I have always vowed to never travel on the Eurostar from when it was first built just over 20 years ago in the later 1990’ s. The thought of being in a tunnel between the UK and France didn’ t exactly thrill me at
the time and I figured that it being a relatively new concept it needed some time to be tested out and I still had some mistrust for technology.
So nothing major has happened in the last 20 years, there has been a fire and delays but no fatalities so that’ s good enough of a track record for me.
So I finally agreed to complete a trip on the Eurostar to Paris.
The check in is pretty much like that at an airport. You go through the baggage and ticket section first and then through to the bag scanners and then the good old body scan. No matter how many times you empty your pockets, and check that you have no metal on your person, as you walk through you always hear the invertible beep and are pulled aside whilst other passengers stare at you reminding themselves not to sit too close.
It is relatively easy if not slow on the Eurostar UK side with queues beginning to form fairly early on in the process. I wonder why this is surely we are in the digital age and everything should be moving smoothly and efficiently. Or maybe it is for the benefit of the English population because it seems that they are attracted by a queue.
The Eurostar waiting area is quite a pleasant affair with a good range of waiting and seating facilities. There are restaurants and you can get a good cup of coffee though the prices start to rise steadily from this point onwards. There is Wi —Fi but it comes at a cost and frankly there isn’ t the time.
Announcements are made when it is time to board and there is the invertible queue that forms at the escalator that lead up to the trains.
Again people fall into an orderly queue which is silly as you are all getting into the same train and everyone has a pre-booked ticket number.
Our tickets had been booked by a friend who works on Eurostar and she had the fore thought to book us into the first carriage the idea being that you are first off on the other end ready to get started on your journey.
Now, I can totally understand that but I couldn’ t help but think if anything goes wrong we are at the front of this and will take the brunt. I kept my thoughts to myself and tried to join in with the children’ s excitement after we had walked the length of the platform to find the front coach.
If you are travelling with small bags don’ t place them in the luggage compartment please put them in the overhead racks. My family keen to rid themselves of baggage did just that and very soon they were squashed by some rather large items.
In no time the luggage compartment had filled up and heavy suitcases were placed on top of our bags and there was squashed toothpaste and all sorts of delights when the bags were finally opened.
The trains are clean and have all the usual amenities of toilets and a food coach. Announcements warn that the train was about to depart and then with a stroke of luck we actually leave on time.
I hit the jackpot as there are only four seats and there are five of us. I find myself sharing a table with three other women who all get out their laptops and immediately start looking like they are working only I know that they are busy watching a movie.
Relieved that none of them want to read the free in ‘flight’ magazine as it is not digital and does not have buttons to work, I reach for it and enjoy the feel of turning the pages.
I recommend that you bring your own food as the food on the train was not only expensive they had run out of most things in the first quarter of the journey which was when we went to try to buy some food and snacks.
It was a long walk down to the food carriage as well and you have to be careful walking through as you are travelling so fast that you will bump into seats and people so just kept saying sorry as you walk along it’ s the easiest.
The actual journey through the tunnel only takes 20 minutes — but it was the longest 20 minutes for me.
I wish they didn’ t announce this. They have to remind you just as you are about to enter the tunnel; this voice comes on saying
‘Ladies and Gentlemen we will now be entering the euro tunnel. The journey time will be 20 minutes’ .
I decide the best thing is to shut my eyes and put some motivational music on at least if this is my end I will go out with some positive thoughts in my head. I close my eyes to musk the blackness that passes by.
Then we are in France just like that no bother no fuss we arrive into France to green fields and driving on the wrong side of the road.
The children realise that they have lost the ability to read and discover that they speak another language and so are rather relieved that it not just them that cannot read the signs out there.
An hour later we arrive into Gard Du Nord. Passengers are anxious to get out and 10 minutes before we are due to arrive a queue has formed at the exits as people get their bits together ready to get started on their holidays, meet business partners or even lovers. I guess if you had a lover in Paris it would be one easy way of seeing them.
We are at the front of the Eurostar train so we think we better join this queuing system or we will get crushed with the back end of passengers who may catch up, by the time we get out so we push our way out into the aisle retrieve our squashed bags from the bottom of the pile and head off to Paris.
See Part Two tommorrow —What To Do On Your First Day in Paris
Train In The Tunnel Stock Photo
Photo by Salvatore Vuono. Published on 29 January 2010