London to Strasbourg July 30

Similar to the mix of feelings yesterday at Trafalgar Square, upon descending to the underground at Gloucester Road heading for France, I felt the sweet sorrow of parting from the City which had caught my heart and the excitement of wonder about what lay ahead.

The departure point was an appropriate transition.  Saint Pancras was the only railroad station for “Eurostar” trains going through the Chunnel to the Continent.  At the metro station called “Kings Cross, St Pancras,” I was impressed with another yellow brick shrine to the industrial revolution, assuming it was also the terminal.


But turning left, my mistake was evident.  There was an edifice that dwarfed even the monuments of Albertopolis in scale and decoration.


The immense castle shown on the map as our destination had no marked entrance. We rolled our suitcases a long block on the sidewalk and came to a driveway ramp leading to an incredibly overblown and disproportionate Victorian Folly.


At the doorway the uniformed porter informed us this was a hotel–once the Midland Grand Hotel, opened in 1873 beside the newly constructed station.  He told us to continue up the ramp, where we found  a way into the steel arched terminal and an elevator to the level below, crammed with waiting areas, shops, platforms and people on the move.


The upper level of the terminal continued the design of romanesque revival arches that lined the V and A museum and a 12 foot statue reminiscent of the one at the museum’s entry. It depicted the  kiss of a tiptoeing young woman and a soldier departing through this portal for the World War 2 killing fields of the Continent,


a poignant contrast to the tourists now here for a good time, entertained by passing pianists of varying talent, shopping in luxury stores, and eating at restaurants.


After breakfast at Paul, we went through a passport control line (courtesy of Brexit) and squeezed into a tight waiting area for the Eurostar, where we started practicing German conversation with a friendly Swiss woman.  After a few minutes she invited her sister sitting across the way to join us, who, it turned out was a Professor of English Literature in Zurich who had written a book about Vladimir Nabokov and Alfred Hitchcock.  Shoptalk with her quickly reverted to English.

We had to change trains for Strasbourg in Lille, northern France, where English was not spoken, and where one needed a Euro for entry to the slick bathroom, the first time during the trip that our visa cards didnt replace currency.


The comfortable French TGV sped toward Alsace through bucolic countryside


which I found enhanced by the frequent presence of wind turbines.


I also enjoyed the sight of the two friends across the aisle reading and talking about their  books.


Arriving in Strasbourg, we were surprised that the moderately priced hotel we’d reserved was an opulent mansion





And furthermore that the room they’d given us included a corner terrace, where, sharing the real French wine, cheese and fruit purchased at a corner market, we watched the sun set along the magificent deserted boulevard below.




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