(Gare du Nord, December 2014)
On arrival at nine-thirty, Gare du Nord had been freezing. The greyness of the morning had made it necessary to switch on the lights in their glass globes, but Gare du Nord suits the cold. It is bleak and wintry in a painting of 1908 by Pieter ten Cate, which is on display at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. In Les Mémoires de Maigret (1951) Georges Simenon wrote of Gare du Nord: ‘In the morning, the first night trains, arriving from Belgium and Germany, bring the first load of crooks, with faces as hard as the light that falls through the window panes.’ (Andrew Martin – Night Trains, the Rise and Fall of the Sleeper, 2017)
Living in Brussels, I suppose that Gare du Nord is ‘my’ Paris station – just as Euston, coming from Manchester as I did, is my London one.
Opposite Gare du Nord, when there is time before the train north – and the focussed staff don’t need much time at all – I love to eat fish soup at the Terminus du Nord. I’ve had to find a hotel room ad hoc there more often than I’d want, having missed the last train, but always find somewhere in the end. Coming up from southern parts I hope, at Gare du Nord, to buy an English paper. The surly newsagents in the centre of the concourse is usually closing up, but recently I’ve found that the Relay at the west end of the concourse is reliable for this.