This time last year I was boarding Virgin Atlantic Upperclass for my first European vacation with destinations: London -> Paris -> Venice -> Prague. It was truly unforgettable.
Traveling by train from London to Paris was just as magical as I had always dreamed. Everyone I have talked to about Paris either loved it beyond words or didn’t seem to care for it at all. To me, Paris was perfect. Along the route, I carried a travel journal and recorded my journey. Here is a snippet from my journal and a few of the photos that I still have. (A week after the trip my laptop got stolen and I lost thousands of photos – yes, the SIM card was in it and no I didn’t have them backed up yet.)
Bonjour! Arriving at the train station like a little girl in a candy store, my eyes were wide like silver dollars. “Two tickets for the 12:28 to Paris, please!” I somehow chirped through eager smiles, as this was my first time on a train.
“We have no standard available at this time, only business class.” My gleeful grin turned slightly crooked. “Oh, really?…”
We were surprised to find that tickets on business class were £500 but decided to go for it; when in Rome. The train was boarding in 30 minutes so we made our way to the business lounge, grabbed a drink and spied on all of the others in the lounge. “Coach 10 boarding!” I hopped on and sat at a small table right next to the window. Across the isle was a woman in her late 80’s, gentle and frail, who only spoke Russian. I studied her every move. She was searching in her bag when an older gentlemen sat across the table from her. The sunlight was beaming in just as she looked up and her smile grew large. The entire train ride fascinated me as I watched them laughing, eating and holding hands. I later discovered that they were both surprised to see one another as it had been many years, just like a story I made up in my mind.
Service was pleasant: champagne, a small dish, main course with wine then dessert with coffee.
After lunch, we walked through the cars back to the bar and I turned on my camera to take a video. Just then, I heard a man say “You are an artist”. “I am,” I smiled. “Artists aren’t afraid to put a camera up to someone’s face. I’m a street photographer, so I understand.” He was tall with silver hair and a pin striped suit, like many of the men in Britain. Meeting new people on the train was exactly as I imagined.
Back to the car, I sat writing in my journal and watching the French countryside pass me by. This was the train ride I had been waiting for all my life.
Look! I snuck a picture of the couple from the train. She’s so elegant.. and that bag is to die for.
A Parisian newsstand in the park.
Paintings of Notre Dame de Paris.
Shakespeare and Company on Rue de la Bûcherie and a little cafe next door.
Capping the night with a wander through the busy Paris streets where there were all kinds of shops and bars.