Last Updated on October 5, 2022
Sometimes you find kindness in the most unexpected places, like on a train to Paris…
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jim Ferri
In Britain, one hears a lot about the Eurostar from London to Paris. One morning in London, I decided to test the hype about making a day trip by train to Paris.
The ad and pr guys for the “Chunnel Train”, are fond of reminding you, after all, that the towering Eiffel is only a bit more than three hours from the Tower of London.
Planning to arrive in Paris as early as possible, I took a taxi to St. Pancras station. It was early and I wanted to take the 6:53am to Paris. (For many years, I must admit, I thought the name of the station was St. Pancreas. I also wondered why anyone would name a train station, much less a saint, after a body part).
A Comfortable Ride on Eurostar From London to Paris
I hopped aboard the 2nd Class car on Eurostar’s London to Paris train. Once aboard I found the passengers were a mix of mostly 20- or 30-something-year-olds. There were no children at this hour, a blessing since many of them just wanted to sleep. We soon were slipping out of the rail yard into the soft dawn of the British countryside. I decided it was time to develop my strategy for attacking Paris.
Mid-strategy came an announcement that 10-pack carnets — tickets for the Paris Metro — were on sale in the café car. Having been to Paris many times before, I knew they would save me quite a bit of time and a few Euros.
I went back to the café car and asked the French woman there for a carnet for the Metro. It was when I returned to my seat that I realized that instead of giving me 10 tickets, she had mistakenly given me 10 packs of 10 tickets — a total of 100.
I returned to the Eurostar café car and told her “I think you made a mistake with the tickets.” I showed her the packets, and gave her back the other nine. She stood there with a shocked look on her face. She then thanked me before I went back to my seat where I dozed off.
A Moment I’ll Remember
A while later I felt someone touch my shoulder. Opening my eyes I saw it was the Eurostar woman who sold me the carnet. “I owe you a big thank you,” she said. “At the least I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee.”
Having had too much French coffee already I declined. But I added I did need to find a place to have my reading glasses fixed since I had broken them in the station. “Do you know of an optician near the Gare du Nord?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she said, “wait for me after we arrive and the other passengers have departed – it will take about five minutes.”
Her name was Claudie, she later told me, and after the Eurostar from London to Paris arrived at Gare du Nord she walked me up the street to an optician and explained to him my predicament. She waited with me as he repaired my glasses for free – a screw had fallen out — and to thank him I bought another pair to use while traveling.
As we walked back to the station I couldn’t help but think how much we travelers complain about the coldness of Parisians…and here I was on Boulevard de Denain, just off the Eurostar “Chunnel Train” on a cold and rainy Saturday experiencing the warmth of two total strangers.