Despite all odds and our best efforts, we successfully left Paris today.
Everyone was tired and moving a little slow. We finally got all of our bags packed and left our flat running late, but only a little late. We walked ten minutes to the metro station to take the subway to the train station. We knew that once we arrived at the Gare du Nord train station we still had to collect our luggage from the lockers in the basement, head up to the second floor to pass through immigration, and board our train, which was scheduled to depart at 9:35 a.m.
Right before we headed into the subway, Lydie announced (with some chagrin) that she forgot her retainer at our flat. Of course, we had already locked the keys to the flat in the flat per the instructions of the owner. You should know that Lydie also left her retainer in the United States when we went to Germany to start our trip. It took more than a month for her retainer to finally arrive. Now, I’d like to say that I handled Lydie’s announcement calmly and constructively. I’d like to say I’m in my late 20’s. I’d like to say that I’m 6’2″. I’d like to say that that I can dunk. The problem is that none of these things are true.
We had no choice but to continue on to Gare du Nord. We got our luggage from the lockers and headed upstairs with our 8 suitcases, 5 shoulder bags, 3 backpacks, and 2 yoga mats to go through British immigration. The immigration official gave us a careful review. He asked what we would be doing in the UK. I told him that I was a professor on sabbatical. He looked me skeptically, which was weird since I *was* wearing my tweed coat. The one with the elbow patches. I stroked my beard thoughtfully, fearing that I should have brought a pipe just in case. Still not convinced, he looked at our passports until he got to Lydie’s passport. He and I had the following exchange (please read with a thick Bri’ish accent for him):
Him: “Is she named after Johnny Lydon?”
Me: “I’m sorry?”
Him: “Johnny Lydon. From the Sex Pistols.”
Me: “Um, no.”
Him: “I’ve got a grandson named after Johnny Lydon.”
Me: “Oh, wonderful. She is named after her grandmother, whose last name was Lydon.”
Him: “Oh, alright. Off you go.”
He also claimed that I should have applied for a visa, which did not match my internet research. He also said that some of his colleagues might have given us trouble because, he claimed, we didn’t have the right paperwork. So, I guess we have the Sex Pistols to thank for sailing through UK immigration.
We headed towards the train, somewhat surprised at the lack of other passengers. It was at this point that someone told us that the train was scheduled to depart at 9:13, not 9:35. We had barely made the train. Fortunately, we hadn’t known how close we were to missing it, or I probably would have lost a few more hairs off my head and years off the end of my life. We settled in, and in no time at all were off. The trip was uneventful. There’s really nothing to see in the Chunnel. If you close your eyes and hum a bit, you’ll get an idea of what it was like.
After just a couple of hours, we were in England! We arrived at the St. Pancras terminal outside of London.
To get to Woodstock, where we are staying for the next few months, we had to transfer to another train station, the Marleybone station. No problem, right? London has a subway system, and St. Pancras is right next to the King’s Cross Underground station. Wrong. First off, some of the tube lines were closed for maintenance. We also had to change lines to get to the Marleybone. And the Underground is not handicap accessible. There are lots of stairs. Multiple times we had to leave the luggage with one of the girls, position the other up or down a flight of stairs and shuttle luggage between them. Eventually, though, we made it to Marleybone, where we collapsed in some chairs and got some food and coffee.
We arrived in Oxford, and transferred to a bus, which took us to Woodstock.
Once in Woodstock, we walked a short distance to Brown’s Lane.
From there, it was an easy walk to Number 8, which would be our home for the next three months.
It had been a long day, but we made it (minus one retainer). We celebrated with dinner at one of the pubs just up the street, where I had what might have been the best chicken and ham pie ever made.
We ended the night relaxing by the fire in our new house.
As my buddy Billy Shakespeare says, “All’s well that ends well!”