Day 54 Mon 11th June
What a comfortable, pretty, friendly and unique place to stay is Castle Combe. We would thoroughly recommend it to everyone. We will make sure we go back there if and when we get to that side of the world again. We were expecting staying in a Pub to be noisy but it was very quiet and really like staying in a luxury hotel instead. The Restuarant with its ambience and olde glass bottle windows looking out to the street, was fantastic. The food was marvelous as were the waiting staff. Breakfast was in another beautiful room with a rounded glass roof, similar to a conservatory, letting in lots of light and making this another wonderful area to enjoy. Early breakfast and once again, off in the rain to Bath. A few extra directions googled and printed for us by the lovely Receptionist gave us even more confidence in arriving at the Hertz dropoff in Bath, which we did within 1/2 an hour. Taxi ordered for us from there to take us back to Bath Railway Station, arrived promptly and we were actually waiting quite some time in the end, for our train back to Paddington Station in London. The journey takes 1 1/2 hours from Bath to Paddington Station so we then had time to reflect on our lovely trip to the Cotswolds. How glad we were, that we had been able to have this experience. Rain and all, it was totally worth doing. From Paddington Station we needed to get to St Pancras Station to connect with the Eurostar train to Paris. We decided as it was so wet, we would get a taxi for this connection. So had everyone else in London that day. Apparently, according to the friendly Taxi driver, Mondays, wet days and road works was the reason for the huge queues waiting to catch taxis that day. The lines you wait in at the airport are like was what we had to contend with. They were 6 rows deep at the back but it only took 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue in the end. The black London Cabs were just pouring in, in a constant stream. This was nothing like we had ever seen before. They hardly stopped to pick up their fare and they were off again. 20 minutes later, we were at St Pancras Station. Luckily, we had done all this travelling in plenty of time to catch the Eurostar. Lisa had told us you must get there in plenty of time Mum as the train leaves dead on 2.01pm. Yep, it does. Not 2.00pm, not 2.05pm - 2.01pm. and off it speads with a hiss and a roar.
The journey from London to France, through the chunnel and onto the French countryside was lovely. It only takes 2 1/4 hours and it is not a huge amount of time spent in the chunnel in that time so we got to see much more than what we had been expecting as well. It was nice to see France again and it was even dry with patches of blue sky there. No taking photos from the windows though as it goes so fast everything is gone in a flash and is just a blurr if you do get a photo. We got out at Gard du Nord Station in Paris and with Lisa's expicit instructions for our walk to our Hotel just up the road, we expected it to be easy, just as it was in Switzerland. Well it wasn't this time Lisa.
We got outside the station to find the road we needed to walk down 600 metres heading east. OK but which way is East???? We went around the corner to find that road was also called the same. So now which way is east??????? Carrying our luggage which is pretty heavy by now we were totally bamboozled by this. We thought no point heading in the wrong direction in all the bussiness of Paris and unhelpful French people. Yes we had asked for directions already by this stage. No help from this lot, to find a Hotel which is 600 metres away just up the road. Yep! we were definitely back in France..... luckily for only 1 more night. We felt stranded, confused, tired and actually quiet stupid too. Lets get a taxi! The taxi driver didn't know where the Hotel was either and he even backed up in rush hour traffic into another street when he caught a glimpse of the hotel which really was JUST up the road. We think he thought us really weird foreigners but was still happy to take our 10 Euro taxi fare of course. Note to oneself... next time take a compass! The only time we needed one mind you.
We arrived at the Hotel tobe confronted by the most unfriendly Receptionist we had ever experienced. She was so bored by the whole idea of having to work to earn a wage. Our room was to be a non-smoking room but it was definetly not that. The smell in the room was so disgusting when we walked in, it hit us like a ton of bricks. We opened the window to let some fresh polluted Parisian air in and discovered where the cigarette butts get chucked. Just on a ledge right outside the window. Piles and piles of them. YUK! This was the only hotel room so far, in 54 days that we have had to put up with cigarette fumes. I suggest anyone trying to find accommodation near the Gard du Nord railway station, steer clear of the Ibis Hotel Paris Gare du Nord. Its not good!
Even our pillows and duvet were caked in cigarette smoke and for non-smokers coming from NZ with so many smoke free areas now, we are just not used to it anymore, nor should we have to put up with it either. On reflection, we should have gone straight down to the bored receptionist and requested a room change but we just thought that would be in the too hard basket for her.
Views of France now - nah, won't come back thanks. No different 2nd time around. Too busy and too arrogant for us.
Having said all this we did have a lovely meal out at an upmarket Brasserie nearby. Yann and Alice, more guests that had stayed for a week with us 3 years before, met us and paid for us as well. It was so lovely to catch up with this young french couple. When they stayed with us, they had just got engaged. They later invited us to their wedding which we just could not go to at that time, but we kept in touch with the promise we would see them when we did our big OE. Yann and Alice also gave us a beautiful momento of France in the form of a cartoon book with no words. It is really mocking the French and what they do and how they are. We have really appreciated its humour. It was so nice to see they seem so happy and we were able to converse with them pretty well. They even walked us back to our Hotel which was probably a good idea knowing how lost we had got earlier. Back to our cigarette smelling room for one more night in France before starting our journey homeward.