London, Day 3 – Off to Paris

October 4th, 2012 – Thursday

We woke up this morning at a more normal time and hung out in the hotel room for a bit before heading out for breakfast. It was a pretty nice morning, slightly cold but still very pleasant:

Nice London Morning
Pleasant morning

Today we were adventurous and went to a cafe about a block away from the hotel. There, we had scrumptious full English breakfasts (we both agreed they were better than the ones from the day before), and the coffee that came with my breakfast was once again the white variant. I find it very interesting how different people can refer to different things with the same name. We are all used to our own lives in our own geographical locations, thinking that ours is the standard. There’s a sort of pride to it, like growing up Cantonese vs. Mandarin. In our family when we say “speak Chinese” we mean “speak Cantonese”. In our cousin’s family “speak Chinese” means “speak Mandarin”. I will admit, sometimes I think being Cantonese is better than being Mandarin. 😉

White Coffee with Breakfast
White coffee with breakfast…
Breakfast
And… breakfast

(Astute readers may notice that I’ve posted these breakfasts before, back when I was torturing myself. No matter, you can never get enough good food.)

The entire breakfast at the cafe was under 10 pounds, less than half of what we paid at Garfunkel’s the day before. Ouch. Maybe because the Garfunkel’s was attached to the hotel, it had hotel prices. I don’t know, are mom and pop places always cheaper than chains? Maybe not, but this one certainly was, and the food was better, too.

Mom and Pop Cafe
Mom and Pop Cafe

Although we still had a few hours before our Eurostar boarding, we like taking it slow so after breakfast we went back to the hotel. Snapped a couple of photos on the short way back:

London Street Sweeping Truck
Street Sweeper
Paddington Station Early Commute
Morning commute

A couple of hours later, we were all packed and ready to go:

Packed
Packed and ready to go

Checkout was a breeze, and once again I noticed that the people serving us (this time, the hotel staff) were immigrants as opposed to native Londoners. I’d wanted to go to England all my life, so perhaps in my mind it had reached a fantastical status, where white English people roamed the streets and greeted you in their British accents. This might be the case in a smaller and more remote area of England, but not London, a major international city that attracts its share of immigrants. Again, I thought it was a lot like San Francisco, except it was Eastern Europeans instead of Latin Americans.

We made our way back onto Praed Street towards the Underground station. it was turning out to be quite a beautiful autumn day:

Praed Street in Autumn
Praed Street in Autumn

After having practiced riding on the Underground the day before, I was smart this time and took the Hammersmith and City line. As we got on the train, I was very excited to see that the train was also a Metropolitan Cammell train, just like the original stock of Hong Kong’s MTR. I’ve always been fascinated with buses and trains and planes, so it was a particular treat for me to ride on this train.

Metro Cammell 1969
Metro Cammell 1969

A few stops later, we were at our destination. We had about an hour and a half until departure, so we used the time to explore the station and to buy food for the train ride.

St. Pancras International
St. Pancras International

Something that JC and I both like to do when we visit a new place is to browse the aisles of a grocery store. You can learn a lot about people from the foods that they eat. In this case, it was at a Marks and Spencer’s M&S Simply Food, the supermarket offshoot of the famous department store. For example, I would venture to guess that British people love their sandwiches (perhaps because a British lord invented it?). At first, I thought that because the supermarket was inside a train station, it had a lot of pre-packed meals and sandwiches. Later, I found that it wasn’t just the store inside the station, but supermarkets everywhere that sold pre-packed sandwiches. There were so many varieties, including the traditional cucumber sandwich. For the ride to Paris, I picked roast beef, horseradish, and mayo (Wow! Yum!), and JC had roast chicken salad. So much fun!

Train Food

Train Food, Part II

It was great being able to bring food (and liquids) into the customs/security area (to facilitate easy deboarding in Paris, passengers go through customs in London, similar to flights from Canada to the U.S.). Now, it was just a matter of waiting for our departure.

Waiting for the Eurostar

Boarding Time

As the train left the station, I couldn’t help but think of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown. Like Charlie Brown, I asked myself if what we were experiencing was real. Could it be that we were actually in London, and now headed for Paris? Surely these were places that just existed on TV and in picture books? As we emerged from the tunnel and sped through the French countryside, I thought it looked rather similar to how it did in the movie. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Sometimes, when looking back on it now, I still can’t believe it.

Next: Our First Day in Paris