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Sunday, 08 June 2008
Shambles on Eurostar



Here’s a short video I took on Thursday night alongside the Eurostar tracks in Fresnoy in the North of France.

We left Ebbsfleet at 18h15, expecting to arrive in Paris just over 2 hours later (21h20 local time). On passing through the tunnel we were advised that the train was making a 10 minute stop in Calais as there were problems with the train’s power. We did so, and proceeded on our way, being told that there was a problem with the train’s battery and that we would be getting into Paris 30 minutes late. Those of us who were in carriages which had power (some passengers were plunged into darkness when the sun set, and did not pick up any tannoy announcments) were advised at regular intervals as to the progress (or lack thereof) of the train. The expected time of arrival in Paris slipped each time: 22:40, 23:00, midnight, ... We were also advised that the train had slowed to a speed of 20 km per hour. Every 10 minutes or so a fast train overtook us, buffeting our train from side to side as it whizzed past, and there were frequent stops to allow trains to overtake.

Slowly we edged on to Fresnoy where we were told another train would be waiting to whisk us to Paris.  By this time we had heard that there was a celebrity on board, and a strange smell came wafting down the carriages. At Fresnoy we didn’t stop at a station but in the middle of the countryside. It was now midnight (local time) and we all clambered out the train, with our belongings, and waited about 30 minutes as our train reversed back and a TGV (high-speed train) pulled in from the opposite direction. We then scrambled aboard that (more comfortable!) train and made our way to Paris where we arrived at 2:15 on Friday morning.

That was not the end of our woes. The Paris metro had ceased operations so we all had to join a long queue at the taxi rank. It took me about an hour to get to the front of the queue and onto a taxi. I got to my hotel on the Western outskirts of Paris at only 4:00 am. However waiting for the taxis we were treated to the sight of Pete Doherty walking out of the station, strumming his guitar surrounded by a posse of about 15 young women who were all holding up their mobile phones, which were lit-up . It looked like they were paying homage with candles to some minor deity, but of course they were taking photos/videos. It was a sight to behold, but I declined to join the posse and take photos of Pete.

Anyway, the report of the event has some interesting information:

The head of Eurostar promised swift action Friday after a high-speed cross-Channel train carrying British rocker Pete Doherty limped into Paris almost five hours late.

The controversial Babyshambles artist—among some 500 unlucky passengers on the London to Paris service—was forced to cancel a solo acoustic gig in Paris to the disappointment of some 2,000 fans.

...

After chugging at reduced speed through the French countryside for several hours—half of the train in the dark and with no staff information, a passenger said—the 500 travellers were finally made to switch change trains at Fresnoy in northern France, pulling into Paris at 2:15 am (0015 GMT).

Eurostar said the problem was caused by an electrical failure in one of the train’s batteries.

Furious passengers were offered taxi rides and hotel rooms upon arriving in Paris, and promised a refund and a free return ticket by way of compensation.

Eurostar chairman Guillaume Pepy said he was “extremely unhappy about this new incident,” according to a statement from French state rail operator SNCF.

Pepy said he he had asked Eurostar’s managing director Nicolas Petrovic to “immediately take all practical steps to avoid customers suffering such inconvenience again.”

Bah ouau, I just can’t wait to take up my free return compensation journey! There was an article over at the Independent which gave some background to the Doherty gig but it has disappeared from their site.  As consolation here’s the Doherty expresses surprise that jail is full of gansters article from a month ago.

Posted by bigblue on 08/06/2008 at 10:51 AM
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Saturday, 07 June 2008
Stop Sarko

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The sticker on the road sign refers to the (unsuccessful) campaign to stop Nicolas Sarkozy from becoming President of France. The website is now as faded as this sticker: it hasn’t been updated for over a year now.

M Sarkozy is now known as “Mr Bruni”, husband of the model and singer, Carla. I took the photo earlier this week in a Parisian suburb.

Posted by bigblue on 07/06/2008 at 08:47 PM
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Friday, 06 June 2008
Not feminist

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Judging by the name of this establishment (that sells food and drink at a railway station in Paris) the UK does not hold a monopoly on cheesy shop names.

At least I’m assuming it’s a pun!

Well it’s been a rough day. I got to my Parisian hotel (and bed)  at only 4 am this morning after my escapades of last night.  Good night.

Posted by bigblue on 06/06/2008 at 10:15 PM
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Eurostar breakdown

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And here we are wandering through the night along the tracks.

Posted by bigblue on 06/06/2008 at 12:12 AM
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Thursday, 05 June 2008
Eurostar train stuck in Calais

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This is not good. We have stopped in Calais due to power problems with the train, and the conductor is asking passengers to be patient. There’s a little brat screaming in our carriage; I wish the parents would take him for a walk.

No indication of if (or when) the train is going to get going again so it’s hard to be patient.

Posted by bigblue on 05/06/2008 at 07:33 PM
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English pronunciation

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It interests me that so many people pronunce the word “espresso” as if there was an “x” in it. This is how our language evolves and develops: one bastardisation at a time.

I’m in Ebbsfleet International Station waiting for a train to Paris. I’m going to stay in a new hotel so am not sure about internet access over the next two days.

A+, as they say in “le texto francais”.

Posted by bigblue on 05/06/2008 at 05:54 PM
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Wednesday, 04 June 2008
View up and down

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This is the view up the North Downs above Oxted from the North Downs Way.

The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch for 120 miles (190 km) from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. The North Downs lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs. The North Downs Way National Trail runs along the North Downs from Farnham to Dover.

When I climbed up the hill (or rather half-way up) I took this photograph looking backwards:
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This is the Oxted Quarry which has been the subject of my recent posts. Oxted itself is in the distant right.

Posted by bigblue on 04/06/2008 at 08:37 AM
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Tuesday, 03 June 2008
Price per litre

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Petrol: 118 pence.
Diesel: 130 pence.
Sugar water: 150 pence.

Posted by bigblue on 03/06/2008 at 07:00 PM
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