London 2000-12-12

Keele- It was only this past June that I stood on top of the hill that overlooks Barnes waiting for the number 18 bus and thought that the next time I return to Keele, it will be at least ten years down the road and that I will have hard time explaining to the wife and the complaining kids why I have such fond memories of this place. Well, I returned in just over six months and it was pretty much as I left it. Not much to make me think I left or that I returned, because eating chips and cheese seemed to be the natural thing to do. I didnít have my old room in Barnes though, and staying on Lauraís floor reminded me that I was a guest here, but there were enough familiar faces on campus to delude me into thinking I was a student there.

Stratford- No snow in Shakespeare country, and it was too warm to think that Christmas was approaching. Christopher still had the decorations up and the high street was busy. They donít sell sushi rice at the Safeway.

Edinburgh- Made excellent time to Edinburgh, the opposite fate of most trains because of the current track restrictions. I sat in Waverly station reading my newspapers, while waiting for Dom to finish work at the University.

Edinburgh to London Euston- The train delays finally caught up with me here. The journey took four hours more than normal, and most of the train was fairly cranky by the end of it all. The nineteen-year-old who sucked her thumb while she slept got off at Birmingham, and the train was pure London by the end.

London Victoria Coach Terminal to Paris- With twenty minutes left before departure, Lesley and I learned that we were expected to have checked in an hour before the bus leaves. We joined a frantic line of continent-bound passengers and watched the two coaches destined for Paris leave. The on-site manager isolated the seven of us who had reservations, but were not on a bus and apologized for being short on vehicles. She then ran about giving us boarding passes for the coach to Munich and radioing ahead to the coach heading for Madrid and asked it to wait at Dover. We took the Munich bus to the ferry, boarded the Madrid bus, crossed the channel and were then dropped off at the Paris Coach Terminal, only a half-hour late. The Munich and Madrid bound passengers were more inconvenienced than we were.

Paris- A weekend in Paris, how fabulous. Met Volkmar and Frank at Gare de líEst and then spent the rest of the time walking and lounging about in the hostel. We ate Panini for almost every meal, saw the big name sites and some other favourites for at least the second time. A couple of my intentions were to do some Christmas shopping and see the lights along the Champs Elysée. I wound up only getting a coat for myself. Lesley and I Discovered that the coffee and Pain au Chocolat at the second level of the Eiffel Tower is decent and not as marked up in price as one would expect under the circumstances.

London Heathrow- The tube that I was on broke down, and we had to switch at Holbron. I was desperate to get to the Airport, since the slow pace of the train was putting me in jeopardy of missing my flight. I had previously not been very bothered by the delays, but the possibility of not making it home was terrifying. Raced to the check-in, only to find that the flight was delayed by more than hour. Relieved but still bathed in anxious sweat, I waited in the ridiculously long queue for security control before using the shower in the departure lounge. The refreshment helped me repress the hatred I have for Heathrow, especially Terminal 3.