May 7, 2023
Our visit to London concluded for now, today we transit to Paris via the Eurostar train that leaves London’s Kings Cross International station for Paris’ Gare du Nord. It’s a bank holiday in the UK, so the streets and certainly the Tube are less busy. Two stations and 7 stops later, we arrived at Kings Cross about an hour and a half before our scheduled departure time of 10:26am (they suggest at least 30-40 minutes). There are other Eurostars departures before ours, so the terminal is busy.
We didn’t even need to wait in the terminal outside the main boarding area before access was available, as we need to go through security and both UK and French passport controls before we even get to the waiting area for boarding. Both security screening and passport control moved pretty quickly and we had about 45 minutes before boarding would commence. When the boarding gates are announced (20 minutes before departure) though, the queue to go up the escalator to the train platform builds quickly.
I’m uncertain how many cars are in our train, though we’re on car #6. Boarding was pretty quick, just everyone finding a place for their bags. I don’t see how some people travel with the ginormous suitcases I see (and some have 2); you’d think they were evacuating. Have fun going up/down escalators and steps with those, really.
Seating is much like an airline; we have a table and there’s no one seated across from us, so we have a bit more room, but the car is mostly full.
Despite having to board a lot of people in 20 minutes, we leave on time. Before really getting out of the city, we pass through a series of tunnels and as before, the compression of the speeding mass of the train going through a tunnel exerts some pressure on your ears. But finally we’re out in the countryside, with occasional fields of rapeseed (same as we saw when coming from Scotland to London). We’re zipping along pretty fast, but my app isn’t able to give a speed measurement.
We start to slow down (never stop) as we near the Chunnel and at exactly 11am, we enter the tunnel. Nothing to see outside, it’s dark…for about 20 minutes before we emerge in France. Shortly after entering France, a group of four unsmiling gendarmes make their way through the cabin. It’s an hour time change forward on this side of the Channel and it’s an uneventful remainder of the trip until we arrive at Gare du Nord about 3pm. There’s a Eurostar next to ours that’s bound for London; ours needs its nose cleaned, lots of bug stuff. But at 180 mph, you’re going to get “bug stuff”.
Out into the station, we make our way to the Metro escalator to recharge our Navigo Easy passes. Now that the physical “billets” are gone, you either use the Navigo or an app by the RATP to pay for your journey; they haven’t yet migrated to London’s system of using either an Oyster (similar in functionality to the Navigo) or simply using tap to pay without a dedicated app (much simpler).
There’s a queue at the a Navigo stations, except for the tourists who don’t know what they’re doing who have to stand in line for help at a window. If you have a Navigo Easy card as we do, then recharging it with une billet of 10 trips is really easy. Then, we’re off into the bowels of the earth to find our way to our hotel. It’s a holiday here too, so it’s less busy than it would be otherwise.
We exit at Opera (now covered by a curtain due to exterior cleaning) to walk to our hotel and notice the public EV charging stations on the street; they’re full. There are instructions in English and French. Because charge ports aren’t standardized as to location on cars, you’ll see some charging cables stretched across from one side to another. In the last five years, we’ve really noticed Paris’ focus on going “green” with bike paths replacing traffic lanes, more bicycles for rental, and now EV charging stations.
Only a few blocks to our hotel, where check-in is even easier than in the past. The hotel has a dedicated liaison for guests with the highest loyalty status and we sit down with him in the bar area to go over the program and the electronic check-in process, drinks on the house (we had a French 75) . When our room is ready, they come to escort us to the room, on the top floor. For once, a room that doesn’t leave us with complaining about the room.
It’s great to be back; it’s been almost two years.