Sunday 15th December 2019 – AND FINALLY …

… I made it back home.

And the journey was exciting, but nothing like as exciting as the outward trip.

Once again last night I was in bed early with every intention of watching a film. But before I went to do so, I carried on listening to the radio programme to which I had been listening before I slipped beneath the sheets.

And that’s how I found myself a couple of hours later. Out like a light of course. So I switched off the laptop and went back to sleep.

During the night there had been a few voyages. And strange ones they were too.

There was a fancy dress party taking place and I had decided to go as a woman, don’t ask me why because I don’t have a clue either. I had the dress and tights everything like that and I went out all dressed up and people were looking at me rather strangely as you could imagine. But I ran out of time and didn’t have the make-up so I had to do without the make-up which spoiled the whole effect as you can imagine. But I went outside and there were all these people outside, cheering me on, men were pretending to chat me up, so on. There was Malcolm Madeley (!) and he clearly didn’t recognise me, something like that and he made some kind of offensive remark. I said “you want to get a grip, Malcolm” to which he suddenly stopped and disappeared. He realised that it was me. I had to walk round to Aunt Mary’s. I knocked on her door and the guy who was with her who was a guy a lot younger than she was but was something to do with our family from somewhere or other and these two little kids about 3 or 4 came out. We were talking about some kind of court case involving these kids. Aunt Mary was saying “well now they are here it’s only 5 weeks to go before this case”. But as these kids walked out of the step there was this pram coming the other way. It hit them and they flew through the air and actually landed on top of the pram. I thought “these kids are going to get hurt. They are always doing these kinds of thing, always getting hurt, all kinds of stupid accidents, breaking their arms, breaking their legs, something. But this time they were all right which was quite a surprise. Then we had to hobble off – me hobbling on my high-heeled shoes back towards picking up my car to go to this do again but it was this thing with the kids that was so surprising. And I’ve no idea what that was all about at all.
Later that night I was with someone last night and it might have been Nerina but it might not and we were in Northern Wyoming, somewhere like that. On our way to visit some battleground, somewhere like that of the Native Americans. The road was a really difficult road. It started off being a decent road but was all gravelly, a dirt road as you might expect. We were behind this lorry and there was a car coming the other way, a big jeep-type thing swerving in and out of the traffic and he nearly hit us going past this lorry. We were wide-eyed about that. The GPS was talking to us about this road, giving us a talk. We suddenly breated the brow of this hill and came to where all these dressed stones were, in a pile like some kind of wall. It was telling us that this was where the fort was this was the barbecue was, all this kind of thing .We dropped down the hill into the village by the river and there were ancient railway locomotives on display there. We went inside the museum and there were all beds there with people sleeping in them like they might have done 100 years ago, 2 or 3 to a bed, babies in the bed, all this kind of thing and newspaper reports about “how my parents are going back to the UK after visiting us”. It turned out that we were now in Newfoundland and Labrador for some unknown reason and we were giving a tour of this museum with all of these toys and artefacts going back 100 years or something and life must have been really primitive for people living there in those days. So we had a tour of this museum with these old toys and old dirty beds and dirty people sleeping in them and I remember saying to whoever I was with that we ought to be going as we have a lot to do and in any case I wanted to see these old steam locomotives but she was busy engaged there talking to people and she didn’t really want to come away.

But despite all of this, I was soon up and about when the alarm went off at 06:00. Beat the second alarm by a country mile.

First task was to make my butties because I had a feeling that this was going to be a long day. Tidying up everything and packing my bags and collecting up my shopping, I headed out for the station.

am96 multiple unit gare de louvain leuven railway station belgium december 2019I arrived at the railway station about 06:50 and didn’t have long to wait for a train.

There was a direct train at about 07:20 direct to Brussels but there was an earlier one from Genk at 07:08 that goes via the airport and on the basis that a bird in the hand is worth any number in the bush I leapt aboard that one.

It’s one of the AM96 multiple units built by Bombardier and delivery to the SNCB started in 1996. They have a peculiar characteristic in that the driver’s cab pivots round 90° so that when two or more of these multiple units are coupled together, the passengers can go through from one unit to the next.

My train to Paris was at 08:43 so I had about an hour to kill. I drew some cash out of the bank and then bought my raisin buns for breakfast from Carrefour.

Thalys PBKA 4302 gare du midi brussels belgium december 2019 I didn’t have to wait long because the train came in quite early and we were ushered up to the platform.

It’s one of the Belgian SNCB PBKA (Paris Brussels Cologne Amsterdam) train sets, number 4302 upon which we have travelled on previous occasions. These PBKA train sets are becoming somewhat long in the tooth these days, being first delivered in 1995, but they still rattle along at an impressive 300 kilometres per hour when there’s nothing in the way to slow them down.

While we were waiting to move off, I had a quick look on the internet. The 13:54 to Granville was still down as running so I hoped that it would still be listed by the time I reached Montparnasse.

Bang on time we were, pulling into the Gare du Nord. I wandered over to the SNCF offices where they checked the trains. The 13:54 is still listed as running for the moment, but there’s nothing else going anywhere near Granville now for the rest of the day so it’s that one or nothing.

The girl stamped my ticket to Caen to effectively prove that I’d been to the SNCF offices (one thing that I’ve learnt since living in Europe is that European officials love paperwork and rubber stamps so you should never ever miss out on an opportunity to have a rubber stamp put on a document whenever there’s a crisis looming).

hotel terminus nord rue de dunkerque paris franceWell over three hours to go before my train, and the day wasn’t too bad out there so I decided to walk.

