We are just back from a fabulous holiday on the west coast of France. It was always going to be a good holiday, a great holiday even, but it became fabulous by default.
And it happened through that rare thing nowadays – the kindness of strangers.
The lovely Yvette, desperately in need of some sun, had booked a campsite holiday complete with luxury mobile home. And being a lovely person as well as a great friend, she had invited myself and the Shoogly nippers to join her and her two boys on said holibags. Tres bon.
But how to get there? Drive? Fly? Fly and drive? Hop one-legged? It all seemed quite a lot of hassle with four littl’uns. How about, says me, if we see if we can get a atrain all the way there, from the station at Berwick-on-Tweed, to as close to the campsite as possible? Not thinking this would be possible, I started to research it and, yes, we could lleave Berwick at about 8am by train and arrive at the nearest station at about 9pm.
Just a wee bit of a ashame, mused the lovely Yvette, that we wouldn’t be ablle to fit – budget and timewise – a night in Paris. Never mind, next time.
Yvette’s boys love trains, and the YMs are used to weekends away by train, so a holiday where you can ride four different types of train in one day (including the Eurostar and the TGV, and five types if you included the Paris Metro as a train) is pretty exciting.
So we left Berwick on time, and arrived at Kings Cross in guid fettle. We then nipped round the corner to St Pancras and the Eurostar. Feeling pleased with ourselves that we had been able to print off all our French rail tickets at the machine, and with our kids laden down with goodies from the nice Eurostar lady, we breezed through customs and on tto the train.
How lovely and clean it was, how very comfortable. Night and day to our scummy old 125s (which with hindsight would have been best left in the 1970s along with their erstwhile celebrity endorser, Mr Savile).
And then, oh, how late it was! Well, only 20 minutes to be precise, but just enough to ensure that as we switched Paris mainline stations by Metro, we arrived at the platform as our connecting train had just pulled out. Merde, as they say in La France.
And here the kindness kicked in.
Off we went to the SNCF desk to see when the next train was. There, a lovely lady called Johanna checked how late the Eurostar had been, told us there wasn’t another train today, and swiftly replaced our tickets for first thing in the morning – first class all the way. Fantastique. She then gave us food boxes, bottles of water, and three connecting hotel rooms (with breakfast) plus the bus tickets to get there. All paid for.
We were gobsmacked, especially Yvette, who had so wanted to have her night in Paris.
What was that saying? Be careful what you wish for?
And so it came to pass we dragged the nippers out into the Paris streets for supper and round the sights until midnight.
Definitely a night to remember.
But that wasn’t the end of the adventure.
Throughout the week bus drivers dropped us off in places they shouldn’t have, liaising witth colleagues to pick us up at places they didn’t usually stop at. During the week we managed an almost zero carbon footprint, very budget travel and made new friends by using more schoolgirl French than we probably had in over 30 years.
Vive La France!