What’s the fastest way to get between Paris and London? I’m pretty sure the answer is by rail, through the Channel Tunnel (aka the chunnel). I chose to travel on Eurostar. From the first time I heard about the trip, I wanted to take it. Where else can you speed through a tunnel deep under the Atlantic Ocean for 20 minutes?!
I was served a light breakfast of tea, juice, yogurt and pastries at my seat. Between you and me, the pastries I purchased that morning at a boulangerie were much fresher and tastier. But the hot tea was much appreciated, and the flatware was not plastic.
The train moved quickly out of Paris Gare du Nord and into the countryside. I had no way to gauge our speed, but we were definitely moving along at a fast clip.
I watched carefully, trying to anticipate when we would go into the tunnel. It’s not announced. One moment, we were cruising the gorgeous French countryside. The next, we were immersed into darkness. There really isn’t anything to see in that darkness. Aside from the cabin pressure changes, it just felt like nighttime.
Then, just as suddenly, we popped into sunlight, speeding through the gorgeous English countryside (with a brief commuter stop at Ashford). The journey on the English side was much shorter, and we soon arrived at London’s St. Pancras International train station.
For my journey from London to Brussels, I traveled via Standard class. I arrived less than an hour before my train was due to depart. In retrospect, I should have gotten to the station sooner that Saturday morning. The crowds of people preparing to depart on various Eurostar trains were just a bit horrifying. I became seriously concerned that I would miss my train.
As I stood in a crowd of very long queues to check in, I noticed Eurostar agents were methodically pulling passengers out of line to board the Paris train scheduled to depart 4 minutes before my own train. However, nobody seemed concerned that any of us Belgium-bound passengers might miss our train.
After a nail-biting wait that seemed like forever (but was probably only 15 minutes), I checked in with less than 30 minutes to go before my departure…and got into another queue for security and customs.
Having checked in, though, my anxiety level went down a bit. At least they knew I was there and waiting to board.
Eventually, I made it through with enough time to buy a bottle of water before boarding the train. This time I was not in a quiet car, and there was no attendant with a food cart, but I was right next to the dining car. It was easy enough to walk over and buy my breakfast, and I was able to use the last of my UK currency.
The seats in Standard are roomy enough, roomier than coach class on most airlines. It was certainly no hardship for the two-hour trip.
If you ever find yourself needing to get across the Channel, I highly recommend Eurostar. Just make sure you get there early enough to check in without worrying!