Today we got a pretty early start. We had a continental breakfast at The Midland and then took a taxi to the Manchester Piccadilly station. We had e-tickets for our train ride which meant we had to print our tickets at the station. The process was so simple. We found a fast ticket booth and needed to enter a credit card to activate the machine, nothing actually got charged. Then we entered our PNR code, confirmed that the information was correct, and pressed print! So easy.
Virgin Train from Manchester to London
With our tickets printed, we boarded a first class car on the Virgin train en route to London Euston Station. The Virgin trains have been so wonderful. They are consistently clean and comfortable, and all of the staff have been so nice, constantly seeing if we need anything.
When we arrived at Euston Station in London, we met our tour guide and got on a small bus for a private half-day tour of London, operated by Golden Tours. It was basically an abridged version of the Total London Experience offered by Rail Europe. We got to stop at a bunch of the big tourist spots in London and had just enough time at each to take some pictures.
Seeing the sights in London with Golden Tours
First we stopped at Buckingham Palace, something we were all looking forward to. I was so excited to actually be there and not just see it in pictures! Next we made a quick stop at Westminster Abbey, literally 3 minutes the driver told us, to take some pictures. We were also able to see Big Ben from there, so we were all running around trying to take in as much as possible in the short time! We then arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral which was absolutely breathtaking. The dome inside was gorgeous, as was every other detail. A few of us decided we wanted to get a view so we walked up to the Stone Gallery which was just shy of 400 steps. It was a workout but well worth it! I was getting dizzy when we worked our way back down!
After our tour was completed, we met up with one of Rail Europe’s suppliers for lunch at Karpo, a restaurant which was located across from St. Pancras International Station. The food was delicious, we got a beef rib with chips and a Bearnaise sauce. It was so filling but so good. It was definitely up there with the other great food we’ve had so far.
Touring St. Pancras International Station – home of Eurostar
We crossed the street and met up with the rest of our Rail Europe colleagues at St Pancras Station after lunch. It was great to hear about all of the excitement they experienced traveling through Scotland. Once we all exchanged stories, Cat, from Eurostar, took us on a tour of St. Pancras Station.
To begin, the outside of St Pancras was stunning. The building is so incredible, you wouldn’t even realize at first sight that it is a train station. Cat shared with us that some of the inspiration for the station was Grand Central in New York City. You could definitely get a little of that feel from the way it was laid out and all of the little markets. We then walked right across the street to see Kings Cross Station. It’s so convenient how the two stations are right across the street from each other.
Our Eurostar Business Premier Experience
With our tour of St. Pancras completed, it was time to go through security for Eurostar. This is the first place that we actually went through a security check, aside from the airport of course. It was a very quick and easy process, it took all of about 5 minutes. Everyone who worked there was so friendly and accommodating.
Once we were all through the security check, we had a little over an hour to kill. Since we were fortunate enough to have Eurostar Business Premier tickets, we decided to spend it in the Eurostar lounge. The lounge was so nice! It was very quiet for those doing work, and they had magazines, computers and a full bar of drinks and snacks that were included with our tickets. It was such a great experience. Cat showed us around and answered any questions we had. After spending some time here, they announced that our train to the Paris Gare du Nord was ready to board.
It was very easy navigating the way to our platform, and just as easy finding the coach we were supposed to be in since the platforms had numbers on them. The train was amazing and comfortable! The staff was incredibly accommodating, continually coming around to see if we needed drinks or anything at all. We had a full meal on the train too! As an appetizer, we had a poached pear with red wine braised chicory and cheese, and then as a main dish we had the option of chicken and vegetables or smoked fish with a caramelized onion chutney. I opted for the fish and it was delicious. I couldn’t believe I was able to have such a nice meal aboard a train, they really exceeded my expectations.
Overall, we all really enjoyed our experience on Eurostar. One thing to note was that my ears popped a lot when we went through the Chunnel crossing over to France, but it was nothing too bad.
Arrival in Paris, the “City of Lights”
When we arrived in Paris at the Gare du Nord Station, we took our Paris Visite cards and worked our way down to the Metro to get to our hotel. Navigating the metro was a little confusing but we asked station staff to confirm where we were going and they were very helpful. We only had two stops to make it to the Gare de Lyon Station, and then our hotel was literally a minute walk.