Unleashing the big Nikon D500 I took a test shot of the big hotel, the Hotel Terminus Nord, just across the road from the station.

There is also this rather bizarre statue here too, just outside the station and I’ve absolutely no idea what it’s supposed to represent. I imagine that it’s some kind of winged beast, but that’s about it.

river seine paris franceAccording to the route map that I consulted prior to setting off it was something like 5.5 kilometres as the crow flies between the Gare du Nord and the Gare Montparnasse.

But the way that I was planning to go, it worked out (I checked later on the fitbit) at 7.5 kilometres because I wasn’t going to miss out on a few of the sights while I was in the vicinity. Paris isn’t my favourite city – far from it in fact – but there are still places to see that ought not to be missed.

notre dame paris franceLike Notre Dame for example.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it doesn’t half look different now. On 15th April 2019 it caught fire and was very badly damaged. The roof has gone and it took the spire with it. It’s really in a sad condition like now and so here’s hoping that like a phoenix it will rise again from the ashes.

The estimates are that it will cost billions of Euros to restore it, although a considerable part of that money will be to restore parts of the cathedral that were in poor condition prior to the fire.

motor bike sidecar rue de buci paris franceAcross the Pont Neuf or “Bridge number 9” we’re in the Latin Quarter, so puer amat mensam to you, hey?

My intention was to go for a wander around for half an hour but I completely forgot, being sidetracked by this beautiful outfit here. A horizontal twin motorbike, which might have been an elderly BMW or a more modern Urals or Cossack, with a very period sidecar attached.

It’s not the kind of thing that you see on the streets every day and it took me completely by surprise.

inflatable polar bears boulevard st germain paris franceSomething else that took me by surprise was on the corner of the Boulevard St Germain.

It goes without saying that on my travels I’ve seen plenty of polar bears, but never one on a street corner in Paris. We’ve seen actresses standing over the air grids of the Paris Metro and seen their skirts disappear in the updraught, but an inflatable polar bear family is something else.

It made me quite nostalgic for the High Arctic and I wonder how I’m going to get there next year, having had a little disagreement with some people

tour de montparnasse rue de rennes paris franceBy now I was starting to flag a little, so it was with an enormous sigh of relief that I caught sight of the Tour de Montparnasse at the end of the street as I rounded the corner into the rue de Rennes.

It seems to have slipped my mind to mention that I was not actually travelling light today. I had my rucksack which was quite heavy anyway with this and that, and a carrier bag with with a pile of heavy shopping in it.

And even though I can see the Tour de Montparnasse, my walk is far from over. The railway station is a good few hundred yards behind the tower and then I have this enormously long hike all the way down the station to reach the Vaugirard annexe.

electric vehicle charging points rue de rennes paris franceWalking down the rue de Rennes I came across this wonderful sight.

Definitely a sign of the times, this is. With the European Union promising to phase out the manufacture of the internal combustion engine by 2040, there needs to be more electric vehicles on the streets. But there won’t be unless the authorities provide places where the owners can recharge them.

And so this charging station here shows how far along that road the French authorities are in this respect – in great contrast to how they are in several other countries, including the UK.

gare montparnasse boulevard de vaugirard paris franceOn that shocking note I went past the Tour de Montparnasse and there in the distance behind it is the Gare Montparnasse.

The original station, the one where the Granville train failed to stop all those years ago and went hurling across the concourse and out of the end wall into the street, was actually on the site of the tower. And that explains why when the metro from the Gare du Nord throws me out at the “Montparnasse” metro station, I still have this very long underground walk to the Montparnasse railway station.

Yes, they moved the railway station but they didn’t move the metro station with it

Looking at my watch, it was 12:00 or thereabouts when I reached the Gare Montparnasse. 90 minutes or so it had taken me, and that was really impressive considering that I’m not at all well and I had my heavy load to lug around with me.

Mind you, it’s not something that I want to do too often because I was pretty nigh exhausted after that. I was pretty much at it non-stop, without a rest. Next time I do it, if there is a next time there will have to be a pause-café somewhere along the route.

There was a long wait for the train but we were allowed on board earlier then usual. And so we had a longer wait for the train to leave, seeing as its start was delayed by 15 minutes.

Without a ticket I had to sit anywhere in a vacant seat. And so of course it goes without saying that it was reserved to someone else so I had to move.

The ticket collector came by so we had a chat about my ticket, in a delightful conversation where I spoke in French and he replied in English.

alstom regiolis gare de granville railway station manche normandy franceAnd that was one thing.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that having gone for time after time after time in the past without having my ticket checked, it was checked on every train today. Probably a grève de zèle or “work to rule” going on too. So it was just as well that I’d been to the SNCF office to declare myself a “stranded traveller” and have my ticket rubber-stamped by an official.

After all of that I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we reached Vire. And we pulled into Granville bang-on time despite the extra stops that we had and the 15-minute delay.

thora port de granville harbour manche normandy franceHaving left the station and feeling surprisingly fit considering my long walk today, I walked back through the town to the apartment.

While I was going up the rue des Juifs I looked over the wall and there tied up at the unloading quay is our old friend Thora. She’s come in on another trip from the Channel Islands.

This evening I’ve not done much. Finished off the falafel with some veg and cheese sause, and I declined the opportunity to go for a walk. I reckon that with 162% of my daily activity carried out, I’ve done enough. No wonder I was exhausted.

But now I can’t sleep. So I’ll probably be awake for ages but we’ll see how it hangs out. I have a busy day tomorrow.

And as an aside, there were plenty more photos from where these came from that haven’t made it onto this page. If you want to see them, which I hope you do, you need to go to THIS PAGE.

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