I went to Paris in January 2020 to attend a weekend workshop with Valérie Jardin. I had learnt of her work from one of her books and following on had found this weekend workshop in Paris from her website.
Our cancelled cruise from Dubai to India made it possible to attend the workshop.
Thursday 16th January: To Paris on Eurostar
I caught the train from Farnborough into London Waterloo then the Underground to St Pancras. There I picked up a sandwich and a drink for later on the Eurostar.
Boarding was open for my train to Paris and after immigration checks (UK and French) I quickly went through security and found myself in an almost empty Eurostar waiting area – I was that early. While I waited I had a coffee and the last hot sausage sandwich from the buffet. I watched as the seats all around me filled up with passengers. Their suitcases and carry-ons easily dwarfed mine.
When the train was called for boarding I joined the crowd as it surged forwards only to find that one set of doors were closed. Everyone was being crushed going thorough just one set of doors. There were children in this crush and luckily near the doors everyone seemed to slow down and relax and make space. At the top of the travellator I walked along looking for my coach. The coaches only have one door to the platform that open into a large open space. My seat was on the third row down and being early on the train I had lots of room on the luggage rack to hoist up my suitcase.
By the time we left St Pancras the carriage was full. My seat was next to the aisle -bad planning. Down the carriage the tables were being used as foot rests – a reminder next time I travel on here to bring antiseptic wipes.
The journey passed without incident.
The Gare du Nord
At the Gare du Nord I joined the throng leaving the train and came out onto the concourse.
Opposite I could see a sign for the RER pointing to a down escalator. I walked along a wide underground area that seemed to be as big as the concourse above. At one of the ticket machines I bought my Zone 1 ticket and followed the signs to the RER platforms, through a turnstile and then down an escalator.
It was by now rush hour and everyone was surging around around me as I kept stopping truing to work out which of the down escalators I needed from this large underground hall. I simply couldn’t see any signs for the lines I wanted. So I asked one of the many red jacketed ‘helpers’ and was told to look for platform 44.
Finding the correct RER line
Now here’s the problem, I could see 40-33 and 45-47 but platform 44 eluded me. So I asked again and was pointed to a staircase. Down below me the platform was packed with commuters, I guess I needed the platform that full of people and joined the crowd 4 or 5 rows back from the platform edge. The train came and it was full. Passengers left and then the crowds surged forwards. I was then one row back from the double doors. The commuters behind me clearly didn’t want to wait and I was literally pushed onto the train, rucksack, suitcase and all.
After the doors closed an English lady at the side of me was being crushed and after some manoeuvring we managed to make space for her. The next station was just as busy and I was pushed away from the door. The next two stations emptied the carriage and after Notre Dame the carriage was virtually empty. Next stop was Luxembourg.
Where I left the carriage there were no signs for the exit. I asked a couple walking by and they pointed to my right and I made my way along the long platform. Up the stairs I came to a cramped hall with barriers.I put my ticket in and it duly popped out, I turned to get my case and the barrier closed. There were no station staff so I had another problem being new to the Parisian commuter network.
I did get through the barriers – don’t ask – and made my way out onto the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Ahead I could see police barriers and could heart a chanting crowd. As I neared where I would turn towards the hotel I could see the crowds outside the Palais de Luxembourg. If I had turned the other way on the platform I would have left the station much further along the boulevard and close to where I turned up the Rue Soufflot. Across the Rue Soufflot, the police had set up a barrier and were not letting any vehicles up towards the Pantheon.
Hotel de Senlis
The Hotel de Senlis is up a side street up from the Rue Soufflot. After checking in I went into the smallest lift that I can remember with just enough room for my bags and I.
After unpacking I went for a walk to find the hotel where I would be meeting Valérie Jardin the next day for the start of the workshop. To get to the Hotel des Grands Hommes I had to walk up Rue Soufflot and go to the right when I reached the Place du Pantheon.
I passed street furniture decorated with paintings of some of the famous people buried in the Pantheon.
Here’s the side view of the Pantheon from outside the hotel.
It was now nearly 6 pm and as I walked down the Rue Soufflot I looked for some where to eat.