16.09.10 – Where in the world am I?

Whilst travelling, I kept getting questions about where am I from friends back home.

Today, I asked the same question of myself.

I got up at 7 this morning in Dover, to have a leisurely hearty breakfast and then walked for 30 minutes to the ferry dock to catch the Channel crossing at 10am. Whilst crossing, one can catch a panaromic view of the spectacular White Cliffs (had a most rewarding walk on top of the Eastern cliffs yesterday) from the P&O ferry, which unfortunately charges an obscene amount since it is the only company that carries foot passenger at the moment.

Reached Calais port at 1230 (France is an hour ahead) and took a bus to the train station. Asked about trains to Rouen just to find out there are no direct trains, and a change in Lille is needed. All in all, expect to arrive at Rouen only at 1940! Oh well, what can I do, so bought the ticket. Reached Lille, the northernmost city in France and did a blitzkrieg walk around the city centre (quite some impressive buildings) and managed to run back in time to catch the connecting train to Rouen. Sat on the train for about 2 hours…

And that’s how I came to this place I have never even heard of: Chauny.

“Bla bla bla… terminus”. Huh? This is the final stop? What about Rouen?

Where is this place? Is it in Normandy?

“No.”

Please show me on my map where am I?

“Between St Quentin and Noyon.”

As if I also know where these places are!

“There had been a switch in train routes today.”

What?!

“You have to go to Paris and then from there take the train to Rouen. You will arrive at Rouen at 1:19am.”

What?!?!

I want a refund.

“Can’t do a refund but can go to clientele servicio in Paris.”

What use is that?!

I want a ticket to go to Amiens today and another from Amiens to Rouen tomorrow (thinking I could perhaps stay the night in Amiens).

“Sorry, we can’t give a ticket for tomorrow.”

But if I reach Rouen so late I may not be able to get into the hotel because the hotel reception would be closed! Can I use your phone to call the hotel?

Was let into the office and was helped with dialling the numbers and the situation explained.

After several phone calls later, I changed hotels in Rouen, made new plans with my friend, and boarded a 2024 train to Paris Gare du Nord, where I arrived in the cool night’s air (it is cooler here than in London) with the Sacred Coeur on Montmatre in the near distance. Walked through the urine-stenched Parisienne underground, caught the RER E to Haussmann St Lazare, surfaced from the unglamorous underground, pondered on the sidewalk under the nightlights as to where the Gare St Lazare was until I met a smartly-dressed samaritan who was also walking to the Gare and then sat on a cold metal bench in the uninspiring Gare building waiting for the 2350 train to Rouen.

By the way, if Eurolines were still running the Dover-Rouen route, i would have reached Rouen in 2.5 hours.

And I’m not supposed to be in Paris till next week!

NB. Finally reached Rouen at 0130 17 Sept. Experiencing a deja vu moment…

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