London to Paris

This morning we checked out of our hotel early to travel to the St. Pancras International rail station, which is the London hub for the EuroStar train that transits under the English Channel. We’ll be taking the EuroStar from London to Paris today. It was a bit drizzly as we walked over to the Marble Arch Tube station. From Marble Arch, we’ll change Tube lines a couple of times before arriving at St. Pancras. We’re supposed to arrive 2 hours before departure, though even though we do, we can’t check in 😒 and have to wait…

The EuroStar connects the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. From any of these countries, there are high speed rail links to other countries. The train that operates in the Netherlands and Belgium is the Thalys (looks and performs like the EuroStar and TGV). The UK has its own high speed train called the Javelin and France has the TGV. This train departs at 10:20am and though it’s not full, is well occupied. We’re in car 10 and there are assigned seats. The segment of the trip that goes under the Channel only lasts ~20 minutes; they slow down to about 60mph under the Channel, but there’s nothing to see, it’s dark (you’re in a tunnel). On the French side of the Channel, the train speeds up or slows down according to the terrain (and cannot blow through intervening stations, it could literally blow people off the platform) , but can reach speeds of up to 180 mph. There’s no indication of what the speeds are inside the cabin, the scenery just flashes by. There is a dining car on either side of us, but we don’t take advantage of that. There was high compliance with the mask mandate onboard the EuroStar. The duration of the trip between London and Paris is just over 2 hours and when you consider you’re going city center to city center (vs getting to an outlying airport, waiting, then transiting, then doing the same on the other side), it’s a better travel solution.

EuroStar at Paris Gate du Nord

Arriving in Paris, there’s no customs to clear as we did that in St. Pancras (going through both UK customs and French customs). We did need to show our Pass Sanitaire when going through French customs. In Gare du Nord, the first priority was to find the entrance to the Metro (subway) station, below ground of the rail station) and buy carnets (each carnet has 10 “billets” (tickets) ). Fortunately, I stood in the line with an agent rather than the much longer lines for the automated machines and was finished much more quickly. I know we’ll use them, so I bought 2 carnets. These paper tickets are going away in the near future as the Metro fully transitions to passes (Navigo has been around for years, but is really mostly for residents) and reloadable passes as they have in London (“Oyster”), but not, as I understand it, to the simpler (for non pass holders) touch to pay system also in use in London. There will be Navigo options for tourists, we just haven’t looked into them as yet.

As we exited the Metro to make our way to our hotel, we walked across the Champs Elysee. This is highly unusual, as the Champs is one of the busiest streets in Paris, but to celebrate the Olympics coming to Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has closed the Champs Elysee on Sundays to automobile traffic in cerebration of 1000 days until the Olympics comes to Paris. It was certainly odd to see people walking in the middle of what’s normally such a busy street, without fear for their life.

Car free Champs Elysee

We’re trying out a new hotel for the first part of our stay to see how we like it compared to where we’ve stayed for 10+ years. We haven’t been totally happy with our “usual” the last few stays, for various reasons and thought we’d try a different hotel. It’s also in a somewhat different (though still very nice) area of central Paris. We’ll stay at our “usual” for the second half of our visit to see how they’ve recovered from Covid and whether the “experience“ is what we expect. We were lucky to be able to use a suite upgrade and our room is really (really) nice, overlooking an interior courtyard, so there will not be any traffic noise. The room rates at this hotel for a comparable room later this week are up to $1,800/night, so though we used a lot of points, we’re getting a lot of value.

We arrived late afternoon, and by the time we checked in and decompressed a bit, it was time to look for dinner. We found a nearby Pret a Manger, one of our favorite fast food chains (both Uk and France) not far away. As expected, to eat in, you have to present your Pass Sanitaire. We both loaded ours to the French Tous Anti Covid app. Dining inside or visiting a bar requires proof of vaccination (and not just in Paris, but all of France). Open the app to show your QR code, the attendant scans the QR code with their scanner, pay (touch to pay, naturally) and find a table.

Joining the throng on the Champs Elysee, most of the large stores and the restaurants are open on Sunday , many of them with long lines. Louis Vuitton and Nike both had long lines. One of our favorite restaurants, Laduree, had a long line for seating inside and out. So none of that for us today.

We passed a side street with a familiar scene of some guy with a Lamborghini with a “rent me” sign on the side. These guys have been around forever it seems, operating just off Champs Elysee. Guess they help pay for their car, though I’ve (very) rarely seen any of them being driven.

Rent Me

Then there’s this

Rent Me

Which would you choose? Car #1 or car #2?

Back to the hotel. Paris awaits (but tomorrow).

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