Friday, August 22, 2008

Take the Train

In keeping with my urge to control my potentially rampant carbon footprint, journeying to and from the UK for our holiday was made, as ever, by train, viz SNCF and Eurostar.

I've tried to give up as much as possible on Ryanair because I loathe Michael O'Leary and I loathe flying his dismal service to Stansted. I hate his blatant 'Fleece the Punter' mission statement, the cattle-class treatment, and the stairway at the end of each journey out onto the windy tarmac of the landing zone and having to trudge into the airport.

So, train travel it was. My SNCF train to Paris Gare de Lyon was delayed by 30 minutes. I was supposed to pick up the boys, have a civilised light lunch in the Train Bleu before hopping into a waiting taxi to take us to Gare du Nord. Hmm, some hope. The ex was super late with the boys which meant no lunch, a queue for the taxi stretching back to Belgium and a desperate run for the RER to get to Gare du Nord in 30 minutes including buying tickets. The sort of travel I had intended avoiding like the plague.

I had to attack two innocent gendarmes with a request for WHICH LINE A or D which they answered immediately upon seeing the wild look in my eye and even kindly pointed in the right direction. They must get used to that sort of thing...

When we arrived at the Eurostar terminal, there was chaos, but it was nothing to what was just about to happen. People queuing all over the place because they hadn't opened the check-in, even to the point of blocking the exit from the escalator. When a solitary suitcase travelled up the escalator without an owner this set off all the bomb alerts and we all had to troop down the escalator again as they cleared the terminal just in case.

Almost an hour later (could have sat quietly in a queue for a taxi and made it quite comfortably!!) we were finally allowed to get on the train, whereupon we headed straight for the restaurant car. It was well passed lunch time, the boys and I were starving and nothing was going to stop us getting there first! For the record, my bacon bagel was very tasty with the little bottle of white wine. The nice thing about train travel is, at the other end, you don't have to wait for your luggage to turn up, and wonder if it's yours that got lost this time... And my little bro was even there to meet us!

The return journey was smoother but not without trouble. We got on at Ebbsfleet along with half a school's worth of adolescents. It's a nice, civilised place to be in because it's small, not too busy, and lovely and clean. The only problem is the risk of all the suitcase holds being taken once you get on the train. We managed to find enough room after a bit of jostling around of other people's stuff...

At Gare du Nord, we sailed into a taxi, no queue, paid 10€ for a lovely little tour around that part of Paris, arrived calmly at the Gare de Lyon where we went for a light supper at the Train Bleu. The boys were terribly impressed to be there what with the Belle Epoch ambiance, superbly painted ceiling and courteous waiting staff. My youngest even called the Maitre d'hotel over as he passed to inform him that his Caesar salad was quite delicious. This went down very well and we were treated with much solicitude from there on.

The lift took us back down to the concourse where we had to wait, unfortunately, for half an hour. This was the day that trains to and from Nice were being delayed for up to 10 hours so I suppose we had nothing to complain about. Or not as much... Our first class seats were extremely comfy, connected to electricity, and a delight for the next 3 hours.

Despite delays and such, I do prefer train travel. I love train stations where I detest airports. Stations are romantic (or the big ones are), while airports are functional and full of stress. My carbon footprint remains a gentle plod rather than a giant leap so I can even keep my environmental halo intact on a visit to home shores. Perfect!

1 comment:

  1. SO agree with you re Ryanair. I can't bear them, but they take me to within 25 minutes drive of my village and to a tiny, not-too-busy airport. Instead of crazy-mad Nice airport and a mental drive along the A8. So I try not to be tempted by air travel. And let the train take the strain when I can.


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