04 Oct Getting to Paris via The Chunnel
When I started my productivity blog one year ago, I reserved the right to throw in some posts about my favorite past time, traveling. Since I have a couple of clients who are headed to Paris, my Thursday posts in October will be devoted to that city.
First up: Getting to Paris via The Chunnel
The first time we went to Paris, we flew to Charles de Gaulle airport. We had to get to the airport three hours early, wait in line to have our passports verified at check-in, wait in line to clear security, wait at the gate for the late plane to arrive, wait in line to clear customs when we landed, then catch the 45-minute train to downtown Paris. If you’re arriving from overseas, you don’t have much choice other than traveling by plane.
But if you’re connecting to Paris while already in Europe, that part of the world has a fantastically efficient and affordable train system, so it’s easy to get to Paris from any major European city. The bonus is there are no long waits. If you have a reserved seat, just show up 20 minutes before departure. Most train stations will drop you pretty close to the city center, so there won’t be a long ride to where you need to go.
On our second trip to Paris, we decided to take The Chunnel over from London. We were spending the first half of our vacation with family outside of London and were trying to figure out a way to avoid another trip through the bustling Heathrow airport. We’d never taken The Chunnel before, so why not try it out?
Well, I have what some folks might consider to be irrational fears: being crushed to death by concrete falling on me; drowning (even though I’m a good swimmer); running out of oxygen in an enclosed space…. (Can you see where I’m headed?) So when The Chunnel was suggested, you can understand my hesitation with choosing that route.
I’ve had no problems taking various underground subways in cities around the world, but for some reason, a train that runs through a pipe underwater seemed frightening to me. I finally agreed to this mode of transportation when I found out that the Eurostar train ticket was half the price of a flight. I decided to pretend that I was simply on the subway.
On the morning we were set to use The Chunnel, we didn’t have to pack carefully in the morning to make sure our bags were airport security- and size-ready. (Nice!) We just grabbed our luggage for another day on the road. We checked in, went through security, and passed through Passport Control within 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes!! This gave us plenty of time to enjoy an indoor picnic lunch (lovingly packed by family – gracias!) with drinks, all of which were brought in with us since there were no liquid bans.
Within the Eurostar Lounge where you catch the Chunnel train, you can purchase tickets you might need while in Paris, such as those for the metro and museums. While these services are available at the airport, they’re located on your way out – when you just want to get out of there and start your adventure. It was very convenient having these tickets available in the terminal while we had to wait for our train to depart.
The total train trip time is just over two hours, about 1 hour longer than flight time. Only 30 minutes are spent under the water in a concrete tube. That’s a long time for a quasi-claustrophobic person like me. Despite the nice lunch, I was feeling apprehensive as we boarded the train thirty minutes prior to departure time. The anxiety level increased a bit as we left the station. I tried to calm myself by writing in my journal and having my camera ready to take the before, during and after pictures of THE CHUNNEL.
Some time later, my eyes opened, and I realized we were in northern France because everyone was driving on the correct side of the road. I’d SLEPT through the Chunnel! My frightening experience passed me by! I guess it wasn’t so stressful after all.
I’m all about saving time – even on vacation. After all, I’d rather have two extra hours to spend on a picnic under the Eiffel Tower than waste it in line at the airport. Despite my aforementioned fears, I’ll take the Eurostar any day.
Next time: Tips for Budget Travelers in Paris