Instead of flying, travel between Europe's major city centers—from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam—via train. It takes you under the English Channel, the so-called Chunnel, in comfort and ease.
A longtime dream of Europeans and some Brits (many Brits think of Europe as just that, Europe, and then there is Great Britain – two, totally separate entities in the minds’ of many Brits) has been crossing the English Channel from the area around Dover in Britain, to Calais in France, by a bridge, or by building a tunnel under the English channel.
Since the early 1800s, countless ideas and plans were drawn up, but nothing happened until 1988 when a tunnel was actually begun near Dover, and it was opened on May 6, 1994.
In November of 1994 the first train, titled Eurostar—began service. Along with other American travel writers, I was invited to experience the trip and see what it was like to go under the English Channel. The tunnel is 31.4 miles long, is 250 feet under the channel, and has the longest portion of a tunnel, under the sea anywhere in the world. The vitally important lining of the tunnel has been designed and created to last 120 years.
As we approached the British coast “landside” at over 130 mph, I half expected to see what I had when I journeyed to France in the 1950s – where one took “The Boat Train” to Dover, then boarded a marvelous steamship that sailed to Calais in France.
This time there was no ship, just green hillsides ahead that, in the center, had two tunnels with both disappearing into the hill. The Eurostar slowed down to 100 mph as we raced into the “Going to” tunnel (the other was the return line from Europe).
I sat transfixed for the 20 minute underwater ride. Incredible! As we exited on the other side and increased our speed to about 186 mph, we were now in France. We’d cleared customs in London.
I was invited, yet again in 2007 when I had my travel show on KNX1070, to experience the Eurostar from London to Paris in its new home in London, the revitalized and refreshingly rebuilt St Pancras Station.
Before our travel media group boarded one of the first trains to depart from that station on November 14, 2007, we explored the now delightful St Pancras. It is indeed a destination in itself, with a huge array of shops that include a crepe café, Starbucks, bookstores, Marks and Spencer, fashion stores, Sushi, a farmers market, and the longest champagne bar in Europe.
Even if you’re not heading off to Europe in a Eurostar, St Pancras is superb place to dine, shop and have fun.
With the advent of Eurostar and its London home of St. Pancras station, travel times between London, Paris and Brussels, have been dramatically reduced. London to Paris is now only 2 hours, 12 minutes (down from the 1994 time of 2.55). London to Brussels is a sizzling 2 hours 1 minute (down from the 1994 time of 3 hours, 15 minutes). And, it’s all done at the equally stunning speed of 186 mph.
There is new rolling stock since I took this amazing train in 1994, as Eurostar recently introduced the e320 trains that carry up to 900 total passengers. Talking to some Eurostar friends and contacts a short time ago, they told me the number of trains per day, has zoomed. When I did the trip in 2007, there were only two trains a day in either direction to Paris. Now there’s 19 departures every day to Paris, 10 to Brussels and to me even more incredible, three a day to Amsterdam.
If you travel, as I did, in what they call Leisure Select, I got a delicious luncheon served at my seat, along with a nice choice of wine. What a contrast between that and the peanuts and soda given out on an airplane! Since 1994, more than 190 million travelers have taken Eurostar, a huge increase since my trip in 2007, when it was just 70 million.
To see the impact that Eurostar has had on traveling today, it is now cheaper and faster to go from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam than it is by flying. In fact the commercial airline flights to those cities has been drastically reduced.
You can even check in to Eurostar just 10 minutes before departure.
“Try doing that with an airline,” said a business friend.
Check it all out at www.eurostar.com/us-en and you’ll be stunned to see fares as low as $59 one way.
Contact John at email@example.com.