Should you find yourself on the Continent, as Brits like to refer to mainland Europe, you could have breakfast in Paris, followed by lunch in London and be back on the Continent for dinner in Bruxelles, or Lille or even back in Paris. Most people aren’t quite that hectic in the choice of their daily meals, but thanks to the high-speed Eurostar train one could indeed eat in up to three different countries all on the same day.
The Eurostar trains utilize the Channel Tunnel, le tunnel sous la Manche, usually referred to as CHUNNEL to race at high speeds beneath the Dover Narrows, le Pas de Calais.
We took the Eurostar from the Gare du Nord in Paris to St. Pancras Station in London last week, July 2016, and had the most enjoyable travel time. Both cities have great public transportation systems, so it’s very easy to reach the train stations or travel onward from them by Metro (Paris) or the Tube (London). Be aware that underground transportation most often involves descending and claiming stairs, especially in Paris. Since we’re a bit elderly and had a large and heavy suitcase, we chose to use cabs to ride to and from the stations.
Although Great Britain is [still] part of the EU, it has never been a Schengen country, which means you have to go through passport controls to enter the United Kingdom. Very smartly the Brits delegated these checks to the Frenchies to be done before even letting any potential visitors board the train. In order to go through the required security checks and immigration, it is advisable to be at the Gare du Nord station at least 30 minutes ahead of departure time.
As you enter the Gare du Nord train station from Place Napoléon III, you will be confronted be chaos and construction, as is typical for a very large and old station. The departure facility for Eurostar passengers only is on the first floor level of the station. Do not get sidetracked by signage for any “international” or Thalys trains, instead, keep to the left and look for overhead signs for “Eurostar” or “London”. Usually, there is an escalator to take you upstairs, for now, though, it disappeared behind construction fencing. But to the left of the main entrance is an elevator that will take you one floor up to the Eurostar departure lounge. Everything on the first level relates to Eurostar travel alone and there are many customer service agents to help you along.
If you are a non-European citizen, you will have to fill out one of those standard immigration forms with personal information and your UK address. The forms are available in boxes along the railing overlooking the station below. Europeans only need a passport. One passes first through gates to validate the train ticket, either through a check-in booth with an agent or electronically, followed by passport control and luggage x-rays. This almost being England, you then queue patiently for boarding. Of course, there are opportunities to buy food for the journey, get a coffee and use the loo during this waiting period. Queuing is stacked according to the coach number on your ticket. The lower your coach number the further forward you queue. There are overhead signs to help you find the proper queuing spot.
Once boarding is called, you walk to the train over a bridge which splits into a gently sloping walkway down to the platform. We were in a forward coach, and it was quite a long distance to walk. Once settled in your seat, just lean back and enjoy the rest of your trip!
We had splurged on 1st class tickets, which included meal service at the seat. A very comfortable and spacious seat, I might add, a lot roomier than a coach seat on a plane.
Also provided is free WiFi, an outlet at each seat to keep your device charged and well-maintained toilets. As the high-summer landscape raced by,
we rapidly approached the coast to plunge abruptly into darkness.
Twenty minutes later we regained the surface on the British Isle, surrounded by border fencing.
A further 35 min later, our Eurostar train arrived at the St. Pancras/Kings Cross station in central London. Couldn’t have been any quicker or any more comfortable with any other mode of transportation!