Written at 11:00 PM on 10-24-06 in Oxford, England
I woke up the next day, rather reluctantly, and finished getting everything packed up. For a fourth day in a row, I missed the hostel’s breakfast. I preferred the bakery’s food anyway, and I had an extra ten euros to get rid of before I headed back to the UK. After acquiring breakfast (and a baguette for lunch), I headed off for the metro station.
I didn’t have any problem getting to the Gare Nord, Paris’ northern train station from which I’d be leaving. I’d picked up a ticket to London on my way home from the Luvre the previous day. This was an expensive ticket. Even with a eurail discount, it still cost me 75 euros; it might have been cheaper to fly. I preferred trains, though, because they were usually a lot less trouble to get on and off of. Oh, but I was wrong.
I knew I had to arrive half an hour early for check-in, but what I did not realize was the extensive screening process one had to go through to get on a train to London. What made it worse was that about halfway through the process, as I was about to have my passport checked, an alarm went off. Quickly the official who was about to view my passport put on a policeman’s coat and ushered myself and the other passengers back through the ticket gates. Other officers joined the effort and soon there was an announcement that all those on our train were to exit the train station and wait.
Well, if that’s how it was going to be—then I was just going to go get myself a coffee! I did that and by the time I’d sat down and started the drink, things seemed to be moving again. I took my coffee with me and rejoined the line, which had now quadrupled in length. I had no fears about missing the train, however, because if I did, then another fifty passengers would as well. I had also arrived early so by the time I got in line for the second time, I still had a half hour to go.
After having my ticket checked by a human and by a machine, and having my passport checked twice and going through a metal detect, I was in another line waiting to board the train. This line disintegrated utterly, however, just as soon as boarding commenced. I don’t think it was a British thing—so I can only assume it was French—but everyone that had formed into a neat line rushed forward into a blob. Likewise, people who had been sitting perched near the entrance seemed to have no compunctions about cutting in front of about 95% of the people waiting patiently. I’d grown accustomed to this tendency, but it still irked me a bit; I suppose it seems disrespectful and rude, but that’s just me imposing my own cultural views, and perhaps that’s not fair.
The train ride took about three hours and included gaining back the hour I had lost when I left the UK. I spent most of the time reading. When I got to London’s Waterloo station, I had a momentary navigational crisis, but soon I found out that I needed to go to the Paddington train station on the Bakerloo metro line. That was all I had to know. I took the metro (my backpack was beginning to chafe at this point) and arrived at the station only minutes before a train departed for Oxford. I quickly got a ticket from one of the automatic ticket machines and then hurried to board.
The train from London to Oxford took about an hour; again I spent the time reading. When I arrived, I knew my hostel’s address, but I didn’t have directions. Fortunately, there was a map at the train station (and so what if it was a bus-route map) and I was able to navigate the difficult two-minute trek to the hostel. The hostel was relatively cheap, better than I would’ve paid in London. The Oxford Backpackers seemed like a pretty cool place, but I wasn’t really concerned with that by the time I arrived. I was tired, and so after a short bit of reading, I dozed off in my bed until about 7PM. When I awoke, I was hungry and craving something substantial (and not just a baguette). I headed off to a place recommended by the reception—O’Neals—and ordered a burger and beer. An Irish pub, O’Neal’s was a pretty cool place, but once I finish, I decided to head back. I returned, sat down in the common room, and began catching up on my blog, which brings me to this moment.
Three days until I’m back. Cheers.