Uh-Oh! Stranded in Paris!
Things are really a mess here. I had a ticket for London on one of the Eurostar trains and we departed on time just after 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. About 45 minutes into the ride, we slowed, stopped, and then sat. Finally came the announcement: There has been a fire in the tunnel under the English Channel and we are returning to Paris.
And so we did. Back in Paris, we were treated to the news that all trains to London were cancelled for the rest of the day and we–the several hundred assembled passengers from Eurostar train 9031–were told the following (this is damn near verbatim):
French authorities have announced that the tunnel will be closed to rail traffic indefinitely. Eurostar officials have announced that trains will be operating as normal starting tomorrow morning.
Understand: I’m booked on a British Air flight out of Heathrow back to the U.S.A. tomorrow late afternoon, so it’s pretty damn essential that I get back to London in time to make that flight.
At any rate, it was quite clear I would be spending tonight in Paris, so I headed for the street bag and baggage and secured one of the last available rooms in a small hotel not 100 yards from Gare du Nord. About 4:30 this afternoon, I went back to the station to find a line of at least 500 people waiting to check in for trains that had started running late this afternoon. So, I ask the young woman at the information counter, where can I go to book a Eurostar train for tomorrow? That office is closed, she said, but will reopen at 6:00 tomorrow morning.
And I shall be there bright and early tomorrow morning. Of course the real question is, where will I be tomorrow evening?
And by the way, apparently the problem at the tunnel was a fire begun as the result of what the French call a manifestation. Translation: a demonstration by people who work the cross-channel ferries. Apparently they have grievances. Swell.
You know what upsets me more than anything? This fiasco is causing me to miss a long-planned dinner with Mark Smith, the Man in Seat 61. He is the guy behind what is without doubt the definitive web site covering passenger rail anywhere in the world. Having to miss a dinner with him … now that’s a fricking grievance!