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Travels with Andrew-Eurostar/London, Paris, Brussels
By Jim Herron
It has been 18 months since Andrew and I have ventured to London,
his second trip. Our first visit consisted of rides on the Underground,
the double-decker buses and a visit to the London Transport Museum
in Convent Garden Piazza.
As with our first trip, our adventures started in Houston flying
non-stop on a Boeing 777 to London Gatwick Airport. Upon arrival,
we took the Airport Express Train to London's Victoria Station
in central London. Our hotel, the Marriott County Hall was directly
on the Thames River in Westminster next to the "London Eye".
We spent 2 ½ days in London doing the London Eye Ferris
Wheel ride, some more exploring of Covent Garden and the London
Transit Museum, where we purchased an enamel sign from "The
Tubes" showing "Way Out". It now hangs in our train
room. We explored more buses and transit cars, took updated pictures
at the Transit Museum in Covert Garden and watched a few fire-eaters
and jugglers who were quite funny. Andrew jumped on a huge trampoline
tied with a bungee line.
On Monday morning, Andrew, my wife Carla (yes, she did accompany
us on this trip) and I set out for Waterloo Station to board the
Chunnel Train, known as the Bullet Train/Eurostar. The destination
was Paris, a mere 3 hours and one minute away with one stop in
Lille, France. We boarded the 1st class compartment at 8:45am
for a 9:00am departure. The train left exactly on time. We had
a club seating arrangement and the airline type seats were extremely
comfortable. The three of us were served a wonderful hot breakfast
and when we finished, we were just about to enter our 21 minute
ride under the English Channel to France. What impressed our family
so far was the smoothness of the ride clipping along at about
120 miles per hour. It was somewhat smoother than an airplane
As we left the tunnel, our speed increased to over 180 mph and
the ride got even smoother. Andrew was fascinated at how fast
we were going as the trucks, towns, and fields
went flying by the windows and we all felt like we were standing
still. After a half hour, we reached Lille, spent 10 minutes disembarking
passengers and proceeded on to Paris. We arrived right on time
in Paris at the Gare de Nord station. European train travel is
such a pleasure and absolutely one of the most convenient ways
of getting around Europe. During our stay in Paris we traveled
on the Paris Metro (Andrew loved the ticket system) an intertwined
system of subways linking the city of Paris, north, south, east
and west. You can get just about everywhere in Paris on The Metro
if you have a map and know how to interconnect with all of the
lines and are ready for many a walk. That afternoon we decided
to visit Montmartre, the artist colony behind Sacre-Coeur Cathedral,
the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. It is
situated on a northwest hill overlooking Paris. We took The Metro
there and proceeded up the hill to a functioning funicular, or
cable railway that takes you up to the top of the Sacre-coeur.
It consists of two cars, one always going up, and the other going
down. The ride takes about five minutes and the view is spectacular.
All it costs is one Metro ticket. If you ask for a Carnet, a book
of ten tickets will save you about 33% and they can be used indefinitely.
The next leg of our journey was from Paris to Brussels aboard
a Belgium TGV Bullet train, a journey of 1 hour and 45 minutes
with one stop. Again, it was a fast (180 mph), smooth, pleasurable
and comfortable ride, arriving "on time" at the Midi
Station in central Brussels.
During our stay in Brussels, we ventured northwest to Bruges,
a medieval town one hour by train from central Brussels. We spent
the day and arrived back at Central Station in downtown Brussels
at about 7:30PM. The roundtrip cost for the three of us was about
30 Euros, or $25. The train was fun and Andrew enjoyed the ride
through the Flemish countryside, passing a windmill or two.
Our return trip to London on Saturday was on
the Eurostar from Midi Station again direct to London, 2 hours
and 45 minutes with two stops. We arrived "on time"
in London, had a hot meal of rabbit (which I did not care for-How
can you eat Bugs Bunny?), wine, dessert and Belgian chocolate
(which of course, Andrew loved). There is also no smoking on the
Eurostar with 1st class and 2nd class accommodations. The coaches
on the Eurostar Train are more plush, the service better with
a good meal, newspapers and all sorts of amenities in the 1st
class compartment. Compared to European airlines, which travel
airport to airport versus downtown to downtown on the train, taking
the Eurostar is a real bargain and time saver for tourists and
One flaw in the Eurostar is the track work from London to the
English Channel, it is not fully complete and speed has to be
kept under 120 mph. Supposedly this will be rectified in two more
years when the cement ties are laid, and work is finally finished,
cutting off about 30 minutes of travel, making the trip to or
from Paris or London about 2½ hours.
All in all, we highly recommend train travel in Europe. TGV and
Eurostar travel downtown to downtown anywhere on the Continent.
We have used it quite a bit and have yet to have a bad trip.
Too bad Americans and the railroads can't get together and start
a system of high-speed trains right here soon.