The Eurostar experience

I think one of the (many) funny things about being South African is how we think the rest of the world is so far advanced in comparison to us. In many ways they are, of course, but it’s funny how we cast this assumption over every aspect of overseas travel. Well, I know I do.

When I thought about the Eurostar, I imagined a sleek black devil of a train – one of those you see in sci fi movies, the ones that travel so fast you can’t even see a blur of light, where the time between departure and arrival is only long enough to take a breath of air. Okay, maybe not quite that fast, but you get the idea.

But in fact, the Eurostar is not that new, and not that fancy. The check-in service at London St Pancras International is certainly fancy – something like an airline but slightly less of a headache. And the fact that it can get from London to Paris or Brussels in a matter of hours, at speeds of up to 300km, is nothing to sniff at. But the train itself was just like being on a, well, train.

Although that’s not entirely true. We somehow found ourselves taking the Friday evening train (rookie mistake! That’s when all the Londoners were jetting off to Paris for a romantic weekend away) and there was a real sense of festivity in the air. Everyone hauls out their dinners as soon as they’re settled on the train – we had a picnic from Marks & Spencers – and as soon as you arrive in Paris there’s a buzz of anticipation. I suppose that’s what lends the Eurostar its glamour, the fact that you can simply hop over to the City of Lights for a night or two. It might not be a sleek black devil of a train, but the Eurostar certainly achieves what it promises.

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