We here at The Travel Room love the idea of getting on a train, passing under the Channel and ending up in continental Europe. There is still something very futuristic about going under such a large body of water by train in only about 20 minutes. Thus we have used the Eurostar many times, especially as you don’t have the hassle of airports and all the security etc that goes with them, would it be pompous to go as far as to say it feels more civilised?
Recently though, our love affair with the Eurostar has started to diminish. It all began on my (Ted) birthday two years ago. We got to the station for the early afternoon train and proceeded to wait 8 hours for it to arrive. When we finally got to Paris at 2am after being on time to board the 3pm train out of London, my birthday had disappeared in crowds and poor communications from the overworked Eurostar staff. Turns out there was a minor fire on one of the trains and this had caused all the problems.
Like every romance we were happy to give it another go, especially as we received a couple of goodies to entice us back, think of it as flowers after your first fight. So we booked tickets to spend Christmas in Paris and with thoughts of ice skating near the Seine and wandering the snow covered boulevards we set about organising the rest of the trip. Then it snowed, not blizzard conditions, but snow nevertheless. Eurostar fell apart, like our trip to Paris, and we were left gate crashing a friend’s house for a Christmas roast (big shout to Stacey for feeding a lost and bewildered Travel Room). The official story from the good people at Eurostar was that it was the wrong type of snow and it has blown into the trains through vents at the wrong angle and shut down the electrics. Another refund was sought and obtained and we avoided the Eurostar for the following 12 months until the call of Paris at Christmas became like a sirens and we relented and booked Eurostar, safe in the knowledge that new covers had been fitted to the vents, so that if ‘wrong’ snow fell again it wouldn’t stop our fantasy of a Christmas in Paris. Till it snowed, again. This time Eurostar basically shut down for 3 days as the snow on the tracks had shut down the electrics, and no plans had been put in place to run passenger free trains down the tracks to clear them. So Christmas in London came and went.... and the love affair is now officially over! But, we are still friends with the Eurostar and would recommend the following:
Don’t travel at Christmas or when there is a chance of really bad weather (snow), despite the promises made we are twice bitten. Unless of course you enjoy bad tempered, desperate people in confined spaces, or 3 hour queues in freezing temperatures to try and get into the station.
Book the cheapest fare available. We used to take the first class journey as one of us got a significant discount on the price, this used to be a real treat as you got a lovely hot meal, including warm bread rolls and lots of the wine of your choice. This has now changed significantly and the meals resemble airline food and the ability to get a decent drink has steadily diminished. Sadly no longer the treat it was. Go to a nice supermarket and buy a feast before hand and enjoy the journey in second class elegance.
Book well in advance if you can and you will have a bargain of between £50-£60 return. A bargain because it cuts out waiting at the airport and the extortionate train fares that are charged to get you there. Stansted being our “favourite” at around £29 return!!!
So if you take into account all of the above, book your trip early and enjoy your feast, as you effortlessly make your way across the French countryside whilst drinking a bottle of their finest red. Bon appetite.
NB. The Eurostar also goes to Lille, Brussels and the ticket is good for any destination in Belgium, so cities like Brugges are all within a few hours reach.
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