It was a very early start to a Friday morning. JoAnna and Frederik were traveling back to Cairo and I was heading to my first stop – Rouen – on the way through France to the starting city of St.Jean Pied de Port where I will begin walking the El Camino de Santiago.
The Thalys train left Brussels at 8:37 am and arrived in Paris Gare du Nord approximately 90 minutes later. My first task was to get from Gare du Nord to Gare St. Lazare to catch the train to Rouen. This was easily accomplished as Frederick and Joanna pointed me toward the right RER train. We said our goodbyes after a wonderful three weeks of connecting with family and friends, enjoying Brussels both for the attractions and the food (that is another post) and, also, side trips trips to Loppem, Brugge, Gent and Antwerp. A short train ride later, I was at Gare St. Lazare.
My second task was to purchase train tickets at a Sncf ticket office. After waiting in line at a lower floor ticket office, I was told I needed to be at the ticket office on the upper floor which dealt with regional tickets. The line upstairs was three lines deep and as I stood in line I was thinking, “I sure hope the ticket person will know English.” Thankfully with my few words of French, her broken English and a piece of paper with the stops written down, I secured four tickets with my final destination Bayonne which is the closest train stop to St. Jean Pied de Port.
I had an hour before the train to Rouen departed in which I had to accomplish my third task of the day. The task of securing a SIM card for France to use in my pay as you go phone. JoAnna had told me to go to a Tabac stall as they usually carry SIM cards. This was not the case and I was instructed to go to the lower floor to a Orange phone centre. After walking the entire floor I did not see an Orange phone center, instead ahead of me was a familiar “Starbucks” coffee bar. In need of a LARGE cup of coffee – coffee in Europe is strong and good but on the small side (I miss the extra large Timmy’s coffee). Starbucks did not disappoint and I was able to find out that I had to go back upstairs to the Relay store to find the SIM card. Finally, task accomplished with 20 minutes to spare to find out what track # for the Rouen train.
The Rouen trip took another 90 minutes. About three blocks from the station, I was able to find a charming older hotel room and was able to do a short walk about. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake as well as the famous Notre Dame church which Monet painted several times and the Gros Horloge astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century.
Tomorrow I will visit Notre Dame, visit The Fine Arts and Ceramics museums and there is a Saturday farmers market to check out.
Kudos to the eighty year old woman from Budapest who was waiting in the ticket lineup this morning saying, "I may need to rest more but as long as these feet move, I will travel" spoken with excellent English and showing that age is just a number! Blessings to her and her travels.