Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Day 30: Paris -> London -> Home [Epilogue]

For our final day we stayed in the hotel as long as we could, watching South Park in French (which I could follow a surprising amount of, though it helps when I've seen it before). Eventually we had to shift out of the hotel, and we basically just set up camp in Gare du Nord until our train was due. Occasionally we'd venture outside the station for food, or for a toilet cheaper than the 75 cents one in the station (which, frankly, is taking the piss [no pun intended] unless it a hell of a nice toilet), and we'd get mobbed by the various beggars outside asking for change.

There are tons of people asking you for money in Paris. Probably the most outrageous I saw were the groups going round asking for money for deaf people. Originally I thought these people were legit, until I saw multiple groups in various locations, all the exact same ethnic appearance, age, and all female. If it was a genuine charity you'd be getting student helpers and the like, and you'd be a bit more officially dressed rather than just having some scrappy bits of paper on a clipboard. Plus I'm pretty sure you also wouldn't all be pretending to be deaf (which apparently involves being mute and grinning like a moron, whilst repeatedly shoving the paper in your face and pointing to where "DEAF" is untidily scribbled on the top). Surely proper charities for the deaf would be able to get a few non-deaf people to help out the good cause as well? Aside from the sheer audacity and dishonesty, these people are also asking for fairly big money. You might give pocket change to regular beggars and street performers, but these people want €5 or €10 notes.

Anyway, after an afternoon of reading and not doing much, we finally made our way through the crazy pseudo-airport-security section to the Eurostar lobby, and got our train. Given that we were now not really on holiday any more, trains and general transport had stopped being a respite from walking and seeing stuff, and were now back to merely transportation. I didn't really care for much else besides getting back home at this point.

We arrived at London in the Kings Cross international and walked to Euston to take our respective trains home. This also involved Nick rushing around to find a photo booth, because he'd booked his train ticket to Birmingham without a valid railcard, and totally didn't listen to me when I told him you needed a passport-sized photo to get a new railcard if you wanted to do it at the station office.

I also had drama, because my train home was cancelled. I spend a month catching trains around Europe, almost entirely without hitch, and my final train back home was cancelled. This meant I could either wait for the next Liverpool train, which risked also being cancelled, or I could find another way back. I opted for another way back, which involved getting the Glasgow-bound train. Right as it left the platform there was an announcement over the train intercom about how this was a specific express train, how off-peak tickets weren't valid, and how tickets to other destinations were also invalid. I'd asked the guy on the platform as I'd gotten on if I could use my ticket for the train, and he'd said yes, but I was still bricking it until the ticket inspector came that my ticket wouldn't be valid, and that I'd have to pay the full £100 fare or whatever.

Turns out that I was fine, because my booked train had been cancelled (I'd have been screwed otherwise), and I got home without further issue. And done!

The whole trip of 30 days has seen 13 cities in 9 countries, covering around 4300 miles (just under 7000km). Reflecting back, I really enjoyed it, and it'd be fantastic to do it again when I'm older, especially if I can live a bit more luxury and stay in nice hotels and the like.

For how we did it, there's not much I'd really change. I think with the benefit of hindsight I'd probably have not bothered with Italy, and would have gone somewhere else instead. I enjoyed Italy, but it was quite pricey, and the trains were fairly awkward because they were almost always full, and without reservations (which were quite expensive) you'd struggle to get anywhere.

I also think that we made the right choice spending around two days in every city. It meant that the days were fairly intense, but it allowed us to see quite a lot of each city whilst still seeing tons of place. There were a lot of people who we met on the road who were inter-railing and spending four or five days in each place, and I'm glad we weren't doing anything like that. Four or five days doesn't really push you to be that intensive each day, and you'll either see the same amount of stuff spread over an unnecessarily long time, or you'll run out of stuff to see for the last couple of days (I don't feel like I left any cities with things I really wanted to see but which we didn't have time for). Plus the main focus of the trip is in the interrail pass, and really you're only getting good use of that if you're seeing tons of different places.

The trip also educated me on just how much it costs to go on holiday - something I'd not really had previously because I'd only ever really been on family holidays where most stuff is just paid for by my parents. Accommodation and food really start to add up abroad, even staying in hostels, and €30-40 a day just to cover basic living starts to add up really fast when you're out for four weeks.

Still, I had a great time, I saw a lot of cool shit, and I've given myself quite a few places in Europe that I'd really like to revisit when I'm a bit older and more cultured (specifically Brugge, Munich, Vienna and Paris). If you're prepared to save up for it, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone considering giving it a go next summer.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed that and laughed at the last bit about costs - and that was just for YOU! Well in.