That's funny. There's nothing on the information board and the train hasn't come. And that posh-looking passenger in the suit and business wheeler-trolley is starting to look agitated. I know, there's an app for SNCF, I'll just download it and look.
1245 Alouette-France - Bordeaux Saint-Jean Train supprimé.
What?!?! My TGV for Paris leaves at 13:18. I don't have a hope!
Well, I know there's a strike, but when I looked this morning the train was still running.
Let's book a taxi.
What train are you on?
13:18 to Paris.
The taxi driver took a while to come. I emailed James Hely-Hutchinson, the director of the Institut Biblique Belge to tell him I had a bijou petite problemette. The taxi driver came, we piled in and he hurtled off to town, regaling us with stories of how he lost and regained points on his driving licence. A reluctant barrier at the station was coaxed into cooperation. People moved aside slowly for the taxi to pass through ("ECARTEZ-VOUS") and we scuttled off to the ticket office while one of our number who would be reimbursed settled up with the taxi driver. 45€!
A sign in the ticket office told us that there were fewer booths because of the strike, but the queue diminished fairly quickly and I soon got to explain my plight to a charming lady who popped me on the TGV to Paris one hour later and the corresponding TGH Thalys to Brussels.
At Paris Gare Montparnasse - so where's the Metro? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found it. I had 55 minutes to do a journey that the internet told me took 25. The Paris metro is a bit like a ghost train, in that the tunnels wind around a lot so the train doesn't go very quickly. Anyway, after somewhat more than 25 minutes I was washed up on the platform at the Gare du Nord.
Where's the Main Line platforms? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found someone to ask. Down the other end and turn right, sir. Did that.
Now where are they? A well-placed greengrocers stall directed me onwards. Down the other end and turn left, sir.
Eventually I saw what looked like platforms ahead. I emerged by platform 8 and a big departure board. Thalys for Brussels, platform 7. Hurrah!
After that it was comfort all the way.
The day of prayer was very encouraging. The students prayed well and were a most pleasant bunch. Penne alla puttanesca with David Vaughn of Aix-en-Provence and with James Hely-Hutchinson, and a bed for the night with our friends Maxime and Demelza.
The journey back was to be by tram, coach and plane, but the trams were on strike (is it me?) so the efficient folks at IBB worked out what to do. A quick walk to the Gare du Centre with James, a quick coffee in Haagen-Däz accompanied by a croissant and a pain au raisin, then the train to Gare du Midi where we could find the coach and pop me on it. The coach got me to Charleroi without incident. It's a nice, small airport, a bit like Bordeaux, and the flight was 15 minutes early getting me home.
Here's a few photos of Brussels :