Friday, July 13, 2012

A new city!

St. Pancras station in London (Click all photos to "embiggen")
We arrived in London today! I've been so busy that it's hard to find time to update the blog, and I don't want you all to think the exhausted tone of my last post is the dominant sentiment here. We've just been constantly on the go!

Pulling out of the Gare du Nord on the Eurostar
We've been enjoying Paris, especially since our son arrived two days ago to share it with us. This morning, though, we taxied off to Gare du Nord and hopped (if you can call dragging two bags each and assorted shapeless carryons "hopping") the Eurostar train to London.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later, we were in St. Pancras station in London.

Sweet - a couple kissing at the champagne bar at St. Pancras
They've really spruced up St. Pancras for the upcoming Olympics! What a contrast to the other train stations we've passed through.

Milano train station platform
Milano was sooty, chaotic and exciting, with beggars, tourists and a huge '30s era grand hall.

Milano grand ticket hall
Lausanne was charming and provincial, clean and punctual. The ride out took us through beautiful Swiss countryside.

The train pulling away from Lausanne and Lake Geneva, into the Swiss mountains

Changing trains at Zurich
Zurich was boring and functional. Dijon was a brisk busy commuter station, and when we traveled to Paris, the swift TGV got us there at a dizzying pace. Paris's Gare de Lyon was tatty, pigeon-soiled and yet charming.

The famous restaurant in the Gare de Lyon
 We're so charmed by the Gare de Lyon that we actually made a special trip there later to have a drink in the amazing upstairs bar and restaurant.

Gare du Nord was also busy, shabby, and pigeon-infested, but once in the queue for passport processing on the Eurostar, it was all bureaucracy and tourists.

St. Pancras
But into St. Pancras, suddenly it was clean, sleek and picturesque, with mellow 19th century brick restored and crowned with arching ornamental steel painted historically-accurate periwinkle blue. All updated and sparkling for the Olympics crowd, the only unprepared note was the static of a malfunctioning PA system that went on so long it sounded like a post-modern performance piece.

Knowing we'd arrived a little too early to check into our hotel, our son steered us to the upstairs Champagne Bar.

Just what we needed
Oh, my.

Very elegant. You can sit in the exclusive upholstered couches and chairs of the inside lounge, or you can sit at the little bar in the middle of the huge arching space and enjoy a French 75 or a cocktail or a flute of brut rose. The restaurant has a cloakroom where you can check your bags. The stress and hustle of travel falls away. For a price, of course - the menu's price list includes the charge for a bottle of champagne and seafood platter for two for somewhere above 200 pounds, but for 1500 pounds you can get a Nebuchadnezzar of Tattinger!

A little rich for our blood, but a cocktail was a welcome respite that we had budgeted for our vacation. Refreshed, we caught a roomy British cab and now we're in our hotel. Ta ta!


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...


Someday I might make it across the big pond...someday...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

All this train talk needs a soundtrack!

materfamilias said...

Even before the Olympics, St. Pancras was looking pretty fine! They've done some major upgrading which was apparent to us even two years ago. I love the station (and there's a really delightful churchyard not too far away -- the Thomas Hardy tree is worth seeing, should you get a chance)

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Wow, that restaurant in the Gare de Lyon!!
I like the way you travel. I'd trade in my current travel partner (or rather, non-travel partner, AKA my husband) for you & your kind of traveling!
Well, not really trade him in... just give him the option of not coming with us. That would be okay, right?