Saturday 4th December.
We both slept well and when I got up I found my friend had been up bright and early and was very organised. After breakfast we checked the website for Eurostar which sounded gloomy and suggested not travelling unless it was necessary. However, although some trains were cancelled and others were travelling slowly through the Normandy and Kent snow, my friend’s train appeared to be running OK. The taxi situation in Paris seemed grim though, the first company had absolutely nothing free all morning. I had a second number and we had more luck there: I am going to the Gare du Nord with my friend to help her with her suitcases (she cannot lift at the moment) and to see her off.
Once our minds were at rest on the taxi front we set off for the Musee Carnavalet which my friend had really hoped to see, briefly, and buy a book on the history of the Marais to take home and show to her husband. It is housed in Madame de Sevigny’s Hotel which is literally round the corner from this apartment so it only took us a couple of minutes to get there. We had a quick canter through a few galleries including that of shop signs, and managed to get to the reconstucted Art Nouveau Jewellery shop just before they were closing it for lunch. As we walked through the gardens to another part of the house it began to snow quite hard: walking along the upstairs galleries, through whole rooms which had been brought here and put back together, we looked out through the old glass and saw the knot garden in snow. It was only a light covering but it brought out the patterns of the small hedges like nothing else and the whole courtyard looked quite magical.
My friend was able to get some idea of what the Musee contained and was enchanted: I do so hope she manages to come back one day, either with her husband, son, another friend, or me again! She had her time in the shop and found the book she wanted and then we needed to make our way home for the taxi. The roads and pavements had become very slippery indeed with semi frozen slush and a cold wind blew along with the continuing light, but relentless snow.
I filled the washing machine with sheets etc and we left the apartment: the taxi was sitting patiently outside, although we were early, and off we sped to the station. There were one or two short queues to query trains and tickets, but really the place was quite deserted in the Eurostar terminal. Nothing was being sold for immediate travel and I think a lot of people who had been going to travel purely for pleasure or a quick weekend overseas had thought better of the delays, uncertainties and possible complications and were staying at home.
My friend was checked in early and offered an earlier train which was lovely: we sat and talked while the luggage assistance was organised. At one point a bemused-looking arrestee in handcuffs was bundled through from security by three policemen and taken downstairs, presumably for questioning. It looked a sad and scaring episode. A little later I was taken aback to see a lovely looking German Shepherd dog and his handler walk past, looking so like Ulf. Before I realised it tears were streaming down my face. It makes me very anxious about going home.
After an hour we were told that the train was delayed with no immediate time of departure available. At this point we decided there was no further purpose to me staying so I set off. She was most insistent that I get a taxi back but since, in principle, one bus went from door to door and was only meant to take 15 minutes I decided to go for that. However, it took me twenty minutes walking around in snow and sleet to find the correct bus stop, then another ten to wait for the bus, which took us all to the Gare de l’Est and terminated. So we all had to get off, and wait for the next bus, another ten minutes. It came, there was no problem but I was cold and hungry having had no lunch and by the time I reached home was thoroughly chilled, tired with the treacherous walking, cold wind and hunger. So she was right after all, and I was wrong!
However I had stopped at my favourite boulangerie and bought some pain au chocolate, the first for years, and some almond confections. I opened the door to glorious warmth, put the kettle on and folded up the sofa bed so that I could sit in comfort with my tea and eat some lunch.
Going into the kitchen I found, propped up on the table, a 2011 French Calendar and a lovely Thank You card, both from the Musee Carnavalet and a white-plastic-bag chicken from the African shop: far too generous of her and she really should not have, but how kind.
She said in her card that she had really had a wonderful, restorative few days. Lovely, I am so pleased.
The rest of the day was spent on ironing, laundry, and some necessary telephone calls to people I had rather neglected last week, followed by catching up on emails. I also just sat and relaxed after quite an energetic few days!!