to be board the train 30 minutes prior to departure to ensure enough time for security and customs. We missed that tiny detail when we printed off our tickets. 

It made me sick to think of what would have happened if we missed our train. Not only would we most likely had lost a lot of money, but we would have had to find somewhere to sleep! Things we were not prepared to do that evening.

Instead, God got us on our train -- and I had my chocolate croissant.

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