September 26th, 2009

Angel, graffiti

By Train

So I've been talking about travelling to Carcassonne by train instead of flying for a while now and this year I booked the tickets. The short version is it has been a nice experience.

First Great Western to London was fine. I travel that route a few times a year and have never has a problem. So I got a seat, and arrived on time.


Which was good as the queue for tube ticket was very slow moving. I was a little worried about navigating the underground with my heavy cases but it turned out not too bad. Paddington was fine and King's Cross/St Pancras being modernish was pain free.

St Pancras
This was my first time at the new St Pancras is nice, all the modern shops and easy to find your way around. Eurostar booking was great, security was much nicer than at the airport, with
the line moving faster and less waiting around and unpacking your stuff.

Inside the departure lounge, powerpoints and seats was nice for laptop types as would the free wifi but as I tweeted at the time I got next to no bandwidth, so it was almost unusable, not that I had much time anyway as you get on the train half an hour before hand.

About to arrive at Paris Gare de Nord

Gare de Nord
We were travelling first class, so nice wide seat with arm rests and back supports. They came around with drinks just after we pulled out of the station and started to serve food after our only stop at Ashford. The channel tunnel was very uneventful, mainly noted by announcement being in French first then English not the other way around.

One thing I did notice was you got to see the gradual change in architecture and landscape as you made your way to Paris. I noticed a few field of white war-grave crosses reminding me of more recent history. things got less urban as you moved into the countryside and it was hard to tell coastal Kent from France but slowly things changed as you moved into the heartland of France. with things getting more urban as you approached Paris, passing need the airport into the Gare de Nord.

Gare d'Austerlitz
We didn't have much time to look around as it was back down underground for my first time on the Paris metro and another queue to get tickets. the metro is much the same as the tube hot busy lots of people. We had a simple journey to the Gare d'Austerlitz with no changes, dropping us off right my the main line station after coming back overground to cross the Seine on a bridge with some wonderful views of Paris at night.

The only problem was it was a high level station so lots of steps to get back to ground level not the best with a heavy case. Then into the station to get our night train to Carcassonne. It was a fairly large station with some of the staff using segways to get around. We got on board and into our compartment, which was basic but comfortable and then into our bunks sleeping most of the way.

Gare de Carcassonne
Arriving in Carcassonne very early on Saturday in the dark with some more step to navigate, which a very nice guy helped me with my case with asking then disappeared into the city. Then a short taxi ride to the village and the villa.

So yes it took longer than flying (it would have been much shorter if we took the TGV instead of the night train) but compared to a budget airline the experience was so much nicer and I arrived much more relaxed.