Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A day in Paris

On Monday I travelled on the Eurostar train direct from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord.

For a long time I've been waiting for the new high speed link to open and with its opening the previous week I took the first opportunity to travel on the Eurostar to Paris in just 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The service itself was extremely efficient, though security at St Pancras could've been slightly faster. The train itself left on time and arrived in just 2 hours and 12 minutes from London to Paris. Going out from London the train effectively is in tunnel the whole way from London-Dagenham apart from the Stratford box, unlike the journey into Waterloo it's not very scenic but you certainly gain on the speed side instead of slowly traversing the railways of South London. On the way back the train was again on time and arrived in just 2 hours and 10 minutes. Compared to the airlines there is no comparison in terms of the time you can get from city to city. With the project now complete its an incredible engineering feat considering the large amount of tunnels that are passed through but also the Channel tunnel which made it all possible.

My day in Paris was also eventful and the current on-going strike on the Metro did impact on my journey. My journey back from the centre of Paris to Gare du Nord was a nightmare due to the on-going strike, metro's were infrequent and when they turned up they were impossible to board due to the sheer number of passengers. I ended up having to negotiate the back streets of Paris and eventually got an RER train from St Lazare to Gare du Nord, I got to the station with 10 minutes to spare, way below recommended limits of 30 minutes; it seemed lady luck was on my side. At the moment the strike is certainly having an impact and could go on for a lot longer, Sarkozy is prepared for a battle and France could be in for a few rocky months. My advice - avoid Paris when strikes are about though given the nature of the country they're sometimes hard to avoid in France.

Paris itself is a stunning city, having been there a number of times it's a city that is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and has retained its traditional features throughout the city. Most of the boulevards as well are still cobbled and the buildings is architecture at its best, Haussmann certainly got it right when he planned modern Paris. My favourite part of Paris is Sacre Couer, the view over Paris is amazing and its worth climbing up the hills of Montmarte just to see the view. The weather was slightly overcast yesterday but on a clear day it's a stunning view.

My other observations of Paris is the price of drink. Now I find London expensive but compared to Paris its a bargain, a pint in Paris is cannot be found for 7 euros and in most cases it's over 8 euros, cheap it certainly isn't. The food makes up for it in many instances.

The other thing I observed across the city in metro and train stations is bins, long ago they disappeared from our tube stations but in Paris no such thing has happened and they're freely available. In fact in most cities I visited this is the case, it seems in Britain we're just that much more security conscious though the cynic in me sometimes thinks it's used as a cover for saving money. Still with terrorism being major threat erring on the side of caution is probably advisable.

All in all a great city though I'd not want to go there again when a stike is on.


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