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A few Big Tips for your Eurostar trip...
Member Name: jamescridland
Date: 23/03/01, updated on 15/04/01 (143 review reads)
Advantages: Service and speed
Disadvantages: British rail system is so awful...
We bought one of these "trip to Paris on Eurostar and back with a night in Paris for £99" things you see in the papers. Part of the attraction was Paris, but part of the attraction, too, was being able to walk from home, onto a tube then train and end up right in the middle of Paris. Having flown before, you soon realise how far away airports are from city centres... and how close the train stations are.
The first Big Tip is, assuming you're travelling from London Waterloo, to try and hold off from buying coffees until you've checked in. In an airport, you get the nasty, scummy bits of the airport until you've checked in, whereupon you get the nice shopping centre, perfume shops, newsagents and currency change counters. Waterloo is just the same, with decent facilities inside, rather than the cold, draughty and frankly revolting coffee from the cafe just before the check-in barrier.
The second Big Tip is that the food you get on the train is actually quite nice. We took an early train out (leaving at 7.30) and a late train back (leaving at 20:45) so maybe we were lucky, but we found the buffet car quiet, the prices not too over-the-odds (particularly when you compare them to Parisian cafes!) and the food very edible. Incidentally, you can use french francs as well as sterling on the train, so it's easy to get some change if you need some for later - or, on the way back, reduce your small change.
The main thing you realise, though, is that the British rail system is very, very broken indeed. The train trundles through the outskirts of London on the way down to the Kent coastline, chugging along really rather slowly. An hour later, you arrive at Ashford. Incidentally, the scenery's quite nice, if you like that sort of thing.
After Ashford, you dive into the tunnel (take this opportunity to visit the buffet car) and, 20 minutes later, you come out into France... and take off.
I've never been
in a train that goes so fast. It tilts, so you don't feel the corners or the speed. It goes so fast that the rain doesn't even hit the windows. Look straight ahead, instead of out of the window, and it's almost as if you're on an aeroplane, banking between the hills. It's a fascinating experience. And, before you know it (kind of - it's about another hour) you're in Paris.
The service is pleasant and nice at all times, the trains large and comfortable. The seats are large, the seat backs produce a huge drop-down table area (big enough for your laptop if you must) and the trains are clean, tidy, and quiet.
One more Big Tip to end with: there are doors at the end of the carriage (to get between carriages and out of the train). Pull the handle, and they open, to close about 15 seconds later. I think that caught out most of us! If you're coming off the train, you might like a little time longer than just 15 seconds to squeeze through the door, particularly with luggage. Look directly above the door, on the same side as the handle, and you'll see a black button in the metal above. Press this button, and the door will open and remain open for 2 minutes. (Your fellow passengers will thank you!)
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