Getting to the Gare du Nord
It takes me 90 minutes to get from Fontainebleau to Gare du Nord. I first catch the bus line 1 to the railway station at Fontainebleau Avon, and then from there the RER R train to Gare de Lyon. At Gare de Lyon I can’t resist the opportunity to take a photo of this legendary engine, which just looks really funky – despite it’s age.
On the other side of the platform are three resting TGVs.
From Gare de Lyon the RER D runs to Gare du Nord. It’s only two stops and takes about seven minutes.
At Gare du Nord I am temporarily distracted again…
There is no check-in as such on the Eurostar. However, because you go through French immigration, French customs and English immigration at Gare du Nord, Eurostar advise you to be at the station two hours before departure. The Eurostar has its own terminal, located on the upper level of the station.
There is a dedicated line for Business Premier passengers, which means that they don’t have to show up quite so early for their train.
Once you’re through immigration and security, there is a fairly large waiting area. However, given that the Eurostar train has a capacity of 750, it does tend to get rather crowded.
Boarding for the train starts thirty minutes before departure and it’s a complete mess. There are people pushing and showing everywhere, so I figure I better wait for the initial scrum to settle.
It also doesn’t help that there are no signs to tell you in which direction your coach is. As a result, the platform is full of people walking up and down in search of their carriage.
The cabin of the train is in a two + one abreast configuration. There are a few units of four facing seats for families or groups.
Leg room is very good. In addition, when you recline the seat, the lower part moves forward, which means that you don’t infringe on the personal space of the person sitting behind you.
Each one of the Premier coaches has its own attendant. The staff are nice enough and I have to say they’re very polite and really take care of passengers. If you ask them for extra water or a top up of you tea, they take care of it straight away.
There’s a delay of fifteen minutes departing Paris. As a result, the crew already start serving lunch while we’re still in the station. There is a choice of vegetarian or fish. I decide to go with the vegetarian.
The main dish is some sort of small pasta with olives and an artichoke pie.
For dessert there is a small apricot pie.
And the meal is served with a bread roll and butter.
A bottle of still water is on the tray, but other drinks are available from the trolley.
The meal ends with tea or coffee.
All in all, I think the meal service on the TGV is better than that on the Eurostar. I also think they present the meal a lot nicer on the TGV. Still, the quality of the food is good, and hits the spot nicely for an afternoon departure.
Eventually we arrive in London with a delay of eleven minutes. The exit from the platform is at the very end, which gives me a chance to take a photo of the business end of our train. Eurostar is currently in the process of renewing its rolling stock with trains produced by Hitachi of Japan. However, I’m lucky to have had a last minute equipment change, which means I get to travel on the much cooler, older rolling stock that looks very similar to the TGV.
The journey time from Paris to London is two hours and thirty minutes. The time in the tunnel under the channel is only 20 minutes, which is quite amazing. I like travelling by train, and I think it makes sense to take a train where it is a viable option to travelling by plane. Nonetheless, I thought there was quite a bit of unnecessary hassle on this trip, starting with the fact that they expect you to be at the station two hours before departure. I think next time, unless it’s too expensive, I would try the Business Premier fare instead of the Standard Premier, simply because it allows you to arrive at the station much closer to the train’s departure time. The signposting at Gare du Nord could also be much improved.