|Our train came into the station. Tom, my railroad guy, explained that the train is operated from either end never having to turn around for the return trips.|
Every country has it own peculiarities in comparison to the American way of traveling and of simply living life. As we experience more and more cultures, we quickly attempt to adapt to avoid being regarded as the “ugly American.”
Our new hotel, the London Regency, has a few characteristics that are different from what we’ve encountered in the past when staying in hotels in many countries. In this 4.5 star rated hotel, in a matter of minutes we find ourselves realizing how quickly we’ll need to adapt.
|While we waited for the train.|
For example; there are no ice machines available to guests in the entire hotel. We either have to order ice from room service (pay a tip each time) or go to the bar to have the bartender get it for us. The expectation of tipping several times a day for ice is frustrating to say the least.
Another unusual feature is the fact that there are fees for using the health club. My principals make me flinch at the idea of paying for this normal inclusion when the “gym” its located directly in the hotel. It’s not a lot of money at US $16.69, £10 per night for the entire 15 night stay. But, it irks me. After all, we’re paying over US $200, £120 per night. That would cost an extra US $269 on top of the already pricey fees.
|The station while we were still in Paris.|
There are no bars of soap. I was thrilled when Tom called me into the bathroom to see the roomy bathtub. But, the only soap is a built in dispenser high up near the shower head. Am I to stand up every few seconds while taking a bath, to pump another tiny dollop of soap from the dispenser?
Overall and to our pleasure, this hotel is upscale in the lovely Kensington neighborhood close to many points of interest including the Royal Palace, a short walk, several museums and many fine restaurants. Complaining? Observing, I’d say. I’ll ask for a bar of soap. If none is available we’ll find a grocery store and purchase one.
|Tom was finally smiling again when I told him we wouldn’t have to “walk” the bags downs the steep steps.|
There is a daily fee of another US $16.69, £10. I encouraged them to reduce the fee to US $13.35, £8. At this reduced rate it adds an additional US $214 to our hotel bill. Anyway, enough “observing” for now and onto the Eurostar, the train under the English Channel from Paris to London. We had a great time! It was easy compared to flying, excess baggage fees and long lines a thing of the recent past.
|Taken from our seats which were wider than airplane seats. I had pictured a four seat configurations with a table in front of us which was not the case with our seats.|
As usual, we arrived at the train station too early after a quick drive through Paris with light traffic on Saturday. We’d looked online for answers to some of our questions about taking the Eurostar with conflicting answers on various websites.
One question was regarding baggage handling and storage. The second was purely out of curiosity; how long does the train actually travel under the ocean across the English Channel?
|The scenery along the tracks was mostly limited to industrial areas, although we passed a few areas of the French countryside.|
Based on Eurostar reviews we’d read online, we made a plan how, without the use of a large cart or porter, we’d handle all of our luggage ourselves, something we’d never done for any distance. Tom hauled the two large rolling bags and I hauled the rolling cart with the two smaller bags and the duffel bag containing my purse and the pill bag. Tom kept the computer bag over his shoulder.
Eurostar allows two bags each and one carry on. We each had two bags and one carry on. For once, we complied. Weight wasn’t an issue.
|A church steeple at a distance through the glare of the glass window.|
With two new bungees wrapped tightly around the contents of the wheeling cart, I was able to pull it behind me using both hands without any problem. My bad shoulder prevented me from using only my right hand and the left is simply too incompetent to manage the wobbly wheels.
Off we went, surprisingly at a decent pace with little difficulty, if at all. To finally be able to handle all of our world possessions on our own was uplifting. Once we checked in with UK immigration, getting our passports stamped, we unloaded everything for the security check without incident.
|Cows. Not really wildlife but, we enjoy seeing animals wherever we may be.|
In all, it took 10 minutes from showing our tickets to entering the waiting area where we searched for a place to sit for the 90 minute wait for our train’s departure.
As we sat there checking out our surroundings, it appeared that the only way to get down to the platform was a steep stairway. Oh, no. The idea of maneuvering those steps set my mind spinning.
|Within seconds of entering the tunnel, I took this sot of blackness resulting only a reflectionsof the seats in the glass.|
Suddenly, Tom became grumpy spewing out a dozen possible scenarios: injuring ourselves, dropping and breaking something in our bags, being late to the platform and on and on. He does this at times. I usually ignore him but this time, I said in a calm voice, “Quit being overly negative!”
