Eurostar Review - Luxury Travel at the Speed of Light

We didn’t originally start out with the intention of seeing Paris.  This was a trip to London to see our friends and explore the city and its history.  However, when my 8-year-old daughter spotted the chance to take a day trip to Paris from London, she wanted desperately to add that experience to our holiday.  How, might you ask, is it possible to take a day trip from London to Paris?  A good geography lesson would inform you that London is properly in the southeast of the United Kingdom, an island country north of the English Channel.  Paris, on the other hand, is situated in France, part of the European continent, and south of the English Channel.  So clearly we couldn’t drive and we could scarcely afford another airline flight.  So how did we manage it?

Eurostar train and crew

Lucky for us (and all of you!), back in the late 1980s, a tunnel was begun beneath the English Channel, giving a permanent link between the UK and the European continent.  After years of work, the Channel Tunnel, often called the Chunnel, was opened for travel in 1994.  Originally based at London’s Waterloo International, the Eurostar began transporting freight and passengers in their record-breaking high speed trains between London and Paris, Brussels and Lille.  In 2007, their London base was changed to St. Pancras and that is where we began our exhilarating journey. 

 

The miraculous part of it all is that Eurostar trains take you from central London right into the heart of Paris . . . in just over 2 hours!  Yes, you read it right. Two hours.  That’s about the time it took us to travel from our friends home in Ruislip, NW of London, out to Hampton Court in Surry.  It’s still hard to believe that we started at St. Pancras in London, sped across southern England, under the English Channel and then across the French landscape to find ourselves at Gare du Nord in Paris.  What will they come up with next?  Beaming us over??

London's St. Pancras International Train Station

Back to London.  Coming up from the Underground, or tube as the London subway system is called, at St. Pancras we simply followed the signs toward International Travel at the train station.  Through the crowds of people, we bobbed and weaved and found ourselves at the entrance to International train departures.  I was able to use our reservation code and print our tickets out at home from the Eurostar website, so all we needed to do was scan our printouts and we were in. 

 

International Departures at St. Pancras

We found ourselves in a waiting area that reminded me of an airport – digital screens overhead listed the many departure and arrival times and platform locations and we determined that we would leave from platform 6.  We followed the crowd of travelers and took a moving ramp up to the platform.  The station is arranged so that passengers in the front 5 coaches enter at one point in the platform and the rest of us, in the later coaches, arrive further back to allow for easier flow.

Informative signs directing passengers to coaches

We had reserved seating in the 9th coach (of 18) and noticed, as we watched the floor for the clearly marked coach numbers, that each and every door had a Eurostar employee waiting to greet us, help us up the stairs and direct us to our seats.  The car was arranged in pairs of seats facing each other along one window and groups of 4 seats facing each other along the other window.  Folding tables between the seats allowed us to draw, use the laptop, eat, or fold them up and get a good nap.  The seats themselves were very comfortable – wide and well cushioned; they had a winged headrest that made getting a little dreamtime as easy as closing our eyes.

Incredibly comfy wing-topped seats

Restrooms were spaced throughout the train and we could pass from car to car through pairs of sliding doors.  There were areas between the cars for luggage storage, for larger items that didn’t fit above our seat, and a selection of reading material to borrow.  Soon after our departure, attendants began passing through the train with drinks and a meal service!  I was completely surprised and quite delighted, as I wasn’t expecting such a luxury on a 2-hour trip (I don’t know of an airline that will do that)!  It was a delightful repast of locally-sourced croissant, seeded roll, juice, organic yogurt, water and tea/coffee.

Sliding doors between train compartments

Amazing breakfast service

As we ate, we watched the English countryside fly by.  We made two quick stops at stations further south.  We sat back and enjoyed our meal, our trays were cleared and we leaned back to rest.  My daughter awoke before I did so I learned that I had slept through our passage under the water and opened my eyes to France!  We enjoyed more stunning views from our windows and before we knew it we were arriving at Gare du Nord.

Arriving at Gare du Nord

I mentioned earlier a day trip.  Now, it is technically possible, thanks to the Eurostar, to leave very early in the morning, paint Paris any color you like and come back to London late in the evening. We, however, decided one day just wasn’t enough.  So we stayed the night and came back the following evening, taking another luxurious, speedy ride on Eurostar – meal and all.

I cannot imagine an easier, faster, more comfortable or more enjoyable way to travel.  There are countless advantages – from the wide, comfy seats, the ability to move about the train, the meal service and the almost-speed-of-light travel time – to travelling by Eurostar.  By far the very greatest benefit to the Eurostar is the ability to travel quickly and easily between the United Kingdom and the Continent.  Whether for business or pleasure, it makes what was once a much more challenging obstacle graceful and simple.  For us, it made one 8-year-old’s dream of seeing the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower come true.

Be sure to check out their website for more information about the Eurostar company, their history and, of course, booking your next trip at The Eurostar Website.

 

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