When I planned four hours between arriving at Paris Gare du Nord and leaving from Montparnasse I was thinking easy metro ride to a gallery, interesting couple of hours looking at pictures, another easy metro ride, then a saunter onto a comfortable high-speed train. I wasn't thinking of backpacks, cold, rain or hunger.

We decided to go straight to Montparnasse, not knowing that it is currently a building site while it acquires its new state-of-the-art shopping centre without which no place for catching trains deserves to be called a station.

After three-and-a-half hours on a bench, with occasional forays into the rain to relieve the tedium, we got onto our comfortable train and four-and-a-half hours after that we were on the Spanish border, speaking neither French nor Spanish but English, since our welcoming airbnb hosts turned out to be Ukrainian.

The holiday begins.

Black and white in colour 145

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