Eurostar

The Channel Tunnel between England and France was completed in 1994 after what could be described as wait of more than one hundred years, since the matter had been under discussion for generations and an attempt had already been made as far back as 1888. Cost and political opposition had been the downfall of many a project and I can remember numerous discussions of the security aspects taking place at Scotland Yard in the early nineties. I think we should probably have given more attention to other matters.

Journalists without a shred of Shakespearean scholarship were misquoting John of Gaunt’s Sceptered Isle speech in horror at the thought of an invading army of foreign undesirables but the restriction of all underground traffic to rail-borne systems means that no-one walks or drives their car under the Channel. Eurotunnel (or Le Shuttle) is the service which takes family cars or freight back and forth but for reasons of both capacity and cost it has made scarcely any impact on the ferry boat traffic. In fact, I’ve never used it.

Eurostar actually refers to the train service for foot passengers, the city-to-city service which put Paris and Brussels (and now Amsterdam) on my doorstep and left me without any excuses for not getting to know the neighbouring capitals. I’ve counted up fifteen trips in the last sixteen years and learned how to get the best deals out of a complicated pricing system. Selecting some colourful photographs for this post has been great fun; I think that they show better than I could ever put into words how accesibility can breed familiarity. It turns out that you see a lot less monuments if you know you can go back whenever you like.

Chris has reminded me to tell this story: I don’t think it gives away any secrets but it may reassure you that someone is actually looking out for your safety.

The check in time for a Eurostar train is half an hour minimum but it can take longer to get through control if it is busy so more time is recommended. There are usually enough staff available to usher through people whose departure time is getting perilously close but on one occasion at Waterloo someone seemed determined to make us miss the train altogether. A security guard was passing a sensor over our luggage at check-in and got a positive reading for explosives/firearms from my overnight bag. Hardly surprising; since I was still “in the trade” so to speak. We were pulled aside into a waiting area in spite of my Met police ID and, I must admit, I thought this must be a pre-retirement prank played on me by Chris and his buddies in HM Customs.

No joke. I realised this when I looked up at the clock and saw that we had about 100 seconds to catch the train. Only the timely intervention of a supervisor and some Olympic style sprinting got us onto the Paris train in time. I retired a few weeks later and that bag went into the bin.

Categories: Europe

4 Comments

  • sandy says:

    I enjoyed all the photos, especially those of MY trip to Paris. What a wonderful day for me!

  • Chris says:

    Please explain a bit more about Samphire Hoe?

  • nicola ainsworth says:

    Samphire Hoe is an attractive nature reserve which has been planted on the five million cubic metres of spoil dug out during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Samphire is an edible plant that grows in marshy, brackish land and the name “hoe” means a spit of land.

    It is accessible via a slip road off of the A20 between Dover and Folkstone (on the Westbound route only). I have managed to find it on several occasions (hence the detailed directions) but haven’t been able to find one of my own photographs. Molly suggests another visit.

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