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Paddington Station - fact of life for those coming from the West, but could be worse
Member Name: grey0220
Advantages: Easily accessible, M&S Boots WH Smith and Sainsburys very convenient
Disadvantages: Lack of anything else to do, Friday afternoons are hellish!
Paddington has been my main station in and out of London for the past couple of years for a number of reasons - we use it at least once a month to visit my husband's family in Bristol, and I often find myself running to catch the Heathrow Express when flying out of LHR. Prior to that, when I was in law school and my husband was already working in London, I took the train back and forth from Oxford every weekend. Paddington is an unavoidable fact of my life, but it could be much worse.
As anyone who has tried to catch a westward bound train out of the Big Smoke on a Friday afternoon can attest to, Paddington can become the scene of nightmares. Pushing your way through ticket machine queues and crowds staring hopefully up at the train time boards, visions of Times headlines featuring 'fatal crush' and 'hundreds missing' and 'delays across the country' flash through your mind. In more morbid (typically, rush hour-induced) moods, you worry about some sort of public catastrophe, with the sheer number of people crammed into an otherwise massive train station suddenly very, very 'real'.
On literally any other day, however, Paddington is lovely - on Sunday afternoons, coming back into the city, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, and on any other afternoon, there's only a fraction the number of people at the station. It's always clean, and very easy to find people in - not many hidden doorways or obstructions to get in the way of spotting people. It has an M&S Food Hall, Boots, Sainsbury's, Starbucks, and a few sandwich/lunch-type places (EAT, Paul's, etc.) that are all really handy for either grabbing another toothbrush or just something to eat on the train. If you'd rather jump straight from the Tube on to your train, though, this is easily doable, with Paddington Tube station being easily accessible from literally all four corners of London - the Jubilee to Bakerloo platform change at Baker Street is particularly convenient for those coming from Canary Wharf.
One thing that I haven't been able to figure out is anywhere nice to go outside of the station whilst waiting for the train - Paddington is a bit of an island, so if you wanted to go window shopping before your train came, your choice is between Accessorize and WH Smith! Particularly problematic when you realise you've forgotten to pack something quite big - like a nice dress.
But besides Friday afternoons and the lack of pre-ride entertainment (which is unfair, as no train station is really known for its proximity to fabulous shopping - can't really compare it to T5!), Paddington is great - there's a little stand with Paddington Bear memorabilia, so you can even commemorate your trip to London that way.
Summary: You can't really avoid Paddington, but they still haven't let standards drop
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