I did a little bit of work for Eurostar recently. Not much. Just a meeting really, talking about their blog and flickr stuff, not enough to charge them anything. So I asked instead that they do something nice for my Dad, who's a bit of a train-nutter, show him around St Pancras before it opened, something like that. Instead, they very kindly offered us both tickets on the first new, high-speed, carbon-neutral train to Paris yesterday. Brilliant. Unfortunately, at the last minute, my Dad couldn't go on the actual trip, though he still came down to see us off. (Actually, I suspect he was quite glad, he spent almost the entire day at St Pancras, I think he had a great time.) So, instead, Mr Paul Colman, generously agreed to come with me.
Though, as you can see, he's not that different to my Dad.
It was a fantastic day. St Pancras is a real achievement, something I wasn't sure corporations could do any more. It's not quite finished, and some of the day had the air of when you invite someone round to your flat just after you've moved in and you can't yet find the sugar, but it's going to be a great station. The only obvious deficiency seems to be the glaring lack of bike-stands, which seems rather dumb given Eurostar's massive efforts to be green. Hopefully that'll get fixed soon.
The best new thing about the journey is the speed you get out of London, one minute you dive into a tunnel, the next you're saying 'is this Stratford?' the next you're whizzing through Ebbsfleet. After that it's a crossword and a cuppa and you're in Paris just in time for the strikes.
We only bumped into one march but it was properly French. Beneath the paving stones lie the hi-viz jackets.
We wondered aimlessly for a while, had coffee, croque monsieur and crepes (all the cliches).
We were impressed by the boldness of the local bird-life.
And by the Parisian commitment to neon.
And I was very struck, walking across the bridge at the back of Gare De L'Est, how much more beautiful rail travel is compared to road and air. I know this isn't an original thought, but a railway station is such a compact assembly of lines and crossings, all with tremendous implications of movement. Airports are too spread out to be interesting, or comprehensible. More rail travel for me in 2008, I think.
And then it was back to St Pancras, which looks stunning at night, and home.