Without a moment of time to think, he blurted out, “Quit being overly bubbly!”
Hahaha! I couldn’t stop laughing! In seconds, he was laughing with me, tears in our eyes over the irony. Quit being “overly bubbly.” Oh, would that all of those whom we love’s biggest problem is being “overly bubbly.” Eternal optimist that I am, I could easily accept his accurate assessment of me.
|Within seconds of departing the tunnel. We were now in the UK.|
After our good laugh and to put his minds at ease I jumped up and found a guard who explained that we could use an elevator down a long hallway.
Luckily, when the time arrived to board as we made our way down the hallway we were able to see that there was a moving ramp, an escalator without steps that we easily managed. We didn’t need to use the elevator after all.
|We arrived in London at the St. Pancras station.|
Tom managed to lift the heavy bags from the platform onto the train into the small storage area. We only had to manage the duffel, the computer bag and the cart to our seats.
The seats are comparable to an airplane seat, only slightly roomier with a helpful retractable footrest. Immediately, we grabbed for our seatbelts, out of habit. We looked at each other and laughed. Habits. They never fail to unconsciously overtake us.
|After exiting the train station we had to walk a distance to the next street and around the corner in order to flag a taxi. No taxis were allowed to stop at the main entrance.|
Food and beverages were served in two other train cars. We noticed several passengers walking passed us loaded up with paper bags filled with fried foods. We had no interest.
After the first hour and twenty minutes of the total two hours and seventeen minutes, we’d yet to enter the tunnel. Although, on several instances, we thought we had as we passed through several other tunnels.
|On the way to our hotel, we passed Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Not quite our cup of tea.|
Moments later, an announcement was made that we were indeed entering the English Channel. My heart skipped a beat with excitement. What was I expecting? Water to flow around the train?
I was expecting “black” and, black it was. It was dark as night when looking out the windows. Moments after we entered the tunnel a kindly steward stopped to ask if we needed anything, giving us an opportunity to ask a few questions. Here’s his response:
- The trip under the English Channel takes approximately 20 minutes.
- The maximum speed of the train is 300 kilometers per hour, 186 miles per hour, less through the tunnel
- The deepest part of the tunnel is 195 meters, 640 feet below sea level.
- There are three tunnels, two for trains and one as a service tunnel.
- There are multiple trains per day to Paris, London and Brussels.
- No passenger trains other than the Eurostar brand may use the tunnel.
|There are lots of double decker buses in London.|
We thanked the steward for the information and for stopping by, sitting back enjoying the odd experience. For a moment I felt like a kid at Disneyland on a ride through a dark tunnel fearlessly enjoying the ride. It was amazing to be in a train traveling under the ocean.
In no time at all we were at the station ready to disembark (Tom said “de-train”). Once again, he managed to haul the heavy bags. As always, we’d planned to be the last off to avoid blocking the line. In no rush, all we needed to do was flag a taxi to our hotel.
|Although London was bombed in World War II many beautiful historical buildings remain.|
With most taxis requiring “British Pound Sterling” to pay the fare, the driver stopped at an ATM where Tom loaded up enough of yet another new currency to learn, to last to few days. A short time later, we were checking in to our hotel, paying the huge amount for 15 nights, the WiFi fees and a refundable deposit for extras.
There’s our travel day story, folks. Last night, we had a fabulous experience we’ll share in tomorrow’s post!
|Taking photos from a taxi is always tricky and we were unable to determine the name of this building .|
By the way, this morning we blew yet another power strip and both of our pricey international adapters (UK certified), tossing them all in the trash. Tom grumbled about how we wouldn’t be able to use our equipment while in London; no computers, no camera, no books.
I replied, “Take your shower, honey. Your “overly bubbly” wife will go see the front desk for a solution.” Problem solved. A new day begins in London.
|Our hotel in the Kensington area of London is close to many points of interest.|
Photo from one year ago today, August 17, 2013:
Due to Internet connectivity issues in Boveglio, Italy we weren’t able to post on this date one year ago. We’re fast approaching the time, a year ago, when we began to post every day with photos. Stay tuned.