We go back to the luggage closet only to find out that “safekeeping” has a very loose meaning since Mick’s smaller duffel bag has been stolen. Of course it’s the one that had the emergency cash, the gifts he bought for his niece and nephew, miscellaneous toiletries, and most of his souvenirs. He filled out forms and listed the contents in the hopes that this would somehow get reported to the police and solved. He handled the situation much better than me: he was cool headed and collected, while I cried like a baby thinking about how some asswipe who probably just wanted money ended up with a bagful of children’s toys that meant something to someone but were useless to him. After all of the rigmarole with the bag, the Hotel management, who had refused at first to even acknowledge that the bag was stolen, let alone assume the smallest amount of responsibility for not locking their storage room, begrudgingly paid for our cab ride to the station.
We managed to get a train to some town in France where we were supposed to pick up another train to Lille-Flanders (the place where the Chunnel train left for London) but for some reason, everything was going wrong, we couldn’t find our train and it got to the point that we thought we might be spending Halloween night in some no-name city in France. The train arrived, however, and took us right to Lille.
The Lille-Flanders train station is a monument to bad architecture everywhere. It’s a huge building with what I’m guessing 100-foot ceilings—-but the catch is, the glass walls only go up to about 88 feet of that 100, leaving approximately 12 feet of open space between the walls and the ceiling. It was a very windy, very rainy night, so the wind and the rain blew right into the gaps. The station has space-heater towers set up here and there and all of the travelers were flocked up close to it, but after a while, even that became useless.
We had barely eaten all day and of course, there was not an ATM in the building. We had a handful of Belgian Francs left that we had to pay the astronomical exchange rate to turn into French Francs before being able to use them at the only food place open (which promptly closed one hour later). Our train was scheduled to leave at 8:30-ish. It got cancelled due to severe flooding in the South of England. The rest of the trains were delayed. Everyone on the cancelled train had to reschedule for one of the later ones. We got put on the 9:20, which was delayed until about 11:45.
So we sat. With no frog-money in our pockets, no open food places even if we did, no heat, open walls blowing wind and cold air in on us. As a fine icing on this suck-cake, they were playing Cher’s Believe album on repeat. We heard it three times; I swear to all things holy, it was three times. I took the opportunity to paint my nails, Mick started making log cabins out of the sugar packets. The people around us stared at us like as if we were standing on the tables spouting out lines from Oedipus. Even the family on their way back from EuroDisney, laden down with Mickey Mouse toys and balloons and sweatshirts and stuff thought *we* were the sight to see.
By the time we got back to England, Halloween was technically over. I don’t think the day was ruined, since it was one of the most interesting and memorable adventure-days of my life. But I am always looking for new and improved reasons to despise the French, so I can say with disdain, The French Ruined Halloween.