While there are several options to travel to Paris from London, I decided to buy a ticket on the Eurostar.
The night before my Solo European Adventure was the last choir tour concert in Ascot. Instead of staying with host families for the night, I shared a taxi cab with four other choir members to London Heathrow Airport. From Heathrow, I shared a hotel room with Lollie who was traveling back via Stansted Airport the next day, while I was going to find my way from the hotel back to Heathrow and get on the London Tube to St. Pancras.
This blog picks up my solo adventure from the time I travelled alone from St. Louis to Keflavik then Keflavik to Standsted Airport. From Standsted, I rode a coach bus to Central London and then took the London Tube to a hotel in South Kensington to meet the church choir tour group. Below is a snapshot of my wandering plans for my 1st afternoon in Paris.
Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep more than 1 hour because we didn’t get into a hotel room until the wee hours of the morning, and then I was trying to fix the zipper of my backpack until about 4am and by the time I slept it was time to wake up.
Can you imagine being half asleep and navigating your way around a foreign country?
Travel Error #1 – I knew there was a local bus to Heathrow, so I stood at the bus stop near the hotel. Why did I not think to arrange a shuttle? it may have been an oversight due to sleep deprivation or the hotel shuttle wasn’t running at 6 a.m. After 30 mins. passed and the double-decker bus to Heathrow didn’t arrive, I asked someone if I was on the right bus stop, they said no and then directed me to the other side and I waited another 30 mins.
Finally made it to Heathrow and looked at the Tube map to find the Piccadilly Line. The map showed 26 stops to St. Pancras. Then, I realized I wasn’t going to make the 8:19 train to Paris. Not letting this discourage me, I followed signs and boarded the Piccadilly Line and cat-napped throughout the ride but looked up once in awhile making sure I didn’t miss my stop. Once I arrived at St. Pancras, I found the Eurostar ticket booth and paid extra for the next train.
There was just enough time for me to walk to the Eurostar platforms, where I stood in line and got my passport stamped at the international boarder before boarding my train. As soon as I was settled on my seat I slept as the train went underwater to cross the English Channel. When I woke up, the train was above ground and in a few minutes the train pulled in to Paris Nord.
Yay! I made it to Paris. It was lunch time and I was hungry so I walked into the restaurant across the street to Café Nord. The lamb lunch plate was alright, I had to send it back because it was too rare when I cut into it. Once the plate came back I was able to consume and finish the dish. It was enough nourishment for what I was about to do next.
Because the trains were on strike when I was making travel plans, the only mode of transportation that fitted my budget was the Flix Bus. My plan was to wander the streets of Paris and find Eiffel Tower then linger awhile until it was time to find the bus station and board an overnight bus to Florence, Italy.
Travel Error #2 – I went back inside Paris Nord and looked at my printed directions but it wasn’t helpful. When I tried to read the Paris Metro map, it was too confusing. Or perhaps I was too overwhelmed to decipher the map. So I decided to find the bus station instead, and if I had time I’d try to find the Eiffel Tower. After looking around, I asked one of the station employees if they spoke English, and if they could tell me which train to catch to Bercy Seine station. They pointed me in the general direction and then I bought my subway ticket.
While waiting on the platform, I looked around again and approached a professionally dressed woman who looked trust-worthy. I asked if I was on the right platform to board the train going to Bercy Seine. She said “Oui.” Once the train arrived, I followed her into the train and when the train arrived at my stop she told me to exit the train.
Looked around again for a station employee and asked where is Bercy Seine bus station. He told me to get out of the station, turn left and follow the road to Bercy Seine bus station. There I was, unintentionally wandering the streets of Paris, praying that I’d find the bus station. After asking three Parisians I saw on the street, I found the Bercy Seine bus station. Why didn’t I use my GPS?
Travel Error #3 – I didn’t buy a European SIM Card and was unable to connect to any free WiFi, and therefore my phone didn’t provide any navigation around Paris and for the rest of my adventure. That’s why I was at the mercy of strangers.
Once I was there, I didn’t find the Flix Bus terminal. After asking around, I found out that the Flix Bus terminal was across the park. When I found it, I was shocked and not prepared to see the Flix Mega Bus Bercy Seine terminal. I remember thinking the Boston, Chicago, New York, and St. Louis bus stations and terminals look beautiful in comparison to this station. It was very hot that day and I felt tired and miserable so I went back to one of the cafés I passed along the way to the horrible looking bus station, to enjoy a delicious mango dessert while relaxing for a little bit.
It was nice to sit and watch everyone around me. Needless to say, my motivation to find the Eiffel Tower went away. My visit to this Paris landmark will have to wait until I come back in a few days. My plans for the afternoon were diverted due to lack of energy caused by sleep deprivation. However, I’m thrilled to find my way around Paris and the Metro even if all I did for the afternoon was wandering in Paris and sitting in cafés amongst tourists and Parisians. Next destination, Florence, Italy.
- Buy SIM card for the country or continent I’m visiting
- Pick up city and train maps the moment I arrive before wandering
This ends Day 2 of my solo travel experience wandering London, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, and Reykjavik on my 1st Solo European Adventure in June 2018.