After getting to my hotel around 2am, it took a little bit of time to fall asleep, but I still managed around 5-6 hours before waking up in time to get some coffee and meet up with friends. London would be my second very brief stop in a row on this trip where I maximized the time meeting up with friends, and that was something a little sleep wouldn’t stop!
But first, off to get coffee. I was staying at the Great Northern Hotel right by St. Pancras station for two reasons: first because I really enjoy the property, but secondly it would be a short walk to catch my train to Paris. Looking at the posters in the hallway, it’s as if they were expecting me!
Coffee consumed, I took a quick walk through St. Pancras to re-familiarize myself with the lay of the land so I could maximize my time before darting to my train later. I love the architecture of this place.
At 11:00 (per the super cool reservation bottle below) I met up with Michael and the lovely Ellen at the Champagne Bar at St. Pancras for some celebratory bubbles. I’m not sure if this was the brunch excuse or the vacation excuse to begin consuming champagne before noon….but hey, does one really need an excuse for champagne?
Beverages and amazing conversation are two things that never seem to last as long as you’d like them to, and all too soon I had to head back across the street to grab my bags (cases if you will since we’re in London) and cross back across the street to catch my train.
I hadn’t taken a train out of St. Pancras in almost ten years, but was glad to see absolutely nothing had changed in that time, except for the waiting lounge after immigration. Oh yes, security and immigration. If you have a European passport, nice and slick, but if you have a non-European passport and are in the premier queue, they don’t seem to plan for this, and there’s lots of ducking under ropes and such to bypass the queue. Honestly, wasn’t bad, ten minutes tops, and I was in the lounge to wait for the train.
Lounge was nice but way too warm (around 24C), and the crystal glasses for water and wine were way too obnoxiously heavy and elaborate for my tastes. I’m just a simple redneck…it’s not like we’re having tea with the queen!
Soon enough it was time for boarding, and it was a mad rush with the rest of the proletariat to get on the train. Business Premier was at the very far end of the platform (I guess this is so that when you arrive you’re first off?) but honestly it all worked out well. Slightly sexier and curvier figure than Amtrak if you ask me….
Legroom wasn’t amazing, but was much better than I remembered from previous trips where even business class felt rather like a sardine can. The other good news is that Business Premier on this train was maybe 25% full, so there was plenty of room to spread out!
This is probably a good place to mention how the trains work on Eurostar. There’s economy which is, well, exactly what you’d expect. Business which is some sort of middle ground I guess? …then there’s Business Premier, which is the most comfortable way to travel. Complete with real Champagne and printed menus:
…and off we go, at 226 kph!
Not only was a meal served, but it was served in proper courses with an appetizer first and then the main event. The most disappointing part? Despite only being 25% full, by the time the attendant got to me the fish was the only thing left. Good thing the French are about the only ones I’d trust to get plane and train fish right, and it was delicious! Definitely the best meal I’ve ever eaten on a train!
Upon arrival, Paris was a bit on the toasty side at 35C on the front end of the canicule – or heatwave. The metro was barely tolerable as I headed off to République to my hotel, the Renaissance Paris République. For the one night stay they had upgraded me to a gorgeous suite on the top floor with wonderful views of Paris:
It was late afternoon at this point with the time change, so I decided to do my favourite Paris activity: head out for a walk. I didn’t really have much of a plan this time, but found myself wandering by Notre Dame where I ran into the gilets jaunes just hanging about, and fortunately not making too much of a protest.
I walked for nearly four hours around Paris (15+ km) until the sun began to set, and I found myself somewhere down on the Left Bank.
At this point I was about 3km from République, so I decided I could walk the rest of the way back, and grab a very late dinner around 10pm before heading to bed. With only one night in Paris, there was no stopping me from having a croque madame and some wine while people watching from a bistro and despite it being four-five weeks after I’d been there previously, the waiter at the bistro remembered me and was super chatty. Who says French waiters are rude!
Off to bed at a semi reasonable hour – I had to get up in the morning and make my way to a new airport I’d never been to before in order to fly to Tunis!