Unfortunately as of December 1, 2007, my Student Visa that I had for France became invalid. After a long and lengthy process of applying for a Carte de Sejour (a French residency card), I was denied the card by the French government. Therefore, I had to vacate France before midnight on Friday night to London in order to get my passport stamped. Once I had an exit and re-entrance stamp into France, I could stay in France for another 90 days without a problem. Luckily Dr. Roynier helped me make train reservations, and my friend Brooke decided to join me on my flee from France to seek asylum in London.
One of my dreams since I was in 6th grade as been to go through the “Chunnel,” which is an underground tunnel linking England with France by train, and I finally got to do it. The entire time we were on the train, called the Eurostar, I kept asking Brooke if she thought we were going through the tunnel as it was dark outside. I sounded like an extremely eager small child, but I was so excited to be going to London and riding through the Chunnel.
The Eurostar is extremely convenient for anyone who lives in Paris to get to London or vice versa. Since both train stations are in the middle of both Paris and London, it makes for easy access. The Eurostar just started service to a new train station called St. Pancras station. While it is already a very high-tech and beautiful station, when they finally have all of the shops and restaurants open, I’m sure it will be even better.
Lost in the Tubes
Since the taxi “queue” (as the English call it) was extremely long when we arrived at St. Pancras, we decided to be brave and take the metro, or the “tube” to our hotel. Since we are experienced Paris metro travelers, we thought we could figure out London’s tube with absolutely no problem. Overconfidence is a scary thing. Their subway system is set up much different than Paris’ and the lines are constantly changing endpoints. We ended up traveling around the metro for a good hour before we finally figured out what was going on.
To make matters worse our hotel is located about 10 minutes from the metro stop, but because we weren’t really sure where the hotel was, we walked around for nearly a half an hour in the freezing, pouring rain with huge wind gusts. Umbrellas were physically impossible, and after the 8th time that mine flipped inside out, I decided it was a waste of my energy, and just surrendered to the idea of getting soaked.
The Big Red Bus
We had one full day in London, so we wanted to hit all of the major attractions. We decided to use one of the “Big Red Buses,” which takes you on a tour of London. We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Notting Hill Gate, Waterloo Train Station, and of course the London Bridge. Surprisingly, London is quite spread out. I was expecting it to be a lot like Paris, but the buildings are actually quite a bit shorter and things are less crowded. The Thames River is also rather large, which was unexpected.
The Eye Over London
To end our trip to London we took a “flight” on the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel erected for the Millenium celebration. The large capsules fit about 25 people, and within them, you get a 360-degree view of London. It was magnificent to see the city light up with Big Ben chiming the time. Everyone should definitely do it when they visit London as it truly is a wonderful experience.
The Texas Embassy
Giving in to our overwhelming temptation for REAL Tex Mex and a Dr. Pepper, for our second dinner in London we ate at the Texas Embassy. The only embassy to have been constructed by the Texas Republic in the 1800s, the embassy now is a multilevel restaurant and cantina. It was authentic, just like Texas. It was so fabulous to have Queso again that wasn’t just melted cheese. We also saw a sign that had a map of Texas on it, we signed our names and proudly put SMU on the map! Look for it if you’re ever in London!
After a very unexpected but fun weekend, I have to finish several papers, and get through finals!