They say that one moment can change your life forever. Well this is what happened to me this weekend – or at least, my perspective has changed. I was looking forward to going to London, but I wasn’t excited. To me, London has never been a place to go on holidays or to simply visit. London was the city where my most of my extended family on my dad’s side lived. Therefore, whenever I hopped on a plane to Stansted, Gatwick or Heathrow, it was to fulfil family duties – Christmas, Easter, birthdays; it was a second home as such. Originally this weekend seemed no different, but it turns out, it was very different on so many levels!
Let me start by pointing out the superbness of the Eurostar. It took me just over 2 hours to get from Paris to London – shorter than the nearly 3 hour train journey from Dublin to Cork! I’m not the biggest fan of flying, so this is the perfect option for me. The only aspect of my Eurostar journey I did not like was the level of customer service I encountered on both sides of the channel. Friday morning, after going through security at Gare du Nord and buying myself a magazine for le voyage, it was time for a coffee. Naturally, there was a queue, so I got chatting to the gentleman in front of me. On reaching the top, I asked for a café latte. The middle-aged lady who served me replied with a rude ‘QUOI?‘ indicating that she couldn’t understand me à cause de mon accent. My new friend quickly said ‘elle prend un latte’ in a tone that said, ‘eh lady I can understand her why can’t you?!’ A different barista handed me my coffee and apologised for la caissière impolie and explained that she hated English people. Well that’s all well and good, I said, mais je suis irlandaise!! On the way back to Paris, in WHSmith at St Pancras, I was not on the receiving end of the low level of service, but I was witness to it. Two of the cashiers were mumbling to each other constantly about how they were meant to go on a break a whole five minutes ago, and where was Julian to cover their breaks?! One of the girls literally shouted across the entire shop, while she was serving a customer ‘JULIAN, STOP BEING AN ARSEHOLE, COME ON, WE’RE STAAAAARVIN’!’ Seriously?! At least pretend to enjoy your job girls!!! Les tribulations d’une cassirère!!!
Ok fin du coup de gueule (the troubles of a 5 star hotel employee, eh?)!! Back to London! I had the most amazing time. I got to spend time with my dad who I haven’t seen since my graduation in October, and see the majority of my family who live in London, even if it was short but sweet. It was also the very first time that I got to experience London toute seule. I think sometimes my father forgets that I am an adult and is a little overprotective (love ya Da!), but I managed to get away, navigate the underground and catch up with friends on my own. I ended up meeting Rachel & Aisling (on s’a fait la bise!) at ‘the lion at Trafalgar Square’ (there are several lions!!!), having lunch (et du vin bien sûr) at Pizza Express, sharing a veggie starter (exhibit A below!) and chatted about the trials and tribulations of relationships. I also got the honour of trying on Aisling’s engagement ring, which was perhaps the highlight of my day 🙂
I’d only been in Paris 6 weeks, but I realised that I was already used to certain things. I missed the tall buildings, the wide streets and even the crazy drivers!! I had forgotten that people in England & Ireland actually drove at a respectable speed and obeyed traffic lights. There was even a demonstration en français at Trafalgar Square! Les trois amies went into PAUL in Covent Garden (a well known chain of boulangerie/patisserie/cafés in France) for coffee/dessert after our lunch. En plus, on a pris le café gourmand!!! For myself and Aisling (who has recently moved to the UK from France) this was a great treat. Cafe gourmand is literally translated as ‘greedy coffee’. You can get good and bad cafe gourmands, crois-moi!. PAUL Covent Garden’s turned out to be not so bad with a double espresso, crème brulée, gâteau moeulleux et deux macarons.
Samedi soir was my cousin’s 30th birthday party. The theme was Around the World in 80 Days Meets Back to the Future! The broadness of the theme gave license to the wackiest costumes! I, amongst others, played it relatively safe – although my victorian style/Disney princess dress was very ‘me’ (I was definitely born in the wrong era!) – I should probably have gone out of my comfort zone for the occasion. Having said that, I had a great night and met some wonderful people, while catching up with family. My dad took to his role of Lord of the Manor with terrifying ease, and the fake ‘stache really suited him. He even got compliments from random people on the tube!
I used to think that London was a place I would never like to live. In fact, I refused to even acknowledge the possibility of me living there. I had this strange distaste for the city. All because of a simple weekend away, my views have changed drastically. Maybe it was because of the people I met, or perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m living in a different country at the moment and I have a greater wealth of experience, qui sait?
Other than my short stint in London, I have no real news to report. My week is going fantastically so far. I received my results from the first semester of my masters degree in UCC – first class honours baby 🙂 I also completed my TEFL course with a distinction this evening. Now that TEFL is done, I need another side project and that is German. So with the aid of an online language course, I am teaching myself the language until April, when I will begin proper lessons, depending on my location of course – still searching for the ideal internship! This Friday I’m off to Geneva – I’m part Swiss grâce à ma arrière-grand-mère, so going to make the most of the free time I have there!