After another wonderful day in Paris, I needed to start packing for my trip to London. So I ended it in the best way possible: with chocolate.
This mousse was phenomenal and I was so hungry I wanted to lick the plate. The cream was almost icy, it was so cold and the chocolate layer was dense, sweet and dark.
I had a good night’s sleep, took another taxi and arrived at Eurostar for my trip through the Chunnel. It was a mad house of cars, taxis, buses, throngs of people and pick pockets! I don’t have any photos because I was keeping everything close at hand. There were also people offering to buy train tickets, for the travelers who had not purchased them, and then they took off with the money. BEWARE when you arrive here and make sure you keep everything close or packed in a way that you’re not subject to thievery.
I entered the station and went upstairs to take the train and enjoy the UK Border Control: NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED signs were everywhere!
At this point I needed my passport, copy of my ticket (saved in my phone but a paper copy would have been smart) a form telling them who I was and a UK Border Control Agent grilling me. This is what is sounded like:
Agent: Where are you going? Me: To visit my daughter. She’s a doing a study away and I haven’t seen her in a few months and I can’t wait to see her and….
Interrupting Agent: What is her address? Me: Somewhere in London.
The Agent stared at me and said a bit louder and slower
Agent: WHAT IS HER ADDRESS?? Me: Uh oh. Hold on, I think I have it in my phone. Do you have wifi here? (Now, I didn’t know I needed her actual address. Had she emailed it or texted it to me? Could I access it here with no wifi or would have to pay $3 billion dollars to turn on international wifi to scroll through my email to find her address? I finally found it in a text message.)
Me: OK, here it is. Sorry about that, I didn’t know I needed an actual address.
The agent stared at me unblinkingly.
Agent: Where did you port from? Me: Huh?
Agent: WHERE DID YOU PORT FROM? Me: What does that mean?
Agent: How did you arrive in Paris? Me: By plane?
The agent stared at me unblinkingly.
Agent: What airline did you use and which airport did you arrive? Me: OH! Delta to Air France and we landed at CDG.
The agent stared at me again. At this point I was unsure If I would be allowed through the gate.
Then she stamped my passport and welcomed me to the UK.
I hustled to the train in case she changed her mind, and sat in my seat.
At this point I’d love to share a story about the fun time I had, the interesting food and what it felt like to ride under all that water, but I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake until an employee asked me to get off the train. I’m sure there are pictures of me snoring and drooling away on someone’s phone but I won’t be blackmailed. I was tired, hungry (missed breakfast and the Eurostar buffet) and not ashamed.
I gathered my suitcases and left the train,
took the looong elevator to the street level
and met my birdie! Reunited at last!
UK Border Control is serious and I’m sure the Agent was wondering weather I was an idiot. I should have been prepared with all of the information they needed BUT I didn’t know what they needed. So here are the lessons I learned:
- Make paper copies of your documents. I had emailed them to myself as well as having them on my phone but a paper copy would have been better. What would I have done if my phone had been stolen?
- Know the address of your destinations. I, of course, knew the hostel address but didn’t think I needed my London address. UK Border Control needs that address plus whatever other information they ask for. Be prepared to answer.
- The agents at UK Border Control are serious about safety and they should be. London has been the object of bombings and their increased security methods serve to try to keep the country secure.
- Get some rest the night before and drink lots of coffee the morning of your trip. I wanted to eat and see and look but I crashed instead.
- Pack a travel snack. I could have used a bite to eat when I left the train. I still had to pull that heavy luggage to get out of the station.
- Don’t make a habit of sleeping in public!
Do you have any stories of border safety or travel exhaustion? Or hints on making travel easier and safer? Share them with me, I’d love to learn how to do it better!