Well, two hours fifteen minutes but that doesn’t have quite the same pith to it. And what a two hours fifteen minutes it is. I’ve done some long train journeys in my time – 55 hours between Ulan Ude and Khabarovsk in Russia being my record – and it’s left me with a real taste for this form of travel. The trip on the Eurostar was no exception. I love the way train travel reinforces a sense of connection between destinations – you see one slip away and another emerge out the window; a contrast with the cloud-covered ascent and descent of flight.
This was only our second holiday abroad together. It’s been a primarily environmentally motivated decision; I’ve written before about the internal conflict of curiosity about the world and a desire to honour it with our choices. Train travel is a way to stick to the ground and explore new territory at the same time.
We stayed in an AirBnB apartment in Bastille; a chance to have – what we like to imagine anyway – a truly Parisian experience. Heaps of style in very few square metres. Iron-wrought railings to lean over into the courtyard. Clarinet practice – mercifully talented – singing through the windows, completing the atmosphere as we reclined with a drink.
It’s easy to lapse into expected behaviour as a tourist. Tick these boxes. Collect these experiences. Capture those images. I would veer back to that occasionally, but on the whole we did what we normally do on holiday; we just swapped the coasts and mountains for churches and monuments. We walked, took hundreds of photos, lingered by the water, ate good food.
As the view from the train switched from French countryside to the London cityscape on our return, we were challenged to take the same approach to our own city. As we cycled and wandered through the districts of Paris, we had been struck by how the locals seemed to enjoy and delight in their own city. It’s easy for our homes to become sites of practicality – jobs, chores, tick lists. Six months into London living, perhaps we’ve started to take this city for granted. Perhaps it’s time to recapture a bit of wonder again.
Today’s soundtrack: Guillaume Grand // L’amour est